All the UppseyDownsey Way   Friday, September 09, 2011


I was well into this post before I noticed that, aside from me, Le Guin and Brother Antonius, I had no American poets. I decided to flow with the trend, so here it is, a post of almost all poets from far shores.

William Eversen/Brother Antoninus
A Winter Ascent
The Approach
Lava Bed
The Residual Years

ash history

Ursula K. Le Guin
April in San Jose


Rabindranath Tagore
Recovery - 10

5 big kisses

From The Echo of Our Song, Chants & Poetry of the Hawaiians
The Pearl

a little bitty woman

Guilluame Apollinaire
At the Sante

happy 9-11 Day to you

Ku Sang
Touching sights
Komo Station Mother’s Station


From A Book of Luminous Things, An International Anthology of Poetry
D.H. Lawrence
Judah Al-Harizi
The Lightning
The Sun
The Lute

Wang Wei
Dancing Woman, Cockfighter Husband and the Impoverished Sage

the very polite cat who greets me in the morning

Seamus Heaney

hard times

From The Steel Cricket
Vicente Huidobro
Manuel Blas de Otero
Grieve Like This
From Purgatorio, XVIII
Uvavnuk’s Song

a minor poet explains it all

Yuan Hung-Tao
White Deer Spring
Improvised on the Road
Things Experienced
In Ch'ang-an There Is a Narrow Road
Paying My Respects to the Mummy of the Monk Ch'ang-erh

the day I started suiciding
warning label

Yehuda Amichai
A Bedouin Goes North
Bedouin in Love
Pity, We Were a Good Invention

soft ice

More from A Book of Luminous Things
Tu Fu
To Pi Ssu Yao
Wislawa Szymborska
View With a Grain of Sand
Tomas Transtromer
Jean Follain
Black Meat

time was

A random selection of verses

but what does it mean?!

I start this week with several poems, including the title poem, from The Residual Years, Poems 1934-1948 by San Francisco poet William Everson, known later as Brother Antoninus. The book was published by New Directions, first in 1948 and in a later edition in 1968.

A Winter Ascent

Climbed,up stone slope and its runneled rifts,
The shade-heavy side of a winter hill.
Under our feet the rain-ruined flings,
Over our heads the birds scarce in the air
And the air widening,
The air spreading about us -
Time-eaten England, her hanging doom
Washed from our brows.

So blood beat;
So backs rising stone over stone
Bore the full sky;
So sight sprang, when, gaining the crown,
Knew far in the valley the first farm,
Shrouded, as in some airman's straining eye
The Orkneys, small on the sea, draw him down.

The Approach

Breaking back from the sea we ran through low hills,
The long deserted pavement falling and winding,
Lonesome farms in their locked valleys,
The coastal range, ancient even a the mountains,
Moulded by wind.

Till inland we curved to the far converging city,
Seeing it laid at the hill's heel,
Whirlpooled, the long lines of its power,
Beacons for planes revolving the dusk,
The black trails of concrete slipping down grade
To the first clusters, to the city,
Thick in the gloom with its few lights showing,
With its veils, its myriad roofs,
And its heaving pounding heart.

Lava Bed

Fisted, bitten by blizzards,
Flattened by wind and chewed by all weather,
The lava bed lay.
Deer fashioned trails there but no man, ever;
And the fugitive cougars whelped in that lair,
Deep in its waste the buzzards went down to some innominate
The sun fell in it,
And took the whole west down as it died.
Dense as the sea,
Entrenched in its years of unyielding rebuff.
It held to is own.
We looked in against anger,
Beholding that which our cunning had never subdued,
Our power indented,
And only our eyes had traversed.

The Residual Years

As long as we looked lay the low country.
As long as we looked
Were the ranchos miled in their open acres,
The populous oaks and the weedy weirs.
There were birds in the rushes.

And deep in the grass stood the silent cattle,
And all about us the leveled light.
Roads bent to the bogs;
Fenced from the fields they wound in the marshes.
We saw slim-legged horses.
We saw time in the air.
We saw indeed to the held heart of an older order,
That neither our past nor that of our fathers
Knew part of the forming:
An expansive mode remarked through the waste of residual
Large in its outline,
Turning up from its depths these traces and wisps
That hung yet on through a cultural close
We had thought too faint to recapture.

The way things are today reminds me of the way things were a while back.

ash history

it’s like
back in the day
when I was in military service
and I worked in a secure, secret
facility with high barbed wire fences
and sentries all around
and it was in the old times
when computers were still monster
machines that would fill up four floors
of a building and could do just about everything
your standard pocket calculator can do today, just
not as fast, and the spy world was a world of paper
and most of the paper had stuff that nobody was supposed
to see but us and some of the paper had stuff
even we weren’t supposed to see and all the paper
that nobody was supposed to see had to disposed of
by burning, so every day enlisted men (no women at the
time) under the rank of Staff Sergeant had to spend the day
throwing piles and piles of paper bags filled with little secrets
and big secrets and sometimes the daily comics that some joker
stamped “Top Secret” on and since it had “Top Secret” stamped
on it, it had to be burned just like all the other big and little

so, every month and a half or so one of us under the rank
of Staff Sergeant took our turn at the furnace throwing
paper bag after paper bag after paper bag into the furnace until
we either ran out of bags of secrets (a rare occurrence) or our shift

and most of us didn’t mind the loss of a day to burn duty
since it was easier then our regular job which required thinking
and sitting in a chair all day listening to people talk foreign language
it was assumed, not always correctly, we understood
as a result of our intensive study of the language in question,
meaning that for many of us, such as myself, who
actually spent most of those long months of training drinking beer
and being hung-over the day after, burn duty
was actually a relief, being a day we didn’t have to spend
hours pretending we knew what we were doing and understanding what
we were listening to which would not have been very interesting
even if we understood it…

(thank god for the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” which
assured all sides that the destruction of the planet earth would be the
immediate and unavoidable result if anyone started a war, so everyone
was careful not to start a war, with the fortunate result that the fact
that many of us in my business were much more competent at burning paper
than at spying was never actually noticed or at least admitted to)

I mention burn duty because it occurred to me today that a day
of burn duty was much like a day in central Texas these past
several days - you stink of smoke at day’s end, though the smoke
is so dispersed that you don’t really see it, but you know it’s out
there by the taste of it, an acrid bite In the back of your throat and
you feel it in the sting that crinkles your eyes and makes them
water and it seems strange, nearly 45 years after my last day
of burn bag duty and it all came back today crossing a super
market parking

stoking the fire is what we used to do on burn bag duty, to
keep it hot and fiery so all the big and little secrets would burn to
nothing, so all the big and little secrets would stay a part
of the ash history of the big and little spies, unreadable
and therefore forever unread

but the fires today need no stoking, intent on their own
to make us all join the secrets in the ash history of our
time, the fires today burning, making mockery
of our efforts to burn our history in the

Here's a poem by Ursula K. Le Guin, the poet better known for her science fiction stories and novels. The poem is from her collection of poetry, Incredible Good Fortune, published by Shambhala in 2006.

April in San Jose

In a city where men shout across the streets
Shit Shit   God bless you lady   ay Miguel
bark woodless pain like dogs,
roar rage in one dark syllable,
or stand and beat an oak tree with their fists,
or walk ten feet of driveway back and forth
in boots and Nazi cap and steel chains,
or sit and shriver, silent in the sun,

I steer among the wrecks, the reefs,

through poppies, roses, red valerian,
passionflower, trumpetvine,
camellia, dogwood, foam of plum and pear,
mock orange and true orange,
gold of the Hesperides,
sweetness of freesias, garlands, wreaths
of red and yellow, white and green,
dark fragrance of eucalyptus,
glitter and rustle of inordinate palms.

Through the mockingbird morning
I make my way bewildered,
in the city of ruined men
in the valley of the ghosts of orchards
in the broken heart of California
in the nation of addiction
in the kindest month.

I continue to find peace and deep sleep on my patio in the hour or so before dawn, feeling the morning as it prepares to begin.


by smoke particles
in the high atmosphere
and fuzzed like a peach, the
great orange disc of the moon
slips quickly behind the

and winds of the next morning light
blow dark’s last chill
across me, sleeping in the hour
before dawn on the patio,
blanket -shrouded
against early-autumn night-time cool…

it will be hot today,
near 100 degrees as stubborn summer
fights to keep its sweaty grip
against the advance of another,
cooler season

but nights for a while
will continue chilled
and someday soon, days
as well

and all of us
who suffered summer’s long oppression
hold wide our arms in welcome
to its overdue successor …

autumn -
the shortening of days,
the fall of multicolored leaves,
pumpkin sales on bright lawns below
tall church steeples,
and maybe


maybe rain again!

My next poem is by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music. The first non-European Nobel Laureate (for Literature), he was born in 1861 and died in 1941.

Tagore wrote poetry as an eight-year-old and, at age sixteen, released his first substantial poems under a pseudonym which translates as "Sun Lion." The poems were welcomed by the region's literary grandees as long-lost classics.

As a humanist, universalist internationalist, and strident anti-nationalist he came to denounce the Raj and proffer a nuanced support for independence from Britain. His vast canon comprises paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and some two thousand songs; his legacy endures also in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.

Such was his status to his country men that he was asked to write and did write two national anthems: the Republic of India's and Bangladesh's.

The poem is from Selected Poems - Rabindranath Tagore, published by Penguin Books first in 1985 and, most recently in my edition in 1994. All the poems in the book were translated by William Radice.

Recovery - 10

Lazily afloat on time's stream
My mind turns to the sky.
As I cross its empty expanses
Shadowy pictures form in my eyes
Of the many ages of the long past
And the many peoples
That have hurtled forward,
Confident of victory.
The Pathans came, greedy for empire;
And the Moghuls,
Brandishing victory-banners,
The wheels of their conquering chariots
Raising webs of dust.
I look at the sky -
No sign of them now today:
Through the ages
The light of sunrise and sunset
Continues to redden the sky's pure blue
At dawn and dusk.
The others came,
Along tracks of iron
In fire-breathing vehicles -
The mighty British,
Scattering their power
Beneath the same sky.
I know that time will flow along their road too,
Float off somewhere the land-encircling web of their empire.
I know their merchandise-bearing soldiers
Will not make the slightest impression
On planetary paths.

But the earth when I look at it
Makes me aware
Of the hubbub of a huge concourse
Of ordinary people
Led along many paths and in various groups
By man's common urges,
From age to age, through life and death.
They on on pulling at oars,
guiding the rudder,
Sowing seeds in the fields.
Cutting ripe paddy.
They work -
In cities and in fields.
Imperial canopies collapse,
Battle-drums stop,
Victory-pillars, like idiots, forget what their words mean;
Battle-crazed eyes and blood-smeared weapons
Live only in children's stories,
The menace veiled.
Bt people work -
Here and in other regions,
Bengal, Bihar, Orissa,
By rivers and shores,
Punjab,Bombay, Gujurat -
Filling the passage of their lives with a rumbling and tdhundering
Woven by day and by night -
The sonorous rhythm
Of Life's liturgy in all its pain and elation,
Gloom and light.
Over the ruins of hundreds of empires,
The people work.

Poem-a-day ain't easy, you know. Sometimes you just have to throw a bunch of words up in the air and take them where they land.

As with e.e. cummings, even if you don't have anything to say, you can always search out an amusing way to say it.

5 big kisses

s t r e t c h i n g
of Cockamanistan
the bo
e v e n
of Cockamanistan
to the
hoodabudda -

The next poem is from The Echo of Our Song, Chants & Poetry of the Hawaiians, recommended to me by an Hawaiian fellow poet who performs and dances both new and ancient chants of her people. The book was published in 1973 by the University Press of Hawaii.

The poem is performed in tribute to Kalakaua, one of the former kings of Hawaii. The Hawaiian text was written by Mary Kawena Pukui. There is no translation credit given.

The Pearl

I have traveled over many lands and distant seas,
to India afar and China renowned.
I have touched the shores of Africa and the boundaries
    of Europe,
and I have met the great ones of all the lands.

As I stood at the side of heads of governments,
next to leaders proud of their rule, their authority
    over their own,
I realized how small and weak is the power I hold.
For mine is a throne established upon a heap of lava.
They rule where millions obey their commands.
Only a few thousand can I count under my care.

Yet one thought came to me of which I may boast,
that of all the beauties locked within the embrace of
    these shores,
one is a jewel more precious than any owned by my
    fellow monarchs.
I have nothing in my Kingdom to dread.
I mingle with my people without fear.
My safety is no concern, I require no bodyguards.
Mine is the boast that a pearl of great price has fallen
    to me from above.
Mine is the loyalty of my people

A creepy little woman from a 2008 poem. I didn't actually know this woman, but I saw here all the time in the halls at the place where I worked for a while before my last retirement.

a little bitty woman

a little bitty woman,
and trim,
gray hair,
sky blue eyes
by round rimless glasses

she walks the halls
with a loose
sliding gait that reminds me
of a 50s hipster
to cool to actual put foot
to floor, a little bit of float
and glide, and she cocks
her head to the side
when she talks to you
reminding me
of a sparrow
eyeing a particularly
fat and tasty

with a little hint of hunger
in those sky
blue eyes
as you speak

Next, a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, one of my two favorite French poets of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. (The other, as most regular "Here and Now" readers know, is Blaise Cendrars.)

Apollinaire, born Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, was born in 1880 in Rome to a Polish mother. and died in the Spanish flue pandemic of 1918,two years after being wounded in World War I. He was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic.

A popular member of the artistic community of Montparnasse in Paris, He is credited with coining the word Surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play The Breasts of Tiresias written in 1917 and used as the basis for a opera in 1947.

His friends and collaborators in that period included Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, André Salmon, Marie Laurencin, André Breton, André Derain, Faik Konica, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Alexandra Exter, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, and Marcel Duchamp.

In 1911, police arrested and jailed him on suspicion of aiding and abetting the theft of the Mona Lisa and a number of Egyptian statuettes from the Louvre, but released him a week later. These thefts were committed by a Russian friend to whom Apollinaire gave shelter, and Apollinaire voluntarily surrrendered a number of stolen statuettes left behind by him. Apolinaire implicated his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning in the theft of Mona Lisa, but he was also exonerated.

This piece, from his short time in the slammer, translated, with the rest of the poems in the book, by Donald Revell.

At the Sante


Before entering my cell
Myself made naked
I heard ululation
Guillaume what have you become

I am Lazarus entering
Not exiting the tomb
My roundelays farewell
Farewell to time and farewell to girls


I am not what I am
    Any longer
I am number fifteen
    in the Eleventh

Sunlight filters through
    The panes
Across my poetry the light

It dances on the pages
    I hear
Someone stamping


Like a bear in a pit
I pace all morning
Turning always Turning
the sky is as blue as shackles
Like a bear in a pit
I pace all morning

In the cell beside mine
The faucet is leaking
The jailer comes the jailer goes
The jailer jingles his keys
In the cell beside mine
The faucet is leaking


How bored I am between bare walls
    Surrounded by whitewash
Parsing my words a fly patrols
    The paper I write on

What will become of me O God you know my pain
    You gave it to me
Pity my arid eyes my pallor
    My shackled chair

And pity all poor hearts that beat in prisons
    And my Love my one companion
Pity above all my failing reason
    As despair moves in


As slowly as a burial
Hours pass

You will mourn the tearful
Hour ended so quickly
As every hour ends


I hear the noises of Paris
A convict without horizon
I see nothing but hostile sky
And the walls of my prison

The day is ending lighting
A lamp in prison
And I am alone with you
Beautiful light Beloved Reason

September 1911

I wrote this last Sunday, on The Day.

Expressing, in a round about way, my belief that the people in this country who did not directly and personally experience loss on that day, should quit sucking off the teat of other people's grief.

happy 9-11 Day to you

there are those who suffered
deep personal loss on this day,
those who will remember
on this day every year, not
the event, but the loss
of a mother, son, father,
daughter and on this day
they will think of that loss,
not of politics or revenge,
but of picnics, Christmas eves
around a glittery tree of lights
and shiny balls, of birth days
when lives began,
of birthdays that ended
on that day

they will grieve

while the rest of us,
hanger’s-on to their
grief, turn the day into
a fetish, television pictures
of grand towers falling,
grey, dust-covered people
stumbling through smoke,
men and women leaping from
high smoke and fire - television
pictures that grab hold of our
heart and soul and titillate,
like the latest death and dis-
membement feature at the
cineplex - what a great show,
and every year we want more
of it, like the Christmas movies
we watch every December
cause it just wouldn’t be the same
without old Scrooge and wide-eyed
Jimmy Stewart
every year on this day, the towers
fall again, the grey ghosts stumble
through the smoke again, the high

what a show! what a show!

and ten years from now
9-11 Day sales at JC Penny’s
and Walmart and 9-11 lunchboxes
for the school children and 9-11
action figures, firemen and terrorists,
cowboys and Indians,
and those whose loss was real
and direct will suffer again, grieve
again while the rest of us
at the 9-11 Day Festival of Stars,
last hurrahs by old movie stars
we barely remember

and lost to the funky haze
of history trivialized, the thousands
of our innocents murdered
become reenactment props
for an afternoon in the country,
forgotten, hidden behind the TV
images played again on the jumbo
screen at the 9-11 Day America's Bowl in

as we debase
the memory of our innocents
no event, no memory,
no mention at all
of the hundreds of thousands
of innocents we murdered
in response

Next, I have two poems by Ku Sang. Born into a Catholic family in Seoul, he grew up in what is not North Korea, studied in Japan and later fled to the south before the Korean War. A simple, honest man, he has the distinction of having been oppressed and imprisoned by the governments of both North and South Korea, each in its turn.

The poems are from the book, Wastelands of Fire, published by Forest Books in 1989.

The poems were translated from the Korean by Anthony Teague.

Touching sights

Touched by an autumn afternoon's pale sunlight,
on the piano keyboard lid
lies a pair of stockings.

They must have been left there
by my daughter who is living abroad
when she was leaving this morning.

Seeing this still-life composition, so strange
yet so completely familiar,
after fumbling and groping in my memories:

In Taegu, down a narrow lane behind the herb market,
opening my eyes in a singing-girl's room one morning
and, laid on a chest beside my pillow,
two stocking slippers come to mind.

At the same moment I begin to murmur
a phrase from a poem by O Il-Do:
"On a tree's bare branch her basket hangs,
where then has my darling gone?"

Komo Station,Mother's Station

Whenever I pass Komo Staton,
my mother is waiting.
Out in front of the garden gate, she is waiting,
looking scarcely older than my wife looks now,
looking as she did the day she saw me off
when I crossed the 38th Parallel.

Living helter-skelter, day by day,
rattling the empty lunch-box in my satchel,
coming home from school by train, as in childhood,
so now when my hair is as grey
as my father's was when he died,
out by the station she is waiting.

My mother, who stayed behind
alone in our North Korean home,
alive still, or dead, I don't know,
has come here now and is waiting.

Here's a poem I wrote probably in 2000, just a bit more than a year after I returned to writing after my 30 abstention. It was published in 2002 in The Melic Review. I think I also used it in 2005 in my first book, Seven Beats a Second.


i'm not

you truly set me burning
when you walked out those swinging doors
in your skimpy white short-shorts

tight cheeks flexing against the soft cotton
like two little monkeys in a velvet bag

waving goodbye

it the word that comes to mind

Here are several poets from A Book of Luminous Things, an International Anthology of Poetry, edited by Czeslaw Milosz and published by in 1996 by Harcourt Brace.

The first of the poets is D.H. Lawrence, who, born in 1885, died in 1930.


They call all experience of the senses mystic, when the experience
    is considered.
So an apple becomes mystic when I taste in it
the summer and the snows, the wild welter of earth
and the insistence of the sun.

All of which things I can surely taste in a good apple.
Though some apples taste preponderantly of water, wet and sour
sod some of too much sun, brackish sweet
like lagoon-water, that has been too much sunned.

If I say I taste these things in an apple, I am called mystic, which
    means a liar.
The only to eat an apple is to hog it down like a pig
and taste nothing
that is real.

But if I eat an apple, I like to eat it with all my senses awake.
Hogging it down like a pit I call the feeding of corpses.

Next from the book are three short poems by Judah Al-Harizi, born in 1170 in Toledo, Spain, known at the time as a center of writing in Hebrew. Al Harizi died in 1235.

The three poems were translated from Hebrew by T. Carmi.

The Lightning

And the lightning laughs at the clouds,
like a warrior who runs without growing weary or faint.

Or like a night watchman who dozes off,
then opens one eye for an instant, then shuts it.

The Sun

Look: the sun has spread its wings
over the earth to dispel the darkness.

Like a great tree, with its roots in heaven,
and its branches reaching down to the earth.

The Lute

Look: the lute sounds in the girl's arms,
delighting the heart with its beautiful voice.

Like a baby crying in his mother's arms,
while she sings and laughs as he cries.

The last poet from the anthology is the great Chinese poet Wang Wei, who lived from 701 to 761.

The poem was translated from the Chinese by Tony and Willis Barnstone and Xu Haixin.

Dancing Woman, Cockfighter Husband and the Impoverished Sage

The woman from Zhao sings dirty songs
and does dances of Handan
while her husband knocks about puts on cockfights
for the king of Qi.
With yellow gold he buys songs and laughter from
    a whore.

Xu and Shi, relatives of the Emperor, often come
    to his house.
Their high gates are crowded with four-horse carriages.
A scholar lives in their guest house,
bragging about his rich patron,Zou Lu.
For thirty years his meals are the books he eagerly
but his waist belt has no money in it.
His is the way of scholars, of the sage.
All his life he is poor.

Even waking early, the morning is sometimes late getting started.

the very polite cat who greets me in the morning

I have not found
the glory of this morning
yet - though a bright
moon-lite morning it was,
full moon pale silver high
over head,
passing from left to right
across my back yard, drifting
behind the trees, ending
a shimmering reflection in the

the sun
still pink, feather-painted glow
across the western sky…

the timer-activated lights
around the restaurant have just
winked out, streetlights,
set to fade as sunlight advances,
still burn…

I cannot claim
the burden of a lousy day
until the day begins,
but I’m waiting, prepared to pounce
and proclaim…

I hesitate…

the cat
I call George, a large shy
black and white
male that lives on my front porch,
waits for me as he always does
outside the front door, waiting for his

I meowed to him
this morning
and he meowed in response,
a brief morning greeting
of several meows and meows-back -
such a polite cat,
responding to my meow-gibberish
as if I had said something
rational and pleasing to his cat-intellect,
a polite cat
who interrupted his morning feeding
for brief conversation
with a nonsense-spouting human

a polite
cat - a wonder
in the morning

as the sun takes its measure
and streetlights concede…

and it is the day -

not such a bad day
as I had imagined

I have two poems now by Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. The poems are from his book, Electric Light, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2001.

The Gaeltacht

I wish, mon vieux, that you and Barlo and I
Were back in Rosguill, on the Atlantic Drive,
And that it was again nineteen sixty
And Barlo was alive

And Paddy Joe and Chips Rafferty and Dicky
Were there talking Irish, for I believe
In that case Aoibheann Marren and Margaret Conway
And M. and M. and Deidre Morton and Niamh

Would be there as well. And it would be great too
If we could see ourselves, if the people we are now
Could hear what we were saying, and if this sonnet

In imitation of Dante's, where he's set free
In a boat with Lapo and Guido, with their girlfriends in it,
Could be the wildtrack of our gable above the sea.


in memory of Mary O Muirithe

The bilingual race
And truth of that water
Spilling down Errigal,

The sruth like the rush
Of its downpour translated
Into your accent:

You in your dishabills
Washing your face
In the guttural glen.

Mountain and maiden.
The shard of a mirror.
You head in the air

Of that childhood breac-Ghaeltacht,
Those sky-maiden haunts
You would tell me about

Again and again -
The asked me to visit:
If anything happened

Just to see and be sure
And not to forget
For your sake to do it.

Splash of clear water.
Things out in the open.
The spoken word, "cancer."

And now it has happened
I see what I saw
On the morning you asked me:

Neck-baring sundrops -
Like you at the sruth -
First-footing springtime,

Fit for what comes.

Looking for an old poem to slip in here, found this one from 2009, not so old, but fitting for the times.

hard times

I read
in the papers this morning
about the guy
who killed his wife
and all five of his kids,
the oldest,
a girl,
just 10, a two sets of twins,
the youngest 2

hard times...

hard times, I’ve seen
hard times and stories like this

the oil bust
of 1986
when a whole industry
disappeared, unemployment rates
in some South Texas counties
up to 30 percent or more

selling all their toys,
their sports cars and limos,
their boats, their million dollar houses,
custom shot guns and hunting leases
in the brush and cactus chaparrel

(he who dies with the most toys
wins - that had been the life for many)

now poor,
all the toys gone,
living in a one bedroom apartment
on the wrong side
of the wrong place,
a 73 Ford Fairlane,
missing every third stroke,
bumper in the rear near dragging,
rear windows permanently up
or down,
stuck in what ever position
last passed,
side mirror
dangling on the passenger side,
living on Big Macs, hold the fries,
wife gone, kids gone,
adios loser, they might as well
have said,
looking for any kind of job,
willing to flip those Big Mac
patties if nothing else,
but all the burger flipper jobs
taken by kids and old people,
no one wants to hire a ex-rich man
who might still have dreams

and the others
never rich, but always steady,
working the same job since they
dropped out of high school, taken to the job
by their father or their uncle
or a neighbor who vouched for them,
got them hired on,
never done anything else,
never thought of doing anything else,
fifty years old, never out of work,
never had to look for a job
never understood the gut-
paralyzing desperation
of true desperation,
of no prospects,
no options,
no chance,
no way

hard time...

back again

Next I have several poets from The Steel Cricket, a collection of poems by Stephen Berg that includes both poems original to him as well as some of the many poems he worked on over the years as a translator. This week, I have only his translation works.

The first poem is by Vicente Huidobro, a Chilean poet born in 1893 to an aristocratic family. He died in 1948.


Stinking bird
no nightingale
sitting on my grave
fly up sing
listen to my hurt voice
I tried to make lovesongs
that would turn heaven into earth
I tried by suffering
well that was my own stupidity
now that I'm dead
now that I'm you
maybe God
will make me happy
I doubt it
but God can't wait
bird come back perch on my stone
weep make up a new song
the one I couldn't sing
leave one of your innocent tiny shits
on the silent marble

Next, a poem by Manuel Blas de Otero, a Spanish poet born in the Basque Country in 1916 and one of the most representative and influential poets Spanish Civil War. He died in 1979.

Grieve Like This

The little girls are multiplying in a high voice,
me for you, you for me, botd
for the ones who still don't know how to do it soulfully,
the little girls sing in a high voice
to see if just once they can make God hear them

Me for you, you for me, everybody
for peace on earth and a better country.
The little public-school girls throw a scream at the sky
but it seems the sky wants nothing form the poor.
I can't believe it! There must be a mistake
in the multiplying or the multiplier.

Those who have braids, may they be smooth,
those who wear frilly underpants, my they fall down immediately,
and those who don't have anything but a tiny snail
may they unwind it in the sun,
and together at the same time recite in a high voice
me for you, you for me, both
for all those who suffer on earth, crushing
the one who counts.

Here's a piece of a piece by Dante.

from Purgatorio, XVIII

Oh how the mind loves immediately whatever pleases it
and acts to get what it wants
your gift of touch smell sight
etches an image of the world inside your flesh
and the mind turns to it feels love
(to turn like that is love)
repeats itself for pleasure then like fire
whose shuddering tongues stab upward
from stuff that makes its wild shapes possible
the captive mind inhabits desire
whose very move is spiritual
and can't rest until
what it loves makes it rejoice
I hope you know that those who say each love is wonderful
are far from the truth
not everything that stamps the wax is good
though the wax is

And,last from The Steel Cricket, this early Eskimo verse, author uknknown.

Uvavnuk's Song

the sea the huge sea's making me move like this
cut off from land
moving me like the weed moves in a river

the arch of the sky the great force of storms
moving he spirit in me
until I'm carried away

a grassblade shaken and torn with joy

Here's an even less old old poem. This one from 2010, which, if you're old like me, is like yesterday afternoon.

a minor poet explains it all

i’m eating
breakfast north-faced
because normally
i sit at the booth
at the other end, the one
next to the electric plug,
where i face south
as i eat

this morning
that booth was taken
by another south-faced,
keyboard clicking
leaving me
at this end, in the
only other booth next
to an electric plug
where i now face breakfast
facing north

i’m not sure
what effect this will have
on the gastro-dynamics
of my egg over easy
and extra-crispy bacon
but it does
present a subtly different
view which, could have far-reaching
psychological effects on

those, like me,
who normally eat breakfast
facing toward the south
face the oncoming traffic on the
as well as those, like me today,
who eat breakfast
facing north
face interstate traffic
going away…

this different orientation
a reason,
i believe, why
south-facing diners
are usually
highly motivated people
with the supreme confidence
to write meaningless, totally
trivial, poetry
north-facing diners
often suffer from abandonment issues
and are frequent victims
of depression

I have several short poems now by Yuan Hung-Tao from Pilgrim of the Clouds, an anthology of poems from Ming Dynasty China. The book was published by White Plains Press in 2005. The poems were translated by Jonathan Chaves.

At White Deer Spring

A little fishpond just over two feet square,
and not terribly deep.
A pair goldfish swim in it
as freely as in a lake.
Like bones of mountains among icy autumn clouds
tiny stalagmites piece the rippling surface.
For the fish, it is a question of being alive -
they don't worry about the depth of the water.

Improvised on the Road

In the second month I returned to my home town.
In the fourth month - back on the road again.
children gaze at me in the narrow lanes;
across the steam, a scholar laughs out loud.

Things Experienced

Green leaves start to wither on the trees;
white waves sweep across the river.
People gossip of invasions in the east;
rumors fly: "We've sent ships from the north!"
I buy some Ch'u-chou oranges, spotted with frost;
listen all day to famous women sings.
There are many marriage ceremonies here in Yang-chou -
flutes and drums play loud as the night draws on.

"In Ch'ang-an There Is a Narrow Road"

She rains in her horse,
stands by the watering trough.
Loquats falling - it is autumn -
    dogwood in bloom.
The girl is from Shansi, a turban on her head,
face heavy with make-up,hair thick with grease.
She plays the zither of twenty-fie strings
and wears a gown of scarlet with purple threads.
Smiling she asks:
    "Is this how they dress down south?"

Paying My Respects to the Mummy of the Monk Ch'ang-erh

The wheel of samsara has come to a peaceful halt;
the gleam of the lacquered body -
    as fresh as a polished mirror!
I know that his soul has long since vanished,
but - amazing! - his nails and teeth are still here.
He is a Buddha of the Age of Adornment,
a human antique, who has lasted a thousand years.
So much for artifacts of bronze or iron -
by now, they would have turned to dust!

Like in the movies, a dream sequence.

soft ice

on the soft ice
of a dream

on a thin straight
road, no wobble, no turn,
no deviation, straight
to the horizon, shrinking
smaller, thinner,
as it approaches the line
between bright-starred sky
and gravity-weighted earth , a bridge
between this world and the other,
beyond this we know
and the horizontal border of what
we’re allowed to see
and what we must

tall buildings on either side
of the road, growing smaller
with the road as they both approach
the end, tall buildings
on either side, the road
with the buildings a trough
to keep us on the straight and narrow
road to all that
and beyond
and behond what we’re allowed to see

do not fight
the road

it will take you
where it knows you need
to go
for it is the road
of the straight and narrow
and it claims to always knows
where all of us need to

Earlier in this post I presented a Hebrew poet from the middle ages. Now,a Hebrew poet, Yehuda Amichai from our time. I have three of his poems from the collection of his work, Yehuda Amichai: A Life of Poetry, 1948-1994. Amichai's work has been translated into twenty languages, the latest being Chinese and Japanese.

The translators for this English edition were Benjamin and Barbara Harshav.

A Bedouin Goes North

The second year of drought, and no love.
Now I go north
To spend my last moisture
In settled places.
The women there have fat behinds,
Their belly button sinks deeper into their belly.
Mine is exposed and stands out from the receding, hoarse flesh.

The hair has turned white on my chest:
The animal inside me grows old before my head turns gray.

I am sad granaries of seed
And the seed too
Bears the sadness of every living, every dead.
Dark corpses of thoughts and echo.

Round wells stuck
Like male organs deep in the earth,
Full of water or teeming with serpents and scorpions, cruel

Black tent to the horizon.
Upturned tent, black triangle above my groin.
Words greet me with barking.

The end of my peace. Hard lust
Rises like towers of beckoning cities,
But my words remain soft
As the lamb's wool I left there.

Bedouin in Love

No house accepted us.
LIke a tent, I stretched myself above you,
Like a straw mat,
I spread myself beneath you.
Your red dress opened like a chalice to the sky,
When you sat on me erect as on a saddle
To save your thighs from the hard ground.

"Meshugga,"you said in your foreign tongue:
His dog died on the leash.
His friends are far away.
His son dreams of saying Kaddish.

Pity, We Were a Good Invention

They amputated
Your thighs from my waist.
For me they are always
Surgeons. All of them.

They dismantled us
One from another. For me they are engineers.
Pity. We were a good and loving

invention: an airplane made of man and woman,
wings and all:
we soared a bit from the earth,
We flew a bit.

Some people learn faster than others. That wasn't me.

the day I started suiciding

I had my first
when I was twelve,
a Mexican brand called
oval shaped,
and, with paper soaked in sugar,
sweet as a peppermint stick

the kid who gave me
that first one
quit smoking
about three weeks later
and never smoked again
while it took me forty years
from that first saccharine puff
to quit, a thousand days and more
of sleeping on my side because
the accumulation of noxious drool
if I slept on my back choked me,
a thousand days and more
of throwing up every morning
to clear my nose and throat and lungs,
a thousand days and more
of panting and gasping with every slight
exertion, a thousand days and more
or remembering the ten years
of my father’s dying, the narrowing
of his world as more and more
of his breath was stolen from him
until at last, lying on a hospital bed
in a coma, dependent on the wheeze
in and out of the machines
that breathed for him until the plug
was pulled and he was freed

the Delgados,
the sweet little Delgados,
offered by my friend more than
fifty years ago, my friend,
if there is to be justice,
he must surely die
before me

Here's a second poem on the same subject. My public service announcement for the day.

warning label

cigarette smoke
makes you smell like a bar in the morning

the stale stink of a butt-littered floor
    and spilled beer
and piss from the overflowed urinal in the john

all overlaid by a reek of desperation

the desperation of limp cocks lost in lust-dreaming
    losers lost in their own lies
redemption-dreams fading as the sun rises

to the squalor of crud-crusted eyes
and a lingering vomit-bile breath

I'm returning to Czeslaw Milosz's anthology, A Book of Luminous Things, for several more poets.

What a great book, turn to almost any page and find a good poem, often, in my case, by someone I never heard of.

The first of the poets is Tu Fu, born 713 and died 770. I especially like this poem because it could be written for me and my internet poetry friends who spend our days writing poems to each other on web poetry forums.

The poem was translated from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth.

To Pi Ssu Yao

We have talent. People call us
The leading poets of our day.
Too bad, our homes are humble,
Our recognition trivial.
Hungry, ill-clothed, servants treat
Us with contempt. In the prime
Of life, our faces are wrinkled.
Who cares about either of us,
Or out troubles? We are our own
Audience. We appreciate
Each other's literary
Merits. Our poems will be handed
Down along with great dead poets'.
We can console each other.
At least we will have descendants.

Next I have poem by the 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. She writes of an uncrossable separation between the natural world and ourselves; I prefer to think of us as being not separated, but part of an all that is one. Szymborska, born in 1923, still lives today in her native country.

Here's her poem, translated from the Polish by Sanislaw Baraniczak and Clara Cavanagh.

View With a Grain of Sand

We call it a grain of sand
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect or apt.

Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn't feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it is no different than falling or anything else
with no assurance that it's finished falling
or that it's falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of the lake
but the view doesn't view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.

The lake's floor exists floorlessly
and its shore shorelessly.
Its water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes.
A second second.
A third.
But they're three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like a courier with urgent news.
But that's just our simile.
The character's invented, his haste is make believe,
his news inhuman.

Next, a short poem by Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly.


Night, two o'clock: moonlight. The train has stopped
in the middle of the plain. Distant bright points of a town
twinkle cold on the horizon.

As when someone has gone into a dream so far
that he'll never remember he was there
when he comes back to his room.

And as when someone goes into a sickness so deep
that all his former days become twinkling points, a swarm,
cold and feeble on the horizon.

The train stands perfectly still.
Two o'clock: full moonlight, few stars.

And, finally, last from this book for a while, two short poems by French poet Jean Follain,who lived from 1903 to 1971.

Both poems a bit mysterious, the first was translated by Heather McHugh, the second by W.S. Merwin.


She was buying an elixir
in a city
of bygone times
yet we should think of her
now when shoulders are as white
and wrists as fine
flesh as sweet
Oh, vertiginous life.

Black Meat

Around stones called precious
which only their own dust can wear down
the eaters of venison
carve in silence
their black meat
the trees on the horizon
imitate in outline
a giant sentence.

I wrote this next poem twelve years ago or so and it was published in 2000 in Poems Neiderngasse, a multi-lingual poetry journal published on-line and in print out of Switzerland. I mostly quit submitting my work to outside publications after I started "Here and Now" nearly six years ago. Before then, the journal used a number of my poems.

I don't think they publish anymore, or, at least, when I try their URL I get the site of a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento.

Too bad, another of the very good ones gone, but not forgotten.

time was

time was
I was a racing car,
not one of those fancy European jobs,
but an all-American thunder road muscle car
like Mitchum used to outrun the revenuers,
fast, sure,
quick on the hills
and tight in the corners,
with a low rumble at rest
that shook the ground,
the impatient rumble of a beast
held back, poised to spring

now I dream
of empty rooms, of time
and power flowing away,
of grace and essence draining away,
leaving a void, an empty shoebox
in the corner of a dark closet
in a house, vacant, smelling of loneliness
and neglect, the odor of redundancy,
the closeness of stale air and suspended lives

Last from my library this week, I have several randomly selected verses by Kabir, as re-envisioned by Robert Bly.

I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is
    is thirsty.

You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all
    is inside your house;
and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a
    confused look!

Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to
    Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can't find where your soul is hidden,
for you the world will never be real!


Student, do the simple purification.

You know the seed is inside the horse-chestnut
and inside the tree there are the blossoms of the tree,
    and the chestnuts, and the shade.
So inside the human body there is s the seed, and
    inside the seed there is the human body again.

Fire, air, earth, water, and space - if you don't want
    the secret one,
you can't have these either.

Thinkers, listen, tell me what you know that is not
    inside the soul?
Take a pitcher full of water and set it down on the
    water -
now it has water inside and water outside.
We mustn't give it a name,
lest silly people start talking again about the body and
    the soul.


If you want the truth, I'll tell you the truth:
Listen to the secret sound, the real sound, which is
    inside you.
The one no one talks of speaks the secret sound to
and he is the one who made it all.


I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
    birds and animals and the ants -
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in
    your mother's womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
    orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
    what you once knew,
and that's why everything you do has some weird
    failure in it.


To whom shall I go to learn about tthe one I love?
Kabir says: "When you're trying to find a hardwood forest,
    it seems wise to know what a tree is.
If you want to find the Lord, please forget about abstract

An amazing thing greeted me this morning, clouds!

but what does it mean?!

hanging low and heavy
this morning,
clouds dark and deep



that’s the way
this poem begins

what’s next?

what are these
dark and deep
clouds predicting
for the morning?


are the
clouds a representation
of smoke, the fires of the apocalypse
burning again today,
the first sparks
here in the Texas hill country
of the conflagration
that will sweep the world
in its final throes of judgment
next on the agenda

I know some hard-shell ecclesiasticals,
who would buy into that
in a minute,
unquestioning believers
in every chapter, verse, word,
period, comma and colon of the Word
which says and they agree
we’re due our heavenly smiteance any day now
and all these
clouds prove the time is here

praise be to He who smites


on the other hand
all these etc. clouds could be
sign of the first wave of alien invasion,
like in that movie,
huge alien spaceships pushing their
broad gray noses
out of the clouds any minute now,
with teeth and tentacles and tiny feet
with twisted talons,
come to eat our brains,
rape our women,
abduct our children for slave labor
in the potato mines
of the barren planet Bitselboogerish -
come to cut down our trees,
build massive pulp factories
to turn our trees into cardboard
for cheap tennis shoes
to sell in China
before they eat their brains,
rape their children
abduct their women for slave
labor in pasta mines
on the other side of the barren planet
where buffalos no longer roam
and skies are cloudy all day,
where seldom is heard
a discouraging word
since everyone is underground
digging for potatoes
and pasta
and you can’t hear them moaning

I have a brother-in-law
who would buy into that,
a watcher-for-aliens
in the night,
discouraged because
he’s never seen one except
in the movies where they always get it
waiting every night
for his inevitable abduction
for weird alien science
sexual experiments on the average
alien-believing male
when awarded conjugal visits
with their Lady Gaga simulation
plastikiey, but pliable
and open to new ideas
as to more unusual practices
of conjugality,

they just want to see how
it all works,
and he’s willing
to show them, if they’re willing
to take him back with them
to their fantastical home planet
of noodle and


or it could just be
that the clouds, all
are just the precursor to rain…

but that’s just one crazy idea
to many…

if I was you,
I’d go with apocalypse
or aliens
if you are wanting to bet
with the odds

That's it, again. Everything here belongs to who made it. You can have my stuff, just tell who and where it came from.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog...and I'm reminded I have not shamelessly promoted my new book for a couple of weeks, so here it is, available at most of the Ebook stores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony Ebook Store and Apple's Ibookstore. At Amazon and Barnes & Noble, under $5 (what a deal). Don't know about the others.


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