Waiting for Promised Lightning   Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Here's my post for the first week of Autumn, a season ever so ardently awaited after a long and awful summer.

Just a regular ol' post this week, with no big news, except that this will be my last post for a couple weeks. Dee and I will be escaping to the high mountain air of Colorado early next week. Though I will not post "Here and Now" while I'm gone, I will continue to write, since writing my poem a day is as essential an element to my day as breakfast,lunch and dinner.

Meaning, I hope, return with some good poems and new pics for the blog.

Until then, this is who I have for this week.

Charles Simic
Barber College Shave
On the Street of the Martyrs
Poor Little Devil
Streets Paved with Gold
St. George and the Dragon
El libro de la sexualidad


From Crossing the River - Poets of the Western United States
Jack Heflin
Susan Tichy
The Bus from Sagada: Passing a Sacred Mountain
Leo Romero
The Miracle
Rosemary Catacalos
Sandra Cisneros
In a Red-Neck Bar Down the Street

remembering to smile
the pull of the moon

From German Poetry in Transition, 1945-1990
Hertha Kraftner
On the Death of a Poet
Reiner Kunze
Hanns Cibulka
Brigitte Oleschinski
No Path
Annerose Kirchner

waiting for promised lightning

Mark Scott
First Death
On a Bus in Torino

a proclamation regarding the proper price of air

Samuel Hazo

first frost
winter winds
a cool breeze in August
home fires
to cut a long tale short

Pat Califia
The Pony Girl
I Will Cry For You

autumn light

Shail D. Patel
The Rule

slipping away

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan
Th Moon and Kaguya
Origins of an Impulse

life in the provinces

Leslie Ullman

winter, 1964

James Laughlin
The Calendar of Fame
The Consolations
The Cold Lake
Motet: Ave Verum Corpus
The Malevolent Sky

the holy fool

Carl Phillips
Our Lady

term limits

Yang Wan-Li
Late Spring: On the Way to Yung-Ho
Sitting Up at Night in Late Spring
Third Day of the Third Month, Rain: Written to Dispel My Depression
Hearing Hsiao Po-ho and His Son Shang-Ti Reading Aloud at Night

Adam, before the fall

Campbell McGrath
The Zebra Longwing

the righteous arrive to plead my cause

I start this week with poems by Charles Simic, who always seems to come up with something nobody, or at least no other poet, ever thought of. Maybe that's one explanation for his Pulitzer Prize.

The poems are from his book Jackstraws, published by Harcourt in 1999.

Barber College Shave

In my head thrown back as in a nose bleed,
There are, of course,
A dozen or so replicas of myself,
Much reduced, wearing Halloween masks.

They sit at the same long table
Debating with a conspiratorial air
The baffling question of my true identity,
The contradictory evidence

Like a quick shuffle of smutty postcards:
Here he is hanging someone's pink panties
On a gravestone, smoking a cigar in a saloon
In Amarillo, reading philosophy at night,,
Asking the executioner how the chair works...
What the hell is going here, I shouted,
At which the apprentice barber rushed over
And threw a steaming hot towel over my eyes.

The Street of Martyrs

Catherine, whose neck was broken
On a steering wheel of a Buick convertible
While milk gushed from her breasts.
Max the giant whose mouth is a black cavern
Since his tongue was amputated.
Barbara, whose father kept her in ac closet
So no man could see her.
The All-American shortstop whose coffin
He says, will be a matchbox.

They stop strangers on the street
To warn them about sick and injured bugs
They may be stepping on.
If they meet someone with very large ears,
They try to hang their crutches on them.
When it snows, they walk in circles
Making snowflakes sizzle on the tip of their tongues.

Poor Little Devil

He's a devil while his mom's a saint.
He grins in church, looks glum pitching pennies.
Batty schoolgirls bring him candy
Tucked inside their sweatshirts.
Nipples smeared with licorice
For him to lick while his hairy tail
Brushes up against their bare legs.

Defenders of public decency
March and carry signs outside the museum
In which naked Christ hangs on a cross.
It's supposed to make you think.
Indeed, one day walking around the old neighborhood,
I did finally stop and think.

About the way they dressed him in a new uniform
With gold buttons and even a medal
So he lay there in the open coffin
Smiling wistfully for his mother.
Poor little devil, the mourners said,
One by one opening their umbrellas
Against something foul about to descend.

Streets Paved with Gold

Our prisons are dangerously overcrowded
And seething with violence, I've read today.
Is that why this small town is so empty?
Store windows with out-of-business signs.
Even the Star Theater is boarded up,
Its marquee blank save for the word MONSTER.

At the diner we heard so much about we found
The lone waitress standing on a chair
Hanging Christmas decorations on a string.
"She's an idealist in an undertaker's shop,"
You whispered as we read the stained menu
Waiting for her to turn and acknowledge us.

"Life in these hinterlands never agrees
With any philosophy of life you or I may have,"
I wanted to say, but it was too cold to speak.
On the street everything had that gray look
One gets for knowing such truths.
And the parking lot was a sheet of black ice.

St. George and the Dragon

When Queen Money
Sits naked in my lap,
And her fat bulldog
Comes to growl

While she rides me
Like a horsey
Using her long red hair
As a whip

And the ceiling at midday
Is a lush maze
Of tree shadows
Tangling and untangling themselves.

And all that comes to mind
Is St. George rearing up
With a lance to slay
The fire-spitting dragon.

El libro de la sexualidad

The pages of all the books are blank.
The late-night readers at the town library
Make no complaint about that.
They lift their heads solely
To consult the sign commanding silence,
Before they lick their finger,
Look sly, appear to be dozing off,
As they pinch the corner of the paper
While turning the heavy page.

In the yellow puddle of light,
Under the lamp with green shade,
the star charts are all white
In the big astronomy atlas
Lying open between my bare arms.
At the checkout desk, the young Betelgeuse
Is painting her lips red
Using my sweating forehead as a mirror.
Her roving tongue
Is a long-tailed comet in the night sky.

Still waiting for rain; still disappointed.


second night
I’ve waited for rain
that didn’t come, large swirly
red and yellow blobs on the radar
inching closer and closer, thunder,
lightning, dogs running for cover,

and like the brightly colored scarves
that disappear in a magician’s hand,
just like that
the red and yellow radar storm
is gone, slowly creeping up as close
as the little town up the road
where I buy my bar-b-que
then gone
like that
which is not to say it didn’t rain
at all,
a wet spot on a stepping stone
gleaming in the moonlight,
like a squirrel peeing
on a flat rock…



I turned the water sprinkler
on at home a six this morning

it’s Thursday, my watering day
three hours, six to nine,
it’s what the law

and I was thinking
I would be able to skip
my watering day
this week
because of all the red and yellow
circus swirl on the radar…

not sure what I no longer believe in,
or rain

maybe both

Here are several poets from the anthology, Crossing the River - Poets of the Western United States, published in 1987 by The Permanent Press.

The first poet is Jack Heflin. A graduate of the writing program at the University of Montana in Missoula, he taught, at the time of publication, at a small college in Monroe, Louisiana.


Near the tobacco barns
and red-graveled roads
where my father grew up
in western Kentucky
the mules begin to lose their teeth
and they gather around the rusted plows
and wait unharnessed. This morning
someone points at them from a car window
and disappears
down a country road
that leads to the trellised porches
where old relatives
squint across their jonquilled yards.

I am a long way from home.
I think I may be the man
who tugged at their halters
each morning before dawn.
If I call their names
they will know.

Next, a poem by Susan Tichy. Her first book of poetry, The Hands in Exile, was a winner in the 1983 National Poetry Series.

The Bus from Sagada: Passing a Sacred Mountain


the man is trying to talk the boy
into giving me a flower. The boy
has been eating his flowers,
petal by petal, rolling each one
between his palms, then peeling away
the long yellow fibers, placing
the sweet pink between his lips.
Now he puts his shoes on the seat in front
and grins his small embarrassment.
I am large and single,like a calla.
He is just one of the Everlasting.
but the man is still prodding his shoulder -
he won't stop. So the boy,
though he's only seven or eight,
sits up straight with his hands on his knees:
there is something he has to do.

This flower has been carried from the boy's home.
Perhaps it was given to him.
Perhaps he pulled it
from a neighbor's bush as he passed.
It's damp, when he hands it to me, and cool.
One petal has been torn away
and a drop of nectar dangles at the wound.
The man is talking a mile a minute,
and laughing. the boy is shy.
And I don't know if I'm, expected
to eat the flower too.
I decide not. Steam

is beginning to rise from the carrots
and cauliflower packed over the engine.
The night guard, on his way back to town,
and just a boy, with red wool socks
pulled over the legs of his trousers.
Pulag says the man with the grin and points
to one dark side
of the mountain. I had forgotten.

Now here's a poem by Leo Romero, whose poetry was adapted into a play by the Group Theater in Seattle in 1985. At the time of publication, he lived in Santa Fe.

The Miracle

Celso had a vision
He saw the face of Jesus
on the the wall of a small house
by the church in Agua Negra
He would pass y there each night
on his way home from the bar
usually so drunk on wine
that he would see two of everything
And in fact he saw two Jesuses
though he knew there was but oe

By next day everyone had heard
of Celso's vision
That night there were hundreds of people
from the many mountain villages
gathered to see the miracle
Some say they saw the face of Jesus
others saw Satan, Mary, a Lamb,
a Cross, ad one little girl
even claimed to see the Last Supper
Those who saw nothing were quiet

The next poem is by Rosemary Catacalos. Her book of poetry, Again For the First Time, received the Texas Institute of Letters Award in 1984, the same year she received the institute's Dobie-Paisano Fellowship. At the time of publication she was Literature Director of the Guadalupe Arts Center in San Antonio.


I am drunk and alone again
in your house,
this place with so many mirrors.
You have gone for food,
leaving me helpless against
these reflections on all sides.
Everywhere the air
is covered with our imprint,
with what is forbidden
and and also what is not forbidden.
I can only give in
and try to write this.
A stranger arrives
and sits in the next room
wondering why I don't speak.

All I have ever
been trying to do is speak.
It's just that sometimes
I'm an angel
with far too many names.
They clog my lungs and tongue
with their possibilities.
They keep me in a room apart.
They set me spinning into mirrors.
The names you call me by.
Sister. Lover. Teacher.
The names the others
have given me.
Our Lady of Miraculous Hands.
Our Lady of the Tainted Corners of Time.
Our Lady of the One Word
    We all Know But Cannot Say.
Mother of the Ferocious Teeth.
Mother of the Six Seeds of Spring
Mother of Hearts Waiting
    By the Sides of All Roads.
Ariadne of the Treacherous Thread.
Ophelia Who Died for Our Sins.
Phoenix. Venus.
Even just plain Demetres' daughter.
I have answered
to all these names and more.
And there are others still to come.

I suppose there is no reason
to say these things.
Except this house
is so full of mirrors.
And a stranger has arrived
and sits in the next room
wondering why I won't speak.

My last poem from the book is by Sandra Cisneros. Best known as a novelist with many honors, at the time of publication her book, The House on Mango Street, had recently awarded the Before Columbus American Book Award. She received a Texas Institute of Letters' Dobie-Paisano fellowship. At that time, she divided her time between Illinois and Texas.

In a Red-Neck Bar Down the Street

my crazy
friend Pat
boast she can chug
one bottle of Pabst
down one swig
without even touching
teeth grip
swing and it's up in
she glugging like a watercooler
everyone watching
boy that crazy
act every time gets them
bartender runs over
says lady don't
do that again

Looking at pieces from the 2004-2006 again. Here are several short poems from that period.


thin crescent
in the still-light sky

first star
in the pale blue sea
of night awakening

drawn by currents
of impending
to the wide-open mouth
of hungry moon

remembering to smile

he remembers
that you're supposed to smile
when someone takes your picture,
but, through all the shadow years
he's forgotten how it's done

he wants to oblige, to be normal
as he used to b, so he tries
stretches his lips to a grimace

    it's something like this,
    he thinks

exposing white teeth clamped together
so as to bar the spirits that stalk him
day and night, waiting
for the moment of inattention
when they can seize him

it is the sharp-toothed leer
of the hunter, he shows,
while above, his eyes shift
with the panic of oft-hunted prey

This, a kind of a love poem, is from 2004. I used it in my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.

the pull of the moon

half moon
cut precisely by earth's shadow,
one part shining
in the clear October night
like a great yellow lantern in the sky,
the other, dark and mysterious,
though barely seen by the eye,
still a mover of tides
and midnight meditations

as in bright in you pulls me,
even more the secrets
of your darker

Also from 2004.


from somewhere in the very deep
a great blue sang today,
a song of salty tides,
of bright mornings
fresh with ocean air,
a song of love among the giants

from somewhere in the other deep,
an ever-growing choir responds,
sings off star-blinks and novas flashing,
of creation
and obliteration,
songs of spinning little worlds
that come and go and leave behind
the poetry of their time in passing,
each, another song,
sung and recorded for time never-ending
in a book of all the life that ever was born
to sing

Next, several poets from German Poetry in Transition, 1945-1990. The anthology was published in 1999 by the University Press of New England. As with most such anthologies, it is a bilingual book, German and English on facing pages. Translations are by the book's editor,Charlotte Melin.

The first poet is Hertha Kraftner. Born in 1928, her bio says she was among the first of German postwar poets to reconnect with the Expressionist and Surrealist generation. She committed suicide in 1951 in Vienna, her birthplace.

On the Death of a Poet

My friend the poet is dead.
We buried him under an acacia tree.
His companion - a real shrew -
scrubbed the restaurant soup out of his tuxedo
(he wore it for the funeral)
because all his life, she said,
he had longed for purity.
She also thought the acacia smelled too strong,
he had always complained privately
about her heavy perfume.
She in turn had suffered, o, suffered she had
from his smell
of ink remover and stage dust
and cut-open paper and sometimes
- unfortunately - sometimes of a kind of powder
that she never used.
That's what his companion said
on the way home from the grave,
and that was all that could be said about his life.

Meanwhile he lay quietly under the sweet acacia tree.
If he had known it, he would have stayed yup for nights
and tortured himself over some verses,
verses about white acacia blossoms
and a gray, moist morning
and bones bleaching under the grass.

The next poet is Reiner Kunze.

Born in eastern Germany in 1933, he studied philosophy and journalism in Leipzig in the early 1950s, until, under political attack, he left the university before graduation to work in Czechoslovakia. He began his writing career in 1962, and, finding publication of his work blocked, moved to West Germany.


The last of all doors

But one has never
knocked on all the others

Hanns Cibulka is the next poet from the book. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1920, he was a soldier and prisoner in Sicily, then worked as a librarian.


Launching ramps, academies,
where bacteria replace sandboxes,
what does that angel mean
with his sword of flames before paradise?
Artificial suns
over the skin of the earth,
a quantum hail
your body,
the stone begins to scream
outraged islands
dive back into the ocean.

you were, by nature,
the woods are without speech
and also the rivers
give you no reply,
you have come of age,
you can

stomp out your own image
in the ash,
in the dust of the earth
a rosebush.

Brigitte Oleschinski is the next poet. Born in Cologne in 1955, she lived, at the time of publication, in Berlin where she studied political science. She seems to me, at least from this poem, to have completed a full return to German post-war expressionist traditions.

No Path

Always the tire tacks lead, along such fallow paths,
at chirping noon to the resting places of crumpled dove-
wings, between potsherds and tin, where the
poems still cling like blown out fingers.

Motionless the hour doubles itself into a ball under the heat, intertwined
with brick shrub. All around the nodding of the awn,
over which back and forth glimmering beetles hasten.

Once a cow was buried here. Sewn
into its rib cage was a sack. In
this sack a face.

My last poem from the anthology for this week is Annerose Kirchner. Born in Leipzig in 1951, he studied at the Becher Institute in the late seventies and writes poetry, opera libretti, prose and radio plays for children.


Flying carpet dealers exchange
one to one
clowns for tin soldiers.

My mind thinks German
and tries on muzzles,which are handed out free,
or go for a dime a dozen.

Tomorrow, a boozy voice
whispers in my ear,
we emigrate.

So, okay, it's Friday, but I have to write a poem anyway.

waiting for promised lightning

pumping gas

pumping iron

pumping my fist
upon receiving a $5 coupon
at Bar-B-Que-Is- Us

Mary Sue in the back seat
of a '48 Hudson - oh
how soft
those seats and Mary Sue

(you don’t have to read the above,
it’s what I call
“priming the pump” -

dropping a few irrelevant words
down the well
with hope that the addition
to the well of
through force of the Heimlich Maneuver-
or some such science-word
thing having to do with one force
activating a countervailing
force -
will cause good words
to rise
to the surface
being irresistibly pushed there
by the irrelevant word

meaning, according to the Heimlich equation,
that an actual poem will start
below -

may be required
a process thing
and process things
else they would be called
like Jesus’ face on a tortilla
or Jimmy not cracking corn
when the master’s gone away
or my 1906 computer
suddenly humming and buzzing
and computing
or the phone company guy
arriving before 11:59 for a service visit
promised between 8 a.m. and noon,
or me getting a hot date
when I was fifteen years old
or next week,
whichever comes first -

you know,
where would we be without them,
the miracle of conception
and birth,
the miracle of divining wisdom,
the miracle
of Slinkies and Hula Hoops
and Rice Crispies
snapping and cracking and popping
ever time,
the miracle of meteors not crashing
into the earth
like last time, except this time
making us the new dinosaurs, converting in the tar pits
into some future form of fuel
for the finally and again
ascendant cock-
roach, no longer getting squashed
in kitchen corners - that’s why cowboy boots
have pointy toes, you know -
doing the squashing this time instead)

...and the little circley thing is circling
on a blue screen
which means the aforementioned pending poem
is still process, but not so quickly,
so if you have something
to do
you should go ahead and
take care of it

an I’ll give you a call
when the processing
is processed, arisen, so to speak
from the depths by the force of the
Heimlich processing primal
to relevancy
in this portion of the universe

but maybe since the phone guy
hasn’t come yet
I’ll just email
or maybe send a tweet
which I almost never do, fearing
being pigeon-holed
as just another tweeting

for promised lightning

Next, I have a couple of poems by Mark Scott, from his book Tactile Values, published in 2000 by Western Michigan University.

It's a new book and a new poet for me. I'm not sure yet if I like his stuff.

First Death

When I was almost ten
my youngest brother
asked me to ride bikes with him.
I went to a movie with a friend.

I cried that day,
because everyone else was crying.

Twenty years later,
I couldn't make the smallest decisions.
When asked in an office if I knew why,
I cried for about an hour.

I should have gone with my brother on the bike.
I never saw him again.
I can't remember what he looks like.


"to have a crush on someone" -
that's a schoolgirl's phrase,
the lexicographers say.

But I have a generalist's temperament
(like Napoleon's)
any aunt or schoolgirl can daunt and tether,

and I have had cruses all my life,
once on my aunt, my uncle's wife,
sometimes for many days together.

crescit sub pondere virtu:

What's so passing about it?
It is Byron's "Everything by turns
and nothing long,"

and you would have to have
Frank O'Hara's mental life
in Georg Simmel's metropolis

not to be ground up in its mills.
How pervious and flappable
can you afford to be?

"Marble does not laugh," said Diderot -
yes, but even marble twitches

On a Bus in Torino

He calls the meridionali shitheads,
says if he were still a soldier
he'd take them, break them up.

Spit's in his whiskers,
his umbrella's poised. "God fuck!
Pricks! You're wrong, you're wrong."

They've wrecked the ticket machine.
The soldier says how much it costs.
They cock their wrist.

The driver breaks.
"You know what you've done?
I did World War Two,

mother Mary fuck God.
I fought for you."
"Look, shit,"one of them says,

"Get off here. Get the fuck off here."
A nun steps up between them.
Shithead says to shithead,

"Finish it. finish it."
The nun says "Enough."
"I know, sister," the soldier says,

"But mother Mary fuck God!
I did World War Two for them
and they bust the ticket machine."

"I know," says the sister.
The soldier stabs the floor,
shithead calls him a shit.

"There weren't kids like you
when I was a kid.
I did World War Two." Then he turns

to me. "Nice place for a foreigner,
Italy, isn't it?
I did World War Two. God's a pig"

I get a lot of kidding at my favorite coffee house for insisting that my latte comes with no foam.

a proclamation regarding the proper price of air

am very insistent
and specific -
“no foam, none,
not a bit,”
I say when ordering
my lattes
because foam
is bubbles
and bubbles is air
and I’m not yet
so civilized
as to be willing
to pay for air,
many I know

they are also
willing to pay for water
in a bottle, because
it’s supposed to be special,
from some secret
in some secret
mountain glen,
or some such marketing crap,
when it’s from the same
garden hose
I’m quite happy to drink

(do you know
that it requires 4 bottles
of water to make 1 water in a bottle -
I read that somewhere -
3 bottles
of water to make the plastic bottle
and 1 bottle of water to fill it)

I’m quite happy
drinking my water from a lawn
water hose…

I like the way how cool it is
coming from those underground pipes
and how it splashes up in your face
(not a drinking problem I have,
just not so fastidious
in my drinking methods as are
and how if you’ve been
working in the sun
you can just take the water hose
and hold it over your head
(assuming you haven’t been working
outside in the sun
in your Sunday best clothes
in which case
you should go inside
and change before holding the water hose
over your head -
I don’t work outside in the sun
in my Sunday best clothes, more often,
I’m wearing my Tarzan pants,
not really pants
at all,
after Tarzan’s garb in the jungle
in his pre-production code

and it’s quite
all right to get my Tarzan pants
after working outdoors in the sun
so that’s what i

and anyway
I don’t believe in drinking my water
from a bottle of water
that took 4 bottles of water
to make,
just like I don’t think it’s financially
or morally appropriate
to pay for foam
which is actually bubbles
which is actually
which ought to be free

my take
on water in a bottle
and foam in a

My next poem is by Samuel Hazo, taken from the anthology, The Best American Poetry - 2005, published by Shribner.

It's an interesting and different kind of poem that first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly.

Hazo,born in Pennsylvania in 1928, is the founder and director of the nternational Poetry forum in Pittsburgh, and is also McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Dukquene University, where he taught for more than 40 years.


The bigger the tomb, the smaller the man.
The weaker the case, the thicker the brief.
The deeper the pain, the older the wound.
The graver the loss, the dryer the tears.

The truer the shot, the slower the aim.
The quicker the kiss, the sweeter the taste.
The viler the crime, the vaguer the guilt.
The louder the price, the cheaper the ring.

The higher the climb, the steeper the slide.
The steeper the odds,the shrewder the bet.
The rarer the chance, the brasher the risk.
The colder the snow, the greener the spring.

The braver the bull, the wiser the cape.
The shorter the joke, the surer the laugh.
The sadder the tale, the dearer the joy.
The longer the life, the briefer the years.

Here a few more short poems from 2004, several out of season, but I'm willing to pretend summer's over if you are.

first frost

first frost
and leaves fall
soft and slow
like red and yellow
drifting in the sun

winter winds

winter winds
the north hills
the city
with cedar pollen
that leaves me gasping
like a blowfish
on a stroll down Grand Avenue

a cool breeze in August

from the north
in a season of southern winds

trees sigh
with early morning pleasure

welcome this reminder
of better days to come

home fires

full moon bright
on black winter sky

    wisp of cloud
    like chimney smoke

drawing me home


sun lies low
behind gangly scrub oak branches

yellow jigsaw

at the end of day

to cut a long tale short

mice three


Next, I have a couple of poems by Pat Califia, the author of several fiction and nonfiction books which address the politics of sex, gender, and pleasure. She is a longtime SM community activist and a prominent anti-censorship feminist. Her frequently controversial publications, lead her being tagged by a contemporary as "the author most often banned by Canadian Customs."

The Pony Girl

Responsibility is my harness.
Ambition and my fear of silence
Fasten it about me.
I wear a life that fits more tightly
Than any whalebone corset.

Each muscle within me
Is in bondage to
My schedule and my plans.
I ride my body until
It screams in protest
Against the tension imposed
By the speed at which I travel.

My destination is a mirage,
My ears flicked back
To keep out praise.

Bind me.
Make palpable what I carry
Embedded in my spirit.
I can be silent with
A bit between my teeth.
Put me through my paces,
Keep me in check with
Your hands and your thighs.

Given one task only,
To keep my eyes on
The toe of your boot,
I discover a world
Simple enough to make sense,
]simple enough to live in.

Your demands are cruel,
But you are easier to please
Than the voracious maw
Of the future.

Under the spur off
Your command,
I do not need a name
And if my head is held hight
By a tight rein,
I no longer need my pride.

Test me.
I am free to do
Whatever you like.

I Cry For You

I cry for you
In other people's beds
Lucky for me I always wail
After I come
Or everybody would know
That the pleasure I do not
Take from your hands
Is an unwelcome gift

I mourn for you
When some sharp-tongued kid
Makes me laugh with her green malice
You would have said it better
In fewer words
Hatred is one of your talents

And God knows love
Was never one of mine
I am well-suited for
Disappointment, rage,
I waited all my life for you
And now I have decided
I will not have you

Because you will not have me
Deprivation suits you
Long waits for brief joy
All the things you like
Are very bad for you
And you used to like me a lot
But I drive you away
Still I drive you
As the last wolf on earth will be driven
To seek the vanished caribou
You will curl up around my absence
Every night you sleep alone
And when you find company
(Which happens oftener
Than you'd like to admit)
I will come between you
Bigger than a bolster and
Impossible to kick out of bed
You cannot kiss another woman
Without kissing your memory of me

I have your smell inside my nose
I have you skin under my nails
Your pupils are printed onto mine
And we will meet again
Holding other people's hands
And speaking volumes
Over their uneasy heads

I cry for you
In other people's beds

My Sunday poem, inspired by another poet's Sunday poem.

autumn light

I’ve read
all the other poems
and it’s time
to write my own
and I’m thinking about
the autumn light I read about
in one poem, thinking how true
it is, the idea that autumn light is
orange, reflection of pumpkins
scattered for sale
in a church parking lot, jack-o-lanterns
for the poor and hungry and untutored
in the grace of Lord Jesus Christ, Savior
of all, but especially a savior of those who will
buy a pumpkin for the poor, demonstrating
their deep and Christian concern for pumpkin farmers
and other less fortunate among their human
fellows, that’s why autumn light
has an orangish tint, I think, although I am sure
there will be some who prefer a more scientific
explanation, not involving in any way, pumpkins
and the poor…

but who would you rather believe in, some
grubby scientist or Santa Claus…

and of course summer light
is entirely different,
thick and heavy and shimmery,
steam-soupy venting from the Devil’s
subterranean glen of the simmering
wicked, air full of curses and foul fulminations,
air with all the sweetness of a rattlesnake’s
insisent tongue…

entirely different
from winter air, flowing across the prairies
direct from the high mountains
where giant snow leopards leave their lairs
to hunt at night, sharp, frigid, unrelenting light that
pushes the blood to pump, makes the lungs expand
to draw the thin richness of oxygen that turns
the pumping blood red and rich, air re-conditioned
in the light, cleansed of sweat-
heavy summer air hanging on past its time,
air that breaks the morning dark
for sharp winter light, sharp, that’s the word
for winter light, sharp like the daily-sharpened
blade of a hunter in the woods cleaning his kill,
or the butcher, behind his counter of fresh cut
flesh …

not at all like spring air, soft and almost weightless, airy light
that floats above the passions of spring re-birthings, light
with a smell of hope that all does not end, that all comes
again, spring light to clean the thick musk of a house
closed for months, tight against winter's sharp intrusions,
smelling of days like a prisoner’s cell, confined, waiting
for release, spring lit air, the release, clouds of re-commitment
to life and all it’s pleasures…

but of all the light,
it’s autumn’s I love the best,
escape for me
from the weight of summer’s oppression

so I slept this morning
outside in the dawning autumn light, covered
against the chill but welcoming its relief from the hanging
dogs of summer

time, again,
to remember a sweater in the morning light

Next, I have two short poems by Shail D.Patel. The poems are from the October 2007 edition of Poetry. The poems are the poet's first published works.


Pain trains an undisciplined mind.
I will end yours if you end mine.

Little feet, little feet are playing
Hopscotch among the landmines.

Hope has worked miracles before.
If yours didn't, how can mine?

I would have learned to welcome night,
If only you had been mine.

How dare you put words in God's mouth,
Why not. He put ashes in mine.

The Rule

Discipline. Free will
Doesn't mean freewheel.

But what about Eros? Let
Eros harrow whom he will.

I have sipped my sip
and poisoned the well.

I am well pleased with my thirst.
I know my thirst no evil.

You will die of thirst, Shail.
If the salt sea wills.

I wrote this next poem in 2004 and used it in my 2005 book. A curious thing is that now, nearly seven years later, I, at 67, feel much less of the "slipping away" thing I talk about in the book than i did when i was younger.

I lay the improved attitude to the power of commitment, in my case to poetry, making me feel better about almost everything.

Of course the world and the country is still going to hell, but I decided to not make that my most pressing business any more.

slipping away

my mind is blind
to the crisp autumn sky
and the creek running clear
and the squirrel
teasing my dog,
a backyard clown
the quivering,
puffed-chest forward
of a small dog
facing a large world...

my eyes see none of this,
for like a fist
clenched tight on itself
I am closed to all but anger,
a simmering constant
since the last election,
not just at the loss
of mine against theirs,
but at the outcome
as a symptom
of the progress of my life
in these later years,
like a lifetime
of being on the wrong side

I feel the passing of time now
like never before,
time and opportunity
slipping away,
life space lost
like water squeezed
from a cloth,
disappearing in an eddy
down a drain,
leaving an approximation of me
to fill the place I had before
until the day I need no space at all

as I read the obituaries in the morning
or stand at the grave of my father,
as I did this past week in a park
green with the growth of recent rain,
I cannot reconcile the contradictions
of death and life, how the life I see
in the obituary photos and the light
I remember in my father's eyes
can disappear in an on-rush of dark,
one minute to the next, life to death,
how it is that I too will slip some day
into that vortex of night and never return

I think of the eternal nature of atoms
and how they combine and recombine
over uncountable eons to create
illusions of form
and in some of those illusory forms
a spark of life and consciousness
and beings like you and me
and all those whose obituaries
I read every morning
and my father, dead 25 years,
the illusion of him gone forever
to seed the soil he lies in
and the grass and trees and clouds
over his head and, someday,
in the great recycling of brings
all the old to something new,
perhaps another form with life
and a sense of self and a universe
outside of self that is the cradle
of that which is, evidence that
for life forever we first must die

My next two poems are by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan . They are taken from her book, Shadow Mountain, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry. The book was published in 2008.

Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica and raised in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University and earned a M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Virginia. She also earned an M.A. at the University of California, Berkeley. At the University of Houston she earned a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing. She lives in Houston with her husband an HIV/AIDS researcher at Balor College of Medicine and teaches at Houston Community College.

The Moon and Kaguya

It's September 15, 1989.
I'm twenty years old.
My name is Kaguya.

I speak to a flamingo wall.
Autumn lilies smile
in their sleep.
The sky listens.
A wise wind
blows my voice

into the dying apricots.
My hair is dark
as sumi ink.
I let it grow
and trail the back
of my kimono.

Now I change
into a morning dove.
I gather three-hundred twigs
to cup my eggs.
There's a blue jay
on thee wire.

I think I'll go
and become a butterfly.
I weave myself
a sugar cocoon
and sleep all year.
A child has licked
my wings.
I can't fly. I'll hide
in a giant pagoda.
A Velveeta moon rises.
A mother opossum is dead.
She lies on the cornstarch hill

curled like a croissant.
Blackbirds have ripped
her belly apart.
Her cubs wait
on the powder trail.
Flies and ants

carry her body in pieces.
They leave behind
her chocolate fur.
I pause
where crows form doves
on the plum horizon.

The oily sea is full
of seaweed lizards.
The sky is empty.
I'm grey on a square
in Escher's drawing

you dressed like a yellow tail tung.

(Kaguya, there isn't such a thing)
Be quiet moon, I just created it.
(You're only a woman, Kaguya.)
I'm a woman god.
Go away moon - get out of my poem.

(Who will be the moon if I leave?)
I'll make myself the moon.
I rise a new mother.
My children are th e platinum stars.
I feed them corn pebbles.
They ask me my name.

I tell them, I am the pickled moon of November.
Do not be afraid. The terrible moon
has gone away.

The sun is shining over Europe.
Tonight, I must rise in the East.
I help the wind grind shriveled
sardines into the soil.
We pull back our hair
like dried mushroom stems,

take scissors, cut it off,
until there's nothing left
but a stump of azaleas.

Origins of an Impulse

I can't tell you how it happened, just that
it happened after wet concrete, a shade
more salmon than pink. Brown ants
hurried with the current claiming bread
crumbs. It happened after the seeds of
interest spilled through me, after the garden
unfurled its roots. I learned to tie shoelaces
and spell "sand," "glass," " sage," "tar,"
"paper," "apple," and "orchard," after
my cousin died, never aged. It happened
after my sister and I stood on the left side
of the plaque,after a dusty breeze flinging
sand in our eyes and hair blew our coarse
strands to and fro in mid-air, messing up
our parts, our usually straight hair. It happened
after the sand irritated, tickled the unbaked
spaces between our toes, our feet pressed
into the foam of our flip-flops. It happened
after my mother gave me a typewriter, sky
and light blue, some ink ribbon. I wrote
how much I loved her. It happened after
our neighbor poisoned our dogs, mailed
postcards calling us "Shits" and "Japs,"
after one dog died. I wanted to dig its body
from the ground. It happened in grade school
when classmates said I had the nose of a gorilla;
in high school, when a classmate pressed
her nose with her hand, mocked the flatness
of mine. I gave up yellow, my favorite color,
started a lifelong love of lavender, wrote of
my mother's face in my face, staring at me,
her disdain when I dyed my hair red. It happened
with the anger of an electric typewriter, a dark
screened computer during college. It happened
wen I saw my mother's face in my face,
It happened with love, the impulse to write.

A good part of the day wasted, nothing changed except that I ended it more frustrated than I began it.

in the provinces

did it again yesterday,
spent too much time in
political argument,
screaming match
on Facebook…

I am blessed
with friends, including
an unusual percentage
of such
who are, by any rational
of either the left or the right

well-meaning folks all,
to posting their wacko
version of reality
on Facebook, such wacko
versions of reality relating
to actual reality
as a gas cloud in the toxic soup
of Venus
relates to a pecan grove
on a spring-cool hillside in Texas

I, subject to my instinctual mission
to correct fuzzy thinking world-wide (lost
cause though that may be) am prone
to responding ,
feeling a need, a duty even,
to shine a ray of rational thought
into their hysterias

a truly stupid
thing to do, I know, but I do it
some kind of irrational compulsion
to be rational, and I am always astounded
at how astounded they are (both left and right) to discover
someone who has not yet received all the wisdom
they assume - sign of a kind of intellectual
amoeba life of intersecting cells
of party-line thought

intellectual provincialism, thinking no thought
that isn’t shared by all in their particular intellectual

growing up in a very small town
in very south Texas
I know about provincials
of all kinds, the particular shared truths
of a particular place and time and how they define
the way a life is supposed to be lived,
from certainty as to which is God’s preferred
religious practice to how to properly
fry your okra and boil your grits to whose
high school team plays the best football, and,
knowing all that, knowing also
all about the fate or heretics
as well

it’s clear I need to quit sticking my nose
into other people’s alternate reality
perfect instead
the knowing smile
of a zookeeper
watching primates in their mating

it’s the rational thing
to do

Here's a poem by Leslie Ullman. It's from her book, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, Slow Work through Sand, published by The University of Iowa Press in 1998.

At the time of publication, Ullman was director of the creative writing program and the University of Texas - El Paso and also on the faculty of the MFA program at Vermont College.


More than anything I wished I'd been named Mickey
like my mother's friend with the red convertible
and hair that cupped her head boldly, a bowl
of black feathers. My hair was the brown
of old grass, curly and sad, and it
never moved when I shook my head.
I was afraid of thunder and scrambled eggs
and other children. I was afraid of my bed at night
with no one to talk to. Mickey would tuck up
her feet and my mother handed her a drink
and I'd watch her, feeling a plan stir
behind my eyes like a room taking shape
with the lights off. Once she put down the top
and took me for a ride all my own - then Greenbay Road
was a tunnel of sky and leaves, blue wind
and summer, no waiting in the back seat
while my mother bought milk and cigarettes, no dinner
eaten early in the kitchen, bite by bite
like a job to get done - just both of us
flying, and my future rushing at the windshield.

All through first grade I placed myself
behind the girl with the longest hair to watch
her ponytail, which fell to her waist,
while the teacher read aloud. It followed her
like an angel, full of light, crouching
over her shoulder or nuzzling her back.
I watched until my own neck felt its weight.
That summer I tucked a cream-silk scarf
in my waistband and leapt over gulches,
reared, wheeled at hydrants turned to rocks
and cacti in my path. My tail lingered a moment,
an echo, everywhere I had been.

Once I learned to skate, winter
became my season. I stayed outside
until dark, gliding and darting,
leaning into the curve of a future.
The night the gold trophy took its place
by my bed, I stayed up overnight
at my best friend's house. The trophy waited.
It filled the room with a swelling image
of me, the crowd's cheer,while I fell asleep
a mile away. My throat burned with all the wind
I had swallowed that day, pumping
towards the finish that kept fading like a wish.
Over and over I saw the blue ice crack
at the starting gun, then the first
long turn, and the big girl in racers ahead;
I was neither boy nor girl, a sprite
stroking into pure white, winter's heart.

I think none of us knew when prime rates
and measles and parent-teacher secrets
thickened the air in our house invisibly
as dust, along with dinners to gibe
and go to, cocktails every evening,
the lawn to keep trim, my brother or me
breaking our parents' sleep
with nightmares we couldn't describe;
when my parents' supple young selves
withdrew, taking with them a laughter
I may only have dreamed; when disappointment
seemed to have blown in from somewhere
like hard weather, and I took it upon myself
to perfect and polish and arrange
words like lovely stones,
to win the young gods back again and again.

I watch and I listen and it begins to seem painfully clear that the dream, in terms of practical implementation, is gone, probably never to return.

I wrote the poem in 2006, 42 years from those good times.

winter, 1964

twenty years old;

knee deep in snow
in the Manzana Mountains;

barrel racing
in the Sandia foothills;

building an adobe shed
to learn the art of making sun-dried bricks;

soldering two pipes to make a plumbing connection
so we'd know how to do it;

mimeographed notes
air mailed from Washington,
wet ink smeared in their passing
from hand to eager hand,
the blood and gristle and bones
of the Great Society being created,
passed from hand to eager hand;

watching LBJ
climb down from his helicopter
on a parking lot by the quad,
a week before the election;

knowing the world could be changed
and that I could help change it

knowing for sure and for the last time
that I was with the good guys
and the good guys could

such dreams we had,
and we're better for the having -

who dreams such dreams now

Next, I have several short poems by James Laughlin from his book, The Secret Room, published by New Directions in 1997.

Laughlin founded the New Direction publishing house in 1936, while still and undergraduate at Harvard.

The Calendar of Fame

"Farewell, farewell, my beloved hands"
Said Rachmaninoff on his deathbed:
And Joseph Hofmann, the great pianist,
Invented the windshield wiper
From watching his metronome.
Genius that I am, all I can do
Is hit wrong keys on my typewriter.

The Consolations

The delights of old age
Are the little adventures
Of the imagination.
A beautiful face recalls another
That was so much loved long ago,
And we console ourselves
Saying "I'm young again."

The Cold Lake

That day when we went up
To Sanct Wolfgang, high
In the little mountains
Above Salzburg, the water
Was so cold we could only
Stay in it swimming about
Ten minutes. Though the
Sun was shining, our teeth
Chattering. We ran to the
Little dressing box we had
Rented. It was so tiny we
Had to stand up; to make
Love and get warm.

Motet: Ave Verum Corpus

My mother could not wait to go
To Jesus. Her poor, sad life
(Though she was money-rich)
Was made for that, to go to
Waiting Jesus.

Jesus loved her that she knew,
There was no doubt about it.
Up there above, somewhere among
The twinkling stars, there was
A place of no more tears where
He was waiting for her, blood-
Stained palms and side, he
Was waiting.

The Malevolent Sky

The sky was always too close
over them. With the sun by day
and the stars by night. It pressed
them tighter together than they
could bear. Once they had been
tender lovers, but the remorseless
sky destroyed them. the sky turned
them into walking corpses, into
shades of their former selves.

I see this fellow almost every day and, every day, am a little jealous of the ease he takes with life.

the holy fool

I am fortunate
to know a holy fool…

while I read two newspapers
every morning
for confirmation that everything
that happened
will happen again today,
each new day,
each new hour,
each new moment,
as a fresh creation, something
never seen, never felt,
in this universe

he is young
but older than me

older than me
but forever young

he is all of life
forever new, all of life
In a bouncing ball, all of life
in red balloons, all of life
in a hissing cat
protecting its newborn, all of life
in a baby at mother’s breast, all of life
in an uncut stone, waiting since creation
to become something new, life in a
hollowed stone, a cup waiting
to be filled

he is the holy fool
and he inspires

he takes
and makes it live

The next poems are by Carl Phillips. The poems are from his book Cortege, winner of the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize, published by Graywolf Press.

At the time of publication, Phillips, recipient of an Academy of American Poetry Prize, taught at Washington University in St. Louis and was visiting professor of creative writing at Harvard University.

Our Lady

in the final hour, our lady - Of
the electric rosary, Of the highway,
by then Of the snows mostly - was

the man he'd always been really,
though, yes, we'd sometimes forgotten.
Still, even while he lay fanning

as one might any spent flame, where
it was hot, between his legs, and
saying it didn't much matter anymore

about dying, what came of having
come too often, perhaps to what in
the end had fallen short of divine

always, he said that more than the
bare-chested dancers and all-conquering
bass-line that had marked his every

sudden, strobe-lit appearance, at
precisely the same moment, in all of
the city's best clubs; more than

the just-heated towels and the water
he'd called holy in those windowless
too thinly-walled, now all but

abandoned bath-houses, he regretted
the fine gowns that he'd made, just
by wearing them, famous; and then,

half, it seemed, to remind us,half
himself, he recreated the old shrug,
slowing rising from his hospital

robe - not green, he insisted, but
two shades, maybe three, shy of
turquoise - one shoulder to show

the words still tattooed there:
Adore me; for the moment, it was
possible to see it, the once

extraordinary beauty, the heated
grace for which we'd all of us,
once, so eagerly sought him.


Every one of these bodies,those in drag, those
not,loves a party,that month is clear. The blonde
with the amazing lashes - lashes, more amazingly,

his own - tells me it is like when a small bird
rises, sometimes, like the difficult thing is not to.
I think he is talking about joy or pain or desire

or any of the several things desire, sweet drug,
too sweet, can lead to. I think he means moments,
like this one, sudden, when in no time I know that

those lashes, the mouth that could use now more
painting, those hairless, shaven-for-the-event arms
whose skin, against the shine of the gown, a spill of

blood and sequins the arms themselves spill from,
glitters still, but dully,like what is not the
main prize does always - I know this man is mine,

if I want him. Meanwhile around us, the room fairly
staggers with men, and an aching to be lovely, loved,
even. As in any crowd lately, of people, the heavy

corsage of them stepping in groups, the torn bloom
that is each taking his own particular distance,
I think the trick is one neither of joining or not

joining, but of holding, as long as I can, to some
space between, call it rest for the wary, the slow
dragging to nowhere I call heaven. I'm dancing

maybe, but not on air: this time through water.

Delusion shattered by a quick injection of math.

term limits

when I learned
I could only serve
two three year terms
I protested
to the powers that

I said, "I can never
do all that needs to be
in six years"

I fumed
at the injustice
of it all

that little voice inside
that always denies me
the comfort
of long-term self-
this blunt assessment
in the hard drive
between my ears

at my age
three years times two
could be a

I have a poem now by classical Chinese poet Yang Wan-Li from the book Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow. The book was published in 2004 by White Pine Press. The poems in the book were tanslated to English by Jonathan Chaves.

Yang, largely unknown in the West before the publication of this book, was born into a poor family in Kiangsi in 1127. Living a largely uneventful life, he studied very hard as a young man to pass all the examinations required to advance into the Chinese bureaucracy that ran the government (the only path to advancement for a young man), then rose through the years to a high position in government before his death in 1206.

I enjoy very much the elegant plainness of early Chinese poetry,the day-to-day life of it, and I particularly like the way Chaves has reflected in his translation that plainness without forgetting its elegance.

Late Spring: On the Way to Yung-Ho

Not many days of spring left
but living in the mountains, it's hard to tell:
green haze - wind blowing through the wheat;
white ripple - sunlight dancing on the pond.

The scene is beautiful, but I'm feeling bad;
everyone else is happy - I alone am depressed.
So I walk through the countryside, gazing around
and, when I feel like ti, writing a poem.

Sitting Up at Night in Late Spring


Spring passes quickly - I am ill.
and spring looks like autumn to my sick eyes.
Only the lamp takes pity on me
And brightens my depression on a sleepless night.


My pain cries to heaven
    but heaven does not know.
Or heaven does know, but does not care.
I pick up the poems of Po Chu-i
and find a few moments of happiness.

Third Day of the Third Month, Rain: Written to Dispel My Depression


I go out the door; it's raining, but I can't go back now,
so I borrow someone's bamboo hat to wear for a while.
Spring has tinted ten thousand leaves, and I didn't even know;
the clouds have taken a thousand mountains and swept them away.


I look for flowers in the village
    but they hide from me on purpose;
and even when I find them,they only sadden me.
It would be better to lie down
    and listen to the rain
        in the spring mountains -
a quick downpour, then a few scattered drops.


As spring dies the scenes grow more beautiful:
The poet will remember them for the rest of his life.
Level fields overflowing with green -
    wheat in every village;
soft waters reflecting red -
    flowers on every bank.

Hearing Hsiao Po-ho and His Son Shang-Ti Reading Aloud at Night

When I was young I was never away form my reading lamps;
I loved books so much that I grew thin and gaunt.
Now I'm old and lazy and can't rad anymore;
instead I lie and listen to my neighbors
    read aloud at night.

Looking at my old poems from the 2004, it occurs to me that I was a pretty down fellow, not nearly the more happy and contented I am now.

Maybe it was the war, stupid idea badly executed and bearing obscene fruit, maybe it was the politics, the despicable, swift-boated election, a feeling, since put away, off lose in my personal life, or, maybe it was crossing the age line to 60 early in the year.

Adam, Before the Fall

it's a picture in a magazine

an old silverback sits
amid the vines and bramble bushes
of his native rain forest,
a huge creature, but quiet and slow
and intent in each still moment
in the details of his
gorilla life

before the fall

not knowing the devastation of his home
and his tribe,
the hunters who prize his meat as exotic taboo,
the fetishists who seek in his glands
the secret of some perpetual erotic high,
some eternal orgasm, some brute, untamed sexuality,
or of the seekers of kirsch, some knick-knack collector
who crows his wall with trophy heads, his floor with pelts
and, oh yes, how striking, a gorilla paw
for the keeping handy paperclips and gum erasers

not knowing how few are left,
how he and his family scattered around him
in their dwindling jungle are last survivors
of the great scourge of life called man

and a second picture

broad face full on, close up,
black eyes shining,
and in those eyes I see my death
and the decline of all my kind

before the fall, deserted
by God

My last poems from my library this week are by Campbell McGrath, from his book Florida Poems, published by Harper Collins in 2002.

McGrath, whose awards and honors include the Kingsley Tufts Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, taught in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami at the time the book was published.

The Zebra Longwing

Forty years I've waited,
for these winter nights
when the butterflies
fold themselves like paper cranes
to sleep in the dangling
roots of orchids
boxed and hung
from the live oak tree.
How many there are.
Six. Eight. Eleven.
When I mist the spikes
and blossoms by moonlight
they stir but do not wake,
antennaed and dreaming
of passionflower
nectar. Never before
have they gifted us
in like manner, never before
have they stilled their flight
in our garden. Wings
have borne them away
from the silk
of the past as surely
as come merciful wind
has delivered us
to an anchorage of such
abundant grace,
Elizabeth. All my life
I have searched without knowing it,
for this moment.


If they had a spark of wit or vision
it would be known today as Cloudiana,
in honor of the mighty Alps and Andes
assembled and cast eastward as rain
and thunder each and every afternoon.

If they'd understood the grave
solemn ity of the sublime
it would be named for the great blue heron:

For longevity, the alligator;
for tenacity, the mosquito;
for absurdity, the landcrab.

If they had any sense
of history
it would be called Landgrab,

It would be called Exploitatiania,

for the bulldozed banyans,
lost cathedrals of mahogany and cypress,
savannas of sawgrass and sabal palm,
mangroves toiling to anchor their buttresses,
knitting and mending the watery verge.

Beautiful and useless, flowers
bloom and die
in every season here, their colors dissemble,
soft corpses underfoot.

If there were an justice in this world
it would be named

So much self-important silliness in the world, all you can do is laugh.

the righteous arrive to plead my cause

my breakfast
was cold
this morning

- my own fault,
being as how
I overslept

but nevertheless,
my strong conviction
that nothing is ever my
leads me to believe
I should initiate
a demonstration in front
of this restaurant -

a cry of conscience,
assuming my moral responsibility
to insure
that no poor, overslept
such as myself
should ever again arise
from his/her oversleeping
to cold eggs and ham

I will be joined
by persons from the East,
warriors forever for the righteous cause
of the day,
enjoying nice cozy warm breakfasts
all of their lives,
also enjoy a deeply human
and moral sensibility
that allows them to feel
my cold-breakfast

- such deeply empathic
and morally uplifted are these
folks, true examples of the better
human kind, they are,
that they require no actual cold-
breakfast experience
to understand the psychological
inflicted upon those
who oversleep
and are thus faced with a cold
pancake, uuuuugggh,
the very thought of it sets
the delicate empathic threads
that bind their special, deeper feeling

they feel my pain and I am
moved to my abjectly abused
honored even to be the object
of their fine-feelling…

they cannot allow this cold-breakfast
travesty to continue, they say,
so settled
now on their martyr’s cushions
in front of the restaurant
door, they are prepared now
to dedicate their disciplined activist
to my cause…

but first,
being a democratic group
they elect a representative to
enter the capitalist-imperialist-military-
industrial -complex-loving and cold-breakfast-
to present their demands on my

(and order breakfast
for the 27 warriors for the rights of all human with whom which
they share this desperately abused planet
and they’ll certainly get to that problem once this cold-
breakfast atrocity is put to eternal rest

in the meantime,
hot coffee, hazelnut preferred,
and fresh squeezed
orange juice,
grown from non-genetically altered
organically grown trees,
as well,
of course

The end, for a while.

All stuff here belongs to its creators.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog. Color me gone.

at 2:42 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad that no comments have appeared when you have made such complex and nuanced poetry available for us to enjoy! I wanted to thank you for not censoring my poetry. I enjoyed your blog very much.--Patrick (once Pat) Califia

Post a Comment

A Random Selection of Moments Lost   Thursday, September 22, 2011


Excellent stuff this week, starting right from the top with my friend and "Blueline House of 30" housemate, Lana Wiltshire Campbell, and a whole bunch of her cinquains.

Random photos, as usual, and all these great poems:

Lana Wiltshire Campbell
22 Cinquains

arguments in the night

The Hearth
The Island

one day it’s like this

From Borderlines - Texas Poetry Review
Erika Meitner
Treatise on Nostalgia
Yvonne C. Murphy
Near Uvalde, Texas

the blond started it all

Larissa Szporluk
Occupant of the House
Under the Bridge

now, at 2,000 plus

Jonathan Holden
Dancing School
El Paso


Frank Pool
At Barton Springs
Home and the Trail

creating perfection

From One Hundred Poems from the Japanese
Six poems

a slim reed

Sharan Strange
The Crazy Girl
Jimmy’s First Cigarette

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied
intelligent design
how to lose a lover in 15 words or less
summer light
the girl with the small mouth and the long brown hair
fat men hugging
if a tree fell in the forest

Robinson Jeffers
To the Stone-Cutters
Shine, Perishing Republic

the climb

From Good Poems for Hard Times
Louis Jenkins
The State of the Economy
Naomi Lazard
In Answer to Your Query
Carnation Milk
John Donne
Sonnet XII: Why are we by all creatures waited on?

so what am I to do now?

Rita Dove
Best Western Motor Lodge, AAA Approved

it’s all about me

Richard Wilbur
Two Voices in a Meadow
Advice to a Prophet

old man on an autopsy table

I start this week with a series of short poems by Lana Wiltshire Campbell. Lana lives in Northern California and believes her Celtic and Native American heritages have led her toward poetry and storytelling. She enjoys experimenting with all kinds of poetry and frequently focuses on one poetry form for several days or even weeks, trying delve deeper into the form. She also loves to sit down to write mornings and just see what comes.

Lana is also a housemate of mine at Blueline's House of 30. For nearly a month now, she has been writing a daily cinquain. As with country vanilla ice cream, if I like something I want a lot of it, which is why I'm using most of those daily cinquains right up front here.

I really like these. This form is not as easy to do as it might look, and Lana is very good at it.

after the storm

sky breathes sunshine
softly through puffy white clouds…
we awake in light this new-washed


at you outside
gardening, I somehow
suddenly seem to be staring
at me


she walks
deep in shadows
face turned from the daylight
counting all the times she has run


escapes softly,
like the sigh after hot
sex, with that same urge to cuddle

after so long

I dance
with her spirit…
someone I used to be
who may be returning to me

at first light

roasted manna
doctored with Muscle Milk…
rich, filling sunrise substitute


a call
from two old friends
rings in my head, brings hope…
these months will seem like a bad dream
back home


creeps toward us
fingers outstretched, grasping
green sea, golden sand, concealing

El Duende

flashing fire
pursued by deep darkness
yearning for an ascent to fresh

each morning

the same poem
yet again, I wonder
whether someday I’ll somehow get
it right


and soft-spoken
until you search her eyes…
where furious hatred glitters
like glass

last night

I felt
you beside me…
I know it was a dream
but this morning I can still feel
your touch

this life

we’re here
searching seeking
blindly reaching for love,
peering through thickening dark glass


in line
clutching papers
filled-in forms with one hand
his brand new wife with the other
he prays


drones toward fall…
wasps abandon mud nests
and one final golden lemon

at the job fair

cuffed and chided
by the long snaking line,
breathing through the pain in my leg,
I break

the memory of salt air

the bitter sharp
green taste – this massive sea,
alive with death, exhales such sweet


under sadness
even as I wander
distracted, nerves dancing with fear…
new songs

first step

whatever comes,
you allow your fingers
to remember first – to speak
your truth


or design, no bright flame
illuminates the dark places

And here's a three-cinquain poem.

in the end

you stop
hearing, talking,
become angry, remote,
and then you come to me one night…
and start

my breath catches,
becomes a soft flutter,
until, with a shuddering moan,
I rise

and say,
you have been gone
so long, even when here,
and now you want to start again…
no thanks

This, the last and, I think, my favorite.

through the ages

told to the air,
images drawn on stone
walls, bones strewn through halls, all become

Early peace interrupted by yesterday's business.

arguments in the night

on my patio
at 4 a.m.

early morning sleep
under nature’s umbrella
of whispering trees
and breeze-tinkled chimes...

in one of the townhouses
down the hill
and across the creek
a loud argument begins -
domestic , loud, Indian, or
a related language, I judge
by the lilt and rhythm of their

she is outside,
in the little courtyard between their
back door and the fence, her voice
clear in the thin night air, angry,
demanding something, in the way of wives
that men never understand
until crockery hits the wall or the door
is slammed closed one last time

his voice coming from inside,
muffled, sleepy-sounding, a plaintive
plea, I imagine, to come back in
and go back to bed

apparently she does for after
a moment
nothing else is heard

again under the soft cover
of very early morning,
slipping back to sleep to
the whispers of trees and
tinkling chimes,
wondering, as I drift off,
as one can’t help but wonder
at loud arguments in the

Next, I have three short poems by R.S. Thomas, from the book Poems by R.S.Thomas, published in 1985 by The University of Arkansas Press.

Thomas, born in 1913, died in 2000. He was a Welsh poet and Anglican clergyman, noted for his nationalism, spirituality and deep dislike of the anglicisation of Wales.

Wonderful poet, but not what I'd call a laugh-a-minute type of guy.

The Hearth

In front of the fire
With you, the folk song
Of the wind in the chimney and the sparks'
Embroidery of the soot - eternity
Is here in this small room,
In intervals that our love
Widens; and outside
Us is time and the victims
Of time, travelers
To az new Bethlehem, statesmen
And scientist with their hands full
Of the gifts that destroy.


And this was a civilization
That came to nothing - he spurned with his toe
The slave-colored dust. We breathed it in
Thankfully,oxygen to our culture.

Somebody found a curved bone
In the ruins. A king's probably,
He said, Impertinent courtiers
we eyed it, the dropped kerchief of time.

The Island

And God said, I will build a church here
And cause this people to worship me,
And afflict them with poverty and sickness
In return for centuries of hard work
And patience. And its walls shall be hard as
Their hearts, and its windows let in the light
Grudgingly, as their minds do, the the priest's words be
By the wind's caterwauling. All this I willdo,

Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes
Grow, and their lips suppurate with
Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth
On my altars, and I will choose the best
Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

And that was only on one island.

I don't look back often on my poems from 2004 to 2006 because most of them, if they weren't included in my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second, are in not very well organized paper files and not easily assessable.

This one if from 2005.

one day it's like this

it seems you
never recognize
a turn in the road
until you're past it

one day
it's like this
and the next
it's like that
and for a while
it seems like
nothing's changed

but then you begin
to notice things

sighs that come
like a quick wind
among the trees

then gone,
by the quiet still
before and after

or a drifting of
when you talk,
a cheek poised
for a kiss
instead of lips

then the moment
she says
I want to talk
and you say
about what
and she says
about us
and you say
what about us
and she says

never mind

and you know
the moment's past

the turn is made

one day it was like this
but now it's like that
and not like this
at all

Here two poets from the Fall 2004 issue of Borderlands - Texas Poetry Review.

The first poet is Erika Meitner, at the time of publication, a visiting professor of creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Treatise on Nostalgia

Whatever turns my head on
and revs it up tonight won't rest;
old lovers as fodder for fantasies
on insomniac nights, a shard
of something sharp and dirty lodged
in my foot,deeper than skin.

Tonight it's drinking cold gin in bed,
smoking with Nils while it rains,
going out together later to watch
the worms scrawl question marks
of their bodies all over the sidewalk.

Nostalgia is just selective memory:
a teenage girl's night on the boardwalk,
stolen beach party kiss in the dark
without the bad breath, without the contagious
cold sore, without someone else's
illegible phone number penned on his chest
in eye-liner above the five hairs
surrounding his left nipple.

What's Happening to Me? -
the title of the book my mother
handed over without a word
to explain adolescent changes;
a step-by-step guide to hormones,
body hair, anatomical sketches
of boys becoming men, was liberating,
was too late, confirmed what I already knew:
we all grew slowly ugly, the way Stefan,
the ancient bartender at the Holiday
Lounge on St. Mark's Place always
got drunker as the night progressed,
claimed to have known Auden. By nine,
he was singing in Russian, lecturing us
on love's uselessness. Just twenty-one,
what did we know then of people
that were broken? The worst story we heard

was from out college physics professor,
whose wartime job was testing blast force
on windows - the impact portion
of the Manhattan Project, though at the time
he didn't know it. Imagine him surrounded
by empty panes, diamonds of shattered glass,
diligently making precise measurements,
oblivious to their uses.

Back in real life (before I tripped into Poetryland), I had several offices in small cities west of San Antonio, including Uvalde, famous to some as the birth and final resting place of Vice-President John Nance Garner (who said the office was not worth a "pitcher of warm piss" and who might have been president had FDR not dumped him for Harry Truman in his final,uncompleted term). It's a nice little city, county seat of a county whose name I cannot remember now, an old town, with beautiful old stone buildings downtown (flying dragon weathervane atop one, I remember) and beautiful Christmas lighting in season.

When visiting offices in the western portion of my region, I usually planned the visits so as to spend the nights in Uvalde.

All this has next to nothing to do with the next poem, but I thought I'd mention it.

That next poem is by Yvonne C.Murphy, who held a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University and received a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Houston.

Near Uvalde, Texas

Cattle stand at the side
of the road and stare at me,

clumps of cacti and short
tough trees.

Oil derricks bend over
as I pass (the idea of it)

orange dust
and a song about loneliness.

Nothing to be inspired by the road,
and this promise: keep going.

At the rest stop two kids set up shop
in a cadillac - steam from a steel

bucket in the front seat, the human smell
of tomatoes. Quieres tamales?

they ask, tuned-in
to my hunger.

I tell them no,an ice-cream truck
passes -

the air is both flat and prickly.

Not such a quiet breakfast this morning.

the blonde started it all

the blonde started
telling a story, loud,
not a funny story but
very loud
a substitute for wit

and, of course, since she’s
the two businessmen sitting
in the next booth
have to loud-up to hear each other,
third quarter sales, the one fellow saying
he deserves a raise, the other fellow,
the boss, I’m thinking, pointing to sales,
explaining the wonders of profit-based bonuses
should there ever been a profit, not so far evident
in the subordinate striver’s
quarterly sales

and that’s pretty damn boring
at seven in the morning unless you happen
to be the guy trying to get a raise, but, for the rest of us,
in the same boring galaxy as
the three women across the room,
the fat woman, the tall woman, and the oriental
woman, talking about the baby shower
for another woman who is not there, a perfect
mess at the shower, they say, gossip, gossip, gossip,
and who’s supposed to be the father,
does anybody know, does
she even know -
pretty nasty stuff, stuff best whispered
in little conspiratorial huddles, not spoken out so loudly,
necessary though loudly might be to be heard over the businessmen’s
talking about third quarter sales and profits and bonuses,
they also speaking very loudly in order to be heard
over the guffawing-blond witless-story teller

and now I can hear the cook in the kitchen
yelling at the waitress
and the volume rises all around, everyone
trying to be heard over everyone else trying to be heard
and it’s like a damn hen house
at sunset, all the fat feathery-bottomed brooder hens
settling in,
cackle cackle cackle,
bragging about their latest ovoid accomplishment,
look at my egg, no, look at mine, no look

and the damn blonde started it

My next two poems are by Larissa Szporluk and were taken from her book Dark Sky Question, published in 1998 by Beacon Press.

At the time of publication Szporluk taught at Bowling Green State Universty.

Occupant of the House

Someday the phoebe bird will sing.
The sword grass will rise like corn.
I will be free and not know from what.
Like a pure wild race
captured by science, too wronged
to go back, too strange to be damaged,
my fierceness has disappeared.
If it doesn't end soon, the pail will dilute
the sin turn to sheen in the garden,
your routing genial rain.
And I would get up from my special chair
and swim through the soundproof ceiling,
its material soft and blue,
a threshold to mobile worlds.
I wouldn't know about my body.
If it were winter, winter would tingle,
summer would burn,
like the lamp in my ear bristles like fire
when you imagine the drum -
is it hot? I don't know.
A shell malnourished by darkness,
a great fish charmed into injury, I swallow
the wires, the hours, the shock.
You knew what the sky would mean to me.

Under the Bridge

You never know when somebody will
stick a little knife
in you heart and walk a way -

and the handle that smells of his hand
vibrates by your breast
as he ducks through the trees

and minutes later blows like a shirt pin
across the frozen lake.
And you're all wet, and he's in love

with what he's done.
And because of the cut,
the distance of your life pours out,

and because of the clouds
like fat that surround you,
you don't hear

for a long time
the tom-tom beating
in the sky,letting shadows

too heavy to be birds,
and yelling with a message
to forgive him

like the others did their father
under the bridge there
where ropes still linger

in remembrance of their necks,
where a flute in its case lies cold -
forgive him. Say

his name. It was only
power that he had to have,
and look what that one thrust gave him.

I also wrote this next poem in 2005, at the time our casualties from Iraq exceeded the 2000 mark.

Some might, and some probably did, find this poem disrespectful to our dead. My intent was opposite, our soldiers were dying in what seemed a public vacuum (remember, this was the time when, for political reasons, no photographs of returning soldier's coffins was allowed.) Such refusal by the draft dodgers in the Bush administration to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice being made by our soldiers seemed, and still seems, despicable to me.

And so,this poem.

now, at 2,000 plus

let's just call them bunnies

laid our alongside the road



nobody's fault
they're a red smear
on black asphalt

little white bones
shinning in the sun
little fuzzy tail fur
waving in the wind

they just got in the way

just got in the way
of history's steamroller -
crashing on down the road
bouncing little bunnies
right and left...

history's built on piles
of dead bunnies -

Genghis had them,
Napoleon, he had them,
Pol Pot had bunches of them
and so did Adolph,
by the beejillions...

and now
we have our bunnies

those brown little sad eyes
jellied in the march
for the good
and the right
and the geopolitical ambitions
forward thinking men


let's just call them dead bunnies


not that other thing

The next two poems are by Jonathan Holden, from the anthology The Devin's Award Poetry Anthology published by the University of Missouri Press in 1998.

At the time of publication, Holden was University Distinguished Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at Kansas State University.

Dancing School

Marcia Thompane was light and compact,
her silk sides slick a s fish scales.
Doing the box step with me, she
stared into space, waiting
for somebody else.

Vernell Peterson was tense, rickety.
I had to crane up to speak
to her face. My fingers hung
to the rungs of her spine. Trying
to lead Vernell in the swing step
was like leading a dogwood tree.

Poor Liddy Morrison was always
the last to get picked. She was dense,
moist. An inner tube was tied
to her waist. Her gauze dresses
rasped like dry grass.
As I neared her,she'd stare
with a dog's expectant look. I'd try
to be nice, to smile as though
I were glad it was her
I was stuck with; but Liddy
outdid me: she'd pretend
to be grateful.

Holden's next piece is an excellent rendering of El Paso/Juarez, one city divided by a muddy river that serves an international border. Coming upon it from the desert is like all the dusty western towns you've ever seen in a cowboy movie, multiplied by hundreds of thousands.

El Paso

The ragged graph of spiring crags
is chopped,
and there you are
littered in the valley below a quarry,
your offices rubbing elbows,
Juarez, like refuse, beyond.

It's too bright.
The land is gripping you
in the gritty palm of its hand,
the sun on its fingers.

The road from the north was a guitar string,
a streak in a dust-parched
ocean of swimming mountains.
It brought us to nothing.
And the river said to flow here is no consolation.

The only river is up
in a sky the color of gin.
The only ocean is dust,
the wash of its waves a lisp
of breeze through the heads of the cottonwood trees
and the tremor of jets from Briggs.

Except for the night,
when your halcyon baubles come on,
when your valley arrays itself like the coals of a hearth
and your hotel lights are as lonely as blue stratosphere,
you have one horizon.

it is the slice, the saw-toothed snarl
and scorch of the F-104'a

A Saturday morning poem...


are a bank of yellow flame
against the back fence,
in the breezy morning

and unlike
the rose and other beauties,
in our harsh environment
and easy to tend,
their beauty easily won,
requiring only casual glances
and appreciation…

my backyard is a garden
of primitive, homemade art,
to my eyes, at least,
to others it might seem
more like an elephant’s graveyard
for, instead of behemoth bones,
re-purposed junk…

but I persist,
finding art where I find it, making art
of what I’ve found as I can make it,
all of it lit in summer
by crayon-yellow esperanzas
that line the fence and gather in bunches
wherever my art and flat places

my poetry, it occurs to me,
so much like my back yard - primitive
and homely made,
scatterings of re-purposed words
and re-purposed thoughts,
all laid-out in the wild of unkempt seasons,
lacking only the brilliance
of my backyard esperanzas
to light the recurring

Here are two poems by Frank Pool. The poems are from his book Depth of Field by Plain View Press of Austin in 2001.

Pool, born in Wyoming, grew up in Longview, Texas. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 1975, then went on to earn a master's degree in philosophy in 1982. He currently teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement English in Austin.

At Barton Springs

He sits in the sunlight, on a stone worn by floods
And the bathing towels of generations. Flowed by,
The boisterous children, flirting girls, boys' cigarettes
Enigmatic and dangerous, harmonizing with
Tattoos. But he only sits, object of occasional light
Mockery from the youths, with his pectorals sagging
From glory, his entire body some kind of oxymoron,
Trim yet vaguely flaccid. He does not read novels,
Not popular psychologies, nor even poetry, but stays
On his eroded stone, not yet staring, not even glancing
With attention or interest, but gazing outward, counter-
Point of what inward inspection? The tattooed boys
Smirk, but their elders know, have some idea of the cost
To the aged to keep a body thus, the effort and tending
He shows off so silently, signing labors of seven decades
And more, sited so unavoidably in the juvenile flood,
Impassive, exciting casual scorn, yet sometimes,
He might hope, wry silent salutes of admiration for a body
Gone from hardness, bucking the flood with mere endurance.

Home and the Trail

Gray and overcast,
drizzle and leaves
shining in brownness
floating in the pool,
or sunken like
last summer when
it's not summer
and then
I go into the night
the blue light, the
water so cold, but
I must clean. Inside,
old backpack loaded,
clothes, socks,
oatmeal and Spam
and Aldous Huxley,
perennially setting out
for Big Bend.
Leaves, crisp or soggy,
or dog-eared,
leavings to attend,
poem to a friend
never met,never mind,
the leaves take their course,
fall and forty all will pass;
trail beckons -
much still to be done
before and even after
the fall.

Now another piece from 2005, this one just a short little observation on the aesthetics of beauty.

creating perfection

a small mole
at the base of her spine
calls to me as she walks away

this tiny imperfection
on taut, tanned skin
creating perfection

like a god
who laughs
at the absurdity
of his creations

Here is a selection of short poems from One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, selected and translated by Kenneth Rexroth and first published in a paperback by New Directions in 1964.

It is a bilingual book, Japanese and English. Each poem is signed with the poets name in Japanese characters.

The first poem is by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, about whom is little known, except that he flourished during the reign of the Emperor Mommu (6967-707) and may have been a personal attendant to the Emperor.

I sit at home
In our room
By our bed
Gazing at your pillow.

The Monk Noin, whose secular name was Tachibana no Nagayasu lived in the eleventh century.

As I approach
The mountain village
Through the spring twilight
I hear the sunset bell
Rising through drifting petals.

Harumichi no Tsuraki was a provincial governor who lived early in the tenth century.

The wind has stopped
The current of the mountain stream
With only a window
Of red maple leaves.

The next poem is by Otomo no Yakamochi who lived from 718 to 785. Born of a highly ranked and powerful family, he served as a Senior Councillor of State after a career as a General, courtier and Provincial Governor. His family was broken up after his death because of a crime committed by a family member.

Mist floats on the Spring meadow.
My heart is lonely.
A nightingale sings in the dusk.

The Emperor Yozei, reigned from 877 to 884. All persons of high status and position were expected to, among other arts, write poetry. Trying to imagine a poem by Rick Perry...

Falling from the ridge
Of high Tsukuba,
The Minano River
At last gathers itself,
Like my love, into
A deep still pool.

The Prime Minister Kintsune held office in the early part of the 13th century. Later he became a monk and founded a temple.

The flowers whirl away
In the wind like snow.
The thing that falls away
Is myself.

Seems I can't write a dark poem without giving in to my usual more sunny nature before poem's end.

a slim reed

in the real world
of yesterdays,
my greatest strength
as a leader of people and process
was an ability
to see consequences
hidden from others, to see the chain
of re-actions certain to follow every action

my greatest worry now,
from here on the sidelines,
is that I see no good consequence coming
to us,
all of us,
the world, the country, myself,
heading into choppy and dangerous waters…

for myself,
a hot fire, smoke, and ash
to be scattered across the hills, a natural consequence
of a natural and ordinary life…

for all the rest,
a world of increasing peril,
a world of increasing insanity,
a world where the just will not
where the unjust will carry the day,
a world where misery
and chaos
will lead to it’s own natural consequence
of fire and smoke and scattered

the consequences I see today
make me fear
for the life and future of my son
and for all the other sons and daughters
of all the world

the old order

and I am old myself
and fear the


but then ,
I remind myself
I grew up in a world
where the doomsday clock
hung always
a minute from midnight,
where the ultimate consequence
of final atomic devastation

and it mostly worked out
and I am still here
and you are still here
and the trees and hills and oceans
and flowers and plains
are still here

so perhaps
there is a instinctual human capacity
to forever slip and
but never to fall

a slim reed,
but I hold tight to it anyway

My next poet is Sharan Strange, with two poems from her book, Ash, winner of the 2000 Barnard New Women Poets Prize, published by Beacon Press.

The Crazy Girl

She was given to fits.
So was her brother.
There was a catagory
for him. Retarded, they said.
Something nearer to sin named her.

Oh, the family claimed
its share of deviance - meanness,
generation after generation
of drunks, rootworkders, fools,
feuds carried on with
the extravagant viciousness of kin.

But hers was an unpredictable
violence - more disturbing because
she wasn't a man, besides
being a child. So they settled on
puberty - the mysterious workings
of female hormones - until she
outgrew it and the moniker stuck.

It accounted for the rage
worn on her face, tight as a fist,
fear restlessness in eyes
like July 4th's slaughtered pig.
Rebellious, wooly hair only
partly tamed by braids, she often
inflicted pain during play.
Boys her favorite victims,
she tore clothes, skin,
marked virgin expanses of face, neck, arms
with scars like filigreed monograms.

Her notoriety was assured when,
at 16, she disappeared, leaving
rumor to satisfy the family's need
to understand, given context to
her uncle's slow slide into madness,
her sullen body bruised by constant
scratching, as if she could
somehow remove his touch.

Jimmy's First Cigarette

The tobacco sweetness filled your head
with a gentle wooziness, a lightness
that rocked you off-center,
numbing you to the possibility

of pain or cruelty in the world.
From your grandmama's porch
you surveyed a lush green countryside
murmuring with the traffic

of laughing birds, wild animals
and ghosts. You felt alive,
aglow with sensation as,
at her urging, you inhaled

the slim token of freedom.
Pleasure short-lived, gave way
to confusion, betrayal,
as a torrent of blows

from your daddy's belt broke
your childish reverie - he
and Grandmama conducting
your abrupt trip back to reality.

Here are several more short pieces from 2005.

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied

all gossamer wings
and sweet intentions,
a single butterfly lands
on a limb in the light-dappled
green of a Mexican rainforest

and another lands
and another and another

and another
until the limb breaks
and falls to the forest floor
in a melee of sunshine
and monarch color

such is the weight
of a butterfly, multiplied,
like the small
passing lies
of lovers

intelligent design

designs the future

eliminating the failed
and all of failure's brood

death judges us now,
if there is a place for us
in its evolving patterns

how to lose a lover in 15 words or less

say little


assume surety
in a universe
of constant

summer light

sun streams all around
through floor to ceiling windows

a black man
in a chalk white hat

and searing flash
through the room of bright

the girl with the small mouth and long brown hair

threw back her hair
with a flip of her head

and smiled

little mouth a bow
drawn tight
like a know
on qa pink and white tie
or a kitten
that curls like a ball
when you tickle
her belly

fat men hugging

two fat men hug,
friends parting,
reaching, with great delicacy
over their expansive bellies
to reaffirm histories
not forgotten, futures
not foresaken


a woman in red
stands quiet and still
before a red wall

becomes like a shadow
on the wall

while, I standing
as it passes,
become a shadow
on life's short parade

if a tree fell in the forest

a worse thing
than having no thought
is to have a thought
that falls soundlessly
in a void of indifference

a fallen pebble
sinking in a pond of discourse
without a ripple

Next, I have poems by Robinson Jeffers. Though a tiny book, Selected Poems, filled with Jeffers long, dense poems, which I love, but against which my transcriptionist fingers rebel. So, without meaning to disrespect a great poet of the twentieth century, here are two of his short, not so dense, poems.

The book was published by Random House in 1965.

To the Stone-Cutters

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the
    brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart;
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained
    thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity,
    heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops
    and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make
    fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances,
    ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste baste on decay; not blameworthy; life
    life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor; meteors are not needed less than
    mountains; shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their dis-
    tance from the thickening center;corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the
    monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man,
    a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught
    - they say - God, when he walked on earth.

Another poet's poem this morning led to this, a memory from nearly fifty years ago.

the climb

the climb
over the crest
was done under a curtain of heavy snow,
flakes falling white
in the near-dusk shadow of mountain twilight

once over the ridge
it was a short hike to the circular
clearing among the pines the guide had
set for our last night’s camp

we pitched our tents
under falling snow
and climbed into our bed rolls,
ready for sleep after a long, steep climb
on the second day of our three-day trek,
quickly slipping off on our pine needle cushions,
content to sleep now, eat
in the morning…

all awake
with the first sun of a brilliant day,
air crisp and dry, sky clear, coffee with water drawn
from boiled snow, freeze-dried scrambled eggs, baby-blue sky
broken by the contrail of a jet passing overhead, high
overhead, but within reach, it seemed, from our high perch

we all sat back against our bed roll, drank more coffee, smoked,
none wanting to get back on the trail, all knowing
it was the last day, no one wanting it to end…

but, even in the high mountain air, clocks and calendars prevail
as we gather our packs and begin the downward hike,
spreading out on the trail the closer to the end we get, each
of us widening the space between us , finding, each of us, a mountain
morning bubble to gather within us, to take with us, to remind us forever
of the world beyond the everyday world we live in, the world where clarity
is in the air and in the blue mountain sky, and in the effort and reward
of completing a difficult climb, the world where life
is a joy and not a daily suffocation of spirit
and heart and our better human

Just because I don't usually illustrate my poems, doesn't mean I can't if I want to. This a moment from the morning after the last night's camp.


Next, I have poems from Garrison Keillor's anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times, published by Penguin Books in 2005.

The first poem is by Louis Jenkins, born in Oklahoma, living, at the time of publication, in Minnesota.

The State of the Economy

There might be some change on top of the dresser at the back, and we should check the washer and dryer. Check under the floor mats of the car. The couch Cushions, I have some books and CDs I could sell, and there are a couple of big bags of aluminum cans in the basement, only trouble is there isn't enough gas in the car to get around the block. I'm expecting a check sometime next week, which, if we are careful, will get us through to payday. In the meantime, with your one-dollar rebate check and a few coins we have enough to walk to the store and buy a quart of milk and a newspaper. On second though, forget the newspaper.

Here's a poem for our times by Naomi Lazard, a playwright and cofounder of the Hamptons International Film Festival.

In Answer to Your Query

we are sorry to inform you
the item you ordered
is no longer being produced.
It has not gone out of style
nor have people lost interest in it.
In fact,it has become
one of our most desired products.
Its popularity is still growing.
Orders for it come in
at an ever increasing rate.
However, a top-level decision
has caused this product
to be discontinued forever.

Instead of the item you ordered
we are sending you something else.
It is not the same thing,
nor is it a reasonable facsimile.
It is what we have in stock,
the very best we can offer.

If you are not happy
with this substitution
let us know as soon as possible.
            As you can imagine
we already have quite an accumulation
of letters such as the one
you may or may hot write.
To be totally fair
we respond to these complaints
as they come in.
Yours will be filed accordingly,
answered in its turn.

Next is an anonymous poem, probably by a dairy farmer would be my guess.

Carnation Milk

Carnation Milk is the best in the land,
Here I sit with a can in my hand -
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

And finally, a poem from the classics by John Donne.

Sonnet XII: Why are we by all creatures waited on?

Why are we by all creatures waited on?
Why do the prodigal elements supply
Life and food to me, being more pure than I,
Simple, and further from corruption?
Why brook'st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou bull, and boar so sillily
Dissemble weakness, and by'one man's stroke die,
Whose whole kind you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is me, and worse than you.
You have not sinned,nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us
Created nature doth these things subdue,
But their Creator, whom sin, nor nature tied,
For us, his creatures and his foes, had died.

The short horrible poem is consigned to the darkest reach of too-easily attained disaster. The longer, less horrible poem (trust me) follows, both the seen and the unseen a warning to those who consider a poem-a-day that there will be days like this,days when necessity overcomes invention.

so what am I to do now?

I have written
a horrible
today -

a fine example
of what happens
when I try to follow
someone else’s form,
leaving my helter-skelter
piling on of words by the road-
side and I want desperately to write
something better before the time’s-up bell
rings and the horrible poem becomes
my poem of the
and I don’t care what kind of poem
it is just something with a little pulse of life
to it evidence of blood behind the sterility of
gone astray
as they dump here and there and here and now
on the page (right here, I’m talking about)

I suppose I could write about the rain last night
that didn’t rain
like it was supposed to
or the car this morning that started
just like it’s supposed to
or the biscuits and gravy breakfast that was
tasty and fulfilling just like it’s
supposed to be
or the sun that came up, in the west
just like it’s supposed to
or the brimstonehail&fierychariots that didn’t come
roaring from the heavens
with the electric bill
just like it’s not
supposed to
or the giant cockadodo
that jumped from the tree to eat the giant worm
that emerged wiggling from the rain
deprived ground
(that’s kind of unusual, but it was over so fast
I don’t think I can write a poem
about it like I’m
and I don’t know, but this poem
is just as horrible as the horrible poem I don’t want
to have anything to do with
at least it’s a little bit longer
and that’s something
so I guess this is my poem of the
and not the shorter horrible one, taking a chance here
that when it comes to horrible
more horrible is better than less horrible
that’s counter-intuitive if I ever heard
I mean
this is not WalMart
where volume is the purported secret to
it’s rise as the retailkingoftheworld,
big boxosity at it most
proving more crap is better than
less crap
holy crap
what am I to do now


maybe just
admit it,
a fog of anti-poetry bletch
covers the land
and I am lost in its swirling
and can only await
my return to clear poetic light
or maybe the anon after

I have three poems now by Rita Dove, from her book On the Bus with Rosa Parks, published by W.W. Norton in 1999.


When I was young, the moon spoke in riddles
and the stars rhymed. I was a new toy
waiting for my owner to pick me up.

When I was young, I ran the day to its knees.
there were trees to swing on, crickets to capture.

I was narrowly sweet, infinitely cruel,
tongued in honey and coddled in milk,
sunburned and silvery and scabbed like a colt.

And the world was already old.
And I was older than I am today.

Best Western Motor Lodge, AAA Approved

Where can I find Moon Avenue,
just off Princess Lane? I wandered
the length of the Boulevard of the Spirits,
squandered a wad on Copper Queen Drive;

stood for a while at the public drinking fountain,
where a dog curled into his own hair
and a boy knelt, cursing his dirtied
tennis shoes. I tell you, if you feel strange,

strange things will happen to you:
Fallen peacocks on the library shelves
and all those maple trees, plastering
the sidewalks with leaves,

bloody palm prints everywhere.


How she sat there,
the time right inside a place
so wrong it was ready.

That trim name with
its dream of a bench
to rest on. Her sensible coat.

Doing nothing was the doing:
the clean flame of her gaze
carved by a camera flash.

How she stood up
when they bent down to retrieve
her purse. That courtesy.

This piece, another from 2005, is about the false humility of creationists who claim their literal view of the creation story is about honoring an all-powerful god, when in fact what it is really about is their own glory. After all, what could bring greater glory than to be the favored creation of such an all-powerful god, the apple of their creator's eye.

it's all about me

there is this view
of creation that says
it's all about me

that God
with a capital "G"
said, let there be
so that I might
come to a life
in a place
made for me

that the flowers
were made
for my delight
and the birds
to teach me the
secret of song

that the animals
of the pasture
were made
to give me food
and the animals
of the forest
the thrill
of the stalk
and the kill

that the sun
were made
to warm my day
and the planets
to light my night
and the moon
to ease me
to sleep
to the rumble
of an incoming tide

all this for me
so that I might
worship Him
and thank Him
for His bounty

and vote
in even-numbered

Last from my library this week, these two poems by Richard Wilbur. The Poems are from his book Collected Poem, 1943-2004. The book was published in 2004 by Harcourt.

Wilbur, poet and translator, served as poet laureate of the United States and winner of the National Book Award, the Bolllingen Translation Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize (twice).

Two Voices in a Meadow

A Milkweed

Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Our of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.

A Stone

As casual as cow-dung
Under the crib of God,
I lie where chance would have me,
Up to the ears in sod.
Why should I move? To move
Befits a light desire.
The sill of Heaven would founder,
Did such as I aspire.

Advice to a Prophet

When you come, as soon you must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?
The mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone's face?

Speak of the world's own change. Through we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things n which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us,prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

As us, ask us whether with the wordless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

An memory, so old, i don't know where it came from.

old man on an autopsy table

an old man,
long white hair,
large white handlebar mustache,
a cadaver lying
on a table in a human anatomy class

where did I hear of this old man,
did someone tell me a story of their
own experience;
did I read of him in a book…

I don’t remember,
but I remember his long white hair,
his large handlebar mustache,
and imagine him,
naked on a slab,
dead for many years
yet standing as a monument
to the power of story and character
for I remember him now,
have remembered him almost for as long
as I remember anything, remembered him
so long I don’t remember
where the memory comes from…

though I don’t know the name
the students of his body gave him,
I imagine his
voice -

in my time,
he might say,
I was a cowboy,
or a soldier, or a clerk
or a builder of great ships and tall buildings,
or a passer-by on a slow-traveling train,
long hair,
in the passing wind,
a poet,
poems passing in the blowing

but, whoever
or whatever he was
there is magic in his useful
magic in the air of this sterile room
where blood and bones
and flaccid organs
are catalogued, the intricacy of their
functions noted, the secrets
of the spirit’s vessel

magic in the benevolence
in his purposeful death, his physical presence
most respectfully
into it’s constituent

That's it. All the stuff contained herein remains the property it its creators. My stuff is available with proper credit.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, such information included so that the next check from the government can be properly routed.

at 10:46 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person to whom you mistakenly refer as "Pat Califa" is actually "Patrick CalifIa" and has been so since the mid-90's when he transitioned to become a male. The feminine pronoun is not in order here, and the name, as you have it, is misspelled.

at 1:34 PM Anonymous allen itz said...

thanks for the spelling correction. The poet who wrote the book I borrowed from is credited as Pat Califia, so I'll leave it that way, with the above comment as an amendment. In the meantime, my best wishes for the poet and my appreciation for the poetry. Pat or Patrick, he's a damn fine poet.

allen itz

at 10:12 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the poem of Homero Aridjis "Ballad of friends now gone"

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