Puzzle Palace   Thursday, September 15, 2011


The special treat this week, is several poems from my poet-friend Stacey Dye. You'll like her stuff, I think.

Other than Stacey, just a regular old week, with a regular selection of poems and a regular random selection of pics.

Here are the poets for the week:

From 300 T’ang Poems
A Dream of Wandering on T'ien Mu - A Song of Farewell
Chang Pi
For Someone
Chu Ch’ing-ya
Within the Palace
Wang Wei
Written at My Country Retreat by the River Wang, After Heavy Rain
Li Ch’i
Goodbye to Ch'en Chang-Fu

resolved stiffened, I will march on the day

John Philip Santos
1964 Sonnet
The Memory Prayer

thinking of those who jumped

Anna Akhmatova
Petrograd, 1919
and other, untitled verses from Selected Poems

it might be our turn today

From Hotel Amerika
Christopher Goodrich
Assuming I Die with My Eyes Closed
Erica Goss
Dust of an Ordinary Star
Ginny Weihardt

a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, and a can of sardines

Lucille Lang Day
The People Versus Oscar Cole

and it’s another fine day when nothing happens

Dennis Tourbin
In Hitler’s Window (Close to Midnight)


Stacey Dye
On Being Lonely

about my oak trees

Sunil Freeman
Just Say No

naming the rose

Jane Hirshfield
Commentary Inflection: Invented Form
Inflection Finally Ungraspable by Grammar

a new broom

Gary Snyder
Gray Squirrels
One Day Late Last Summer
Spilling the Wind
California Laurel
Baking Bread

the pretty young girl who mooed like a cow

Lorenzo Thomas
Now You Can Worry

warrior queen
we will, we will

Jack Kerouac
238th Chorus
239th Chorus

well and truly bent

I begin this week with several poems from 300 T'ang Poems, an anthology of poems from the period of the T'ang Dynasty (618-907), considered by many to have been the golden age of Chinese poetry.

The anthology of poems collected and translated by Innes Herdan was published in 1973 by the Far East Book Company.

The poem includes the original Chinese characters and the English translation on facing pages.

The first poem is by Li Po, one of the giants of the T'ang era. Imagine his poem performed aloud for an audience - Saturday night at the movies.

A Dream of Wandering on T'ien Mu - A Song of Farewell

Seafarers have tales of an eastern isle
Lost in the breakers and mist
    and hard to reach;
Yueh people speak of T'ien Mu -
Glimpse it at times
    through dawn mist and cloud-wrack.

T'ien Mu soars to heaven, massed against the sky;
It dwarfs the Five Mountains
    and towers over "Scarlet Castle."
"Terrace of Heaven" is thousand on thousand feet high -
Beside T'ien Mu it seems to crumble away to the south-east.

Dreaming one night of the southlands
    Wu and Yueh,
I flew across "Mirror Lake"
    under the moon.

The moonlight threw my shadow on the lake.
And traveled with me up to Yen Stream
Where the dwelling of Master Hsieh stands to this day.
The green waters glistened,
    shrill the monkeys cried!

Slipping on the sandals of Master Hsieh,
I climbed a mountain stair into the dark clouds.
Halfway, I saw the sunlight on the sea
And in the empty air heard heaven's cock.

By a thousand precipices, ten thousand gorges,
    the path meandered;
Beguiled by flowers I rested on a rock
    when suddenly darkness fell:
Bears roared, dragons howled,
    streams crashed from the heights!
Oh I feared the dense forest - the endless peaks
    filled me with terror!

Clouds on dark clouds assembled, threatening rain;
Waters tumbling, foaming, and the mist rising!
Lightning and thunderclap!
Hills and precipices split and crumbled,
The stone gates of the Immortals' cavern
Swung open with a crash!
Of Heaven's immensity I could see no end;
Sun and moon shone brilliantly
    on the gold and silver court.

Clad in the rainbow,riding rhe wind,
The deities of the clouds descend
Tigers play upon lutes, a phoenix draws their chariot.
Oh the immortals throng as thick as hemp stalks!

Suddenly terror seized me -
    my spirit quaked,
Startled, I sprang awake with a long sigh.
All I saw now were pillow and mat:
Lost was my vision in the veils of sunrise.
This is the way too with human joys,
Passing away like the water flowing east since time began.
Now I must leave you and go - when to return?
I will free a white deer to stray in the green hills
And ride again to visit T'ien Mu.
How can I bow and stoop before the mighty?
Would it not cramp my soul?

Next, a short poem by Chang Pi. Did my google-search, couldn't find anything on him.

For Someone

Parted, but my dream still lingers
    at the House of Hsieh,
On a little porch
    bordered with zig-zag railings.
Only the spring moon on that courtyard
    is full of passion,
Still shining on the fallen petals
    where I am gone.

Here's another short poem, this one by Chu Ch'ing-Ya, who is also unknown to the google-meisters.

Within the Palace

Dull, dull the flowering time
    behind closed Palace gates;
Court beauties stroll together
    on a balcony of precious marble.
With much in their hearts, they long to tell
    of Inner Palace affairs,
But with the parrot beside them
    the dare not speak a word!

And this slightly longer piece by Wang Wei, one of the master of the dynasty.

Written at My Country Retreat by the River Wang, After Heavy Rain

Days of rain in the empty woods,
    wavering chimneky smoke -
They are stewing vegetables and steaming millet
    to send to the eastern acres.
Over the still flooded fields
    a white heron flies,
In he leafy woods of summer
    pipes a golden oriole.

I have practiced quietude in the mountains
    contemplating the "morning glory";
For my simple meal under the pines
    I gather dewy ferns.
An old countryman now, I've abandoned
    the struggle for gain -
Why are those seagulls
    still suspicious of me?

And last from the anthology, I have this poem by Li Ch'i, another old Chinese poet of whom Mr. Google is unaware.

Goodbye to Ch'en Chang-Fu

The fourth moon and the wind in the south,
    barley turning yellow;
Petals not fallen from the date leaves,
    wu-t'ung leaves growning huge,
The green hills we left at dawn
    still seen in the dusk;
A horse's neigh on passing the gates
    reminding one of home.

How dignified your bearing
    my friend, Marquise Ch'en!
With your dragon beard and tiger brows,
    massive forehead too!
The learning of ten thousand volumes
    is stored in your belly -
You could not bear to lower your head
    among coarse rustics.

By the east gate you bought wine
    to drink with all of us;
to your gay spirit ten thousand affairs
    are like a wild-goose father!
Dazed with wine,you hardly saw
    the white sun was sinking;
At times you watched a solitary cloud
high in empty space.

Sun's up, time to buck up and get moving.

resolve stiffened, I will march on the day

sun’s up

world all about
still as a church mouse
on ludes

flag at the insurance conglomerate
across the street
as an old man’s dingus

(too bad there’s no insurance
against that)

on the interstate -
by this time of the morning
half of them are already late
to work
and frantic, a bad time
to be on the roads, amid streams
of the frantic in a fever
of sleep deprivation and fear
of unemployment -
not a good time for that,
you know

slow times here at
Egg & I, just me and an old man
with long gray hair and a beard, just as I was,
until recently, when I became
bored with being just another
old man with long gray hair and a beard and shaved
my head and my face so I could be just another
bald old man with a sunburned head
and without a beard

seems no matter what you do these days
the best you can ever be
is just another something or other

thinking of getting myself some
overalls and plaid socks, so that I can become
just another old bald man in overalls
and plaid socks with no beard, a smaller sub-group
of bald old men with no beard, another step, though
a small step indeed toward being different in this cookie-cutter
world, which is something us cowboy, beatnik, red-neck
hippies worry about when we get older and find ourselves
melding into the herd, becoming more and more
like the flag hanging like an old man’s dingus
limp and ineffectual…

which sometimes causes us to over-compensate,
believing with every sunrise
that a new wind will blow, stiffening our resolve,
acting as if it is so,
hoping no one will notice the how white
our fingernails as we hold tight
to our delusions…


sun’s up
and time to make my move
on the day,
resolve stiffened
as best it’s ever going to be
at this late date

Here are several poems by San Antonio novelist and poet, John Philip Santos. The poems are from his book Songs Older Than Any Known Singer. The book was published in 2007 by Wings Press.

1964 Sonnet

His early fear was losing those he loved
or their loss of him. At the window
in december tremendous were the cars
of other people, splashing light in gutters
as they passed. Somewhere in the darkening
town, the best was always abandoned,
in Southern Pacific railroad depot's
rusting Apache, arrow-drawn, atop the dome,
of Gus Garcia, in tequila soak, wrapped
with newspapers beneath a market bench.

Toward court house square, as tribes
in tarnished Ramblers, driven to the fountain
where pennies were the dead, they threw them
by handfuls. And colored were the waters.

The Memory Prayer

I learned to breathe this way
when I left that body made of ashes,
river water, copal and huisache flowers.

When my breath was South
it was a feather as big as a palm frond.
The infinite miles were numbered in stars
and the earth was lit form inside.

My eyes were mirrors, my heart was wind.
The ground pulled my songs like a magnet.

The bananas were so ripe they spread like butter
when they first brought guns into the garden.

Our legacy is papaya,is frijol,
is sangria by the gallons.

Helix inside of helix, the color of blood.
Dead uncles. Lost friends. Forgotten amantes.

For five hundred years of impossible wether,
this lightning has smelled like night,
weaving its net of forgetting across these lands.


Our feet swoop and trudge in immaculate deep alluvial sand,
pedaling stars and galaxies, talking in spiked and plumes
through currents of hoarse wind as colorless as lily petal tea.

The map shows this desert one thousand miles wide.

I will carry the monkey rattle.
I will protect the painted shards.
I will chant the ancestor's names.
I will cast the jade again.

For every chile there is a star, and for every star a breath
is drawn far into the north, far past desert and sierra.

Someone stitches the fan belt with whisker-thin fencing wire.
The chorizo cures as hard as leather, fideos are cooked in fennel.
Before we sleep, I will wash your neck, you will bathe my feet.
We eat dates and tell stories, knowing that we are taking the long way.

The memorials last week brought back the images.

thinking of those who jumped

some jumping feet first
fighting the wind as they fell...

some head first,
facing the ground as it rushed
toward them - what were their thoughts
those last fifty yards
before their soft body
met the hard and unforgiving pavement,
what did they see?
could they see, could they think
by that point in the fall or would
they already be dead in all but the heart
that still beat, waiting for the end
rushing so fast toward them…

thinking of falling face-first,
ground rushing toward me, rushing
in those last few yards toward
the dark we’ve always feared, imagining
the pain to come, no matter
how brief,
it turns my insides
to jelly

and then there was
the one I saw falling backward,
arms and legs spread,
like a sky diver, watching not the ground
approaching, but the sky rushing

how long it must have seemed
that fall, watching the sky and the
building and the fire and smoke
all going away, as if he was escaping,
feeling like flying, the universal dream
of flight realized,
riding the wind as he plummets

could he do that,
all the way on his back,
could he do that without turning around
to see his death approaching?

the seconds
it took to fall
from that height,
how long they must have seemed -

time to consider
all the mysteries of life - did he see
the truth of things during that long fall,
or did he just watch the sky rising,
of his life gone by
like clouds against a bright

Here are several poems by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova from the collection Selected Poems, published by Zephyr Press in 2000.

Akhmatova, who was born in 1889 and died in 1966, was an icon of pre-Revolutionary Russian literary society. After the revolution her work was suppressed as she became an unofficial spokesman for all who suffered through Stalinism. She was briefly rehabilitated during World War II, because of the very patriotic nature of her writing. After the war the authorities clamped down again with a repression not lifted until the last years of her life, when her literary achievements and international reputation could no longer be ignored.

The book is in Russian, with English translations on facing pages. The translator was Judith Hemschemeyer.

The twenty-first. Night. Monday.
The outlines of the capital are in mist.
Some idler invented the idea
That there's something in the world called love.

And from laziness or boredom,
Everyone believed it and here is how they live:
they anticipate meetings, they fear partings
And they sing the songs of love.

But the secret will be revealed to the others,
And a hush will fall on them all...
I stumbled on this by accident
And since then have been somehow unwell.



I dream of him less often now, thank God,
He doesn't appear everywhere anymore.
Fog lies on the white road,
Shadows start to run along the water.

And the ringing goes on all day.
Over the endless expanse of ploughed fields,
Even louder sound the bells
From Jonah's Monastery far away.

I am clipping today's wilted branches
From the lilac bushes;
On the ramparts of the ancient fortress,
Two monks stroll.

Revive for me, who cannot see,
The familiar comprehensible, corporeal world.
The heavenly king has already healed my soul
With the peace of unlove, icy cold.



How I love, How I loved to look
at your chained shores,
At the balconies, where for hundreds of years
No one has set foot.
And verily you are the capital
For us who are mad and luminous;
But when that special, pure hour
Lingers over the Neva
and the May wind sweeps
Past all the columns lining the water,
You are like a sinner turning his eyes,
Before death, to the sweetest dream of paradise...



I am listening to the orioles' ever mournful voice
And saluting the splendid summer's decline.
And through gain pressed tightly, ear to ear,
The sickle, with its snake's hiss, slices.

And the short skirts of the slender reapers
fly in the wind, like flags on a holiday.
The jingling of bells would be jolly now,
And through the dusty lashes, a long, slow gaze.

It's not caresses I await, nor lover's adulation,
The premonition of the inevitable darkness,
But come with me to gaze at paradise, where together
We were innocent and blessed.

July 27, 1917

I complete these selections with, unlike the earlier verses, a post-revolution poem. Earlier poems, especially those from 1917, hinted at what was to come. This poem, from 1919, deals with the reality of earlier fears realized. The country was still in flux, the post-revolutionary power structure was still to be finalized. The worst was yet to come.

Petrograd, 1919

And confined to this savage capital,
We have forgotten forever
The lakes,the steppes, the towns,
And the dawns of our great native land.
Day and night in the bloody circle
A brutal languor overcomes us...
No one wants to help us
Because we stayed home,
Because,loving our city
And not winged freedom,
We preserved for ourselves
Its palaces, its fire and water.

A different time is drawing near,
the wind of death already chills the heart,
But the holy city of Peter
Will be our unintended monument.

Rain! finally. But you have to go to it if you want to get wet.

it might be our turn today

yesterday, blowing
in hard from Mexico, a bit over an inch,
on where you were -
flooded streets
my coffee house, people
wading up to their knees,
garbage bins floating by like
great ships of the sea, splashing down
the street, pulled by rush and rapids
into the creek that crosses the road,
the one you never know is there
until it rains…

at my house,
the dust is barely settled,
just enough wet on the yard
to make it smell like the dry fresh-mowed
hayfield it looks like, going home,
bringing almost as much water
from my wet shoes and pant legs as the rain
that fell…

but we are patsies for the rain,
every dark cloud
a promise we believe, every
throw of the meteorlogical dice,
we believe,
will be the one we win,

as we believe,
despite all past experience,
the weatherman who says,
chance of rain again
you turn today,
he says,
and we break out our
umbrellas, ready
for the deluge,
believing, as always
in the inevitability of rain


Here are three poets from Hotel Amerika Volume 5, No. 1, Fall 2006, a publication of the Department of English of Ohio University.

The first poet is Christopher Goodrich, a stage director living in New York at the time of publication. He has an MFA from New England College.

Assuming I Die with My Eyes Closed

supine on a Serta, and assuming your are sitting next to me,
your head resting on my chest, your hand
reaching for you forehead, I ask
that you force my eyelids open
and position my eyebrows two or so inches
above their normal setting and urge my mouth,
if you don't mind, from its parched post
into the shape of an O,
three fingers long, two fingers wide.

That way, once you are through grieving
and have alerted the children,
it will appear as if I'm on the verge of song,
a rendition of "Walking my Baby Back Home" -
not the traditional 1952 sing-a-long,
more like James Taylor's fevered acoustic cry
to a woman since departed.

And if you would then move my left leg
so it's nearly touching the floor,
and budge the right with bended knee
so it might easily follow the left,
I could fool you into believing I am rising
for one final embrace, and who knows,
we might dance a two-step
up the skinny hall and down again,
my lips fixed to sing the song whose steady rise and fall
will keep the rhythm as we sway left to right, right to left.

The next poet is Erica Goss, who, at the time of publication, was a graduate student in the MFA program at San Jose State University, specializing in poetry ad non-fiction.

Dust of an Ordinary Star

I walk the dog: we two alpha females hike the hills and imagine ourselves trotting over
the tundra with the pack following, bringing home a caribou for the whole tribe to share.

When the phone rings I am the older sister; I research the family diseases; I am supposed
to keep secrets so I try not to remember what I am not supposed to know.

Sometimes my thoughts spiral over and over and the sight of a kitchen knife fills me with
despair. When this happens my eyes feel peeled open.

I sink my hands into my garden soil and feel it collect under my fingernails; i pull up
great handfuls of earth and smell them when no on is looking; sometimes I have dirt
ringing my nostrils for hours but no one says anything.

The dog and I are getting older, looking more alike; sagging jaws and weird little tufts of
hair. This bothers me more than her. Neither one of uks is interested in chasing after men
on motorcycles anymore.

I am a mother; twice I gave birth to healthy, perfect sons; once I had a daughter but she
was not perfect so I cast her body from mine; when she was gone my spine made a great
lurch and I stopped sleeping.

I plant seeds; I collect leaves, eggs and stones; I once found a jawbone with all its teeth
still attached.

I lie awake at night and stare out the window; I see lights out in the forest and wonder if
they are flashlights or just the sweep of distant headlights; I wonder where people go at
three in the morning while I am trapped here in my bed.

I send letters: they enter the secret house of the mailbox, deposits that can never be
withdrawn, they settle into rectangular drifts awaiting the great paw of the mail carrier.

When the sky is too loud I head for the woods; a silent redwood pulls the sunlight down;
I place my ear against her trunk and hear the settling dust of an ordinary star.

And my last poet from the journal is Ginny Wiehardt. At the time of publication, she was a Michener Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin.


There is a time for dispersal of belongings:
Which rings are for the daughter,
Which clocks for the son.

Time to explain diamonds growing in the grass,
The value of a European cut.

Testing milk on the wrist
How the first orange-tipped paintbrush sunsets the water,
Muddier, the night's sky over a farmhouse
Ten and stealing eggs.

Time to recite a poem
About a forgotten star.
In the backyard
Mother found the ring and put it on.
It was wartime. Scorpions stung my ankles.

When I told the lies of a child,
Which smell like vinegar and clean nothing.

Was talking to a fella who seems to be under the impression that if a poem isn't great, it's not worth writing. Hell, following that philosophy, I'd have written maybe three poems my entire life (and that's giving myself the benefit of a doubt).

And the other question I have is, how do you know if the poem is great before you write it.

Whatever the merit of the two philosophies, one thing is certain. This next poem, written in 2006, isn't great. But I had fun writing it anyway.

a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a can of sardines

I struggle
but the gray fog
does not clear

I study the scene around me
and watch and watch
as if by watching hard enough
I can make the poem
like on a dialogue board
in an old silent movie

it works sometimes,
but not today;
all is as dull
and unyielding
as yesterday
and many days before

best I give it up for now
and write a grocery list

The next two poems are by Lucille Lang Day and are taken from her fifth collection of poetry, The Curvature of Blue, published in 2009 by Cervena Barva Press. She received her MA in english and MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University, and her MA in zoology and PhD in science and mathematics education at the University of California at Berkeley.

The People Versus Oscar Cole

A fat court reporter kneels before the judge
robed in black. An American flag
hangs on the wall behind them.
the defendant wears a velvet blazer,
white slacks and no socks.
A woman on the jury wonders
if he can't afford them.

In the chambers the other jurors
say it's just the style. Back
to business. they consider
the evidence. did this man hold
in his palm a rock of cocaine, worth
about five dollars? Did he throw it
on the ground when the cops came?

The District Attorney has asked
for truth on behalf of the People.
The Public Defender says Mr. Cole
was waylaid by a dealer.
He was also ambushed by the police.
Mr. Cole is poor. This is his first felony.
But the judge has warned that sympathy

must not taint the verdict.
The jurors debate as the clock
ticks away. they eat lunch at a different
restaurant every day, watched
by the bailiff. the People spend
enough to send Mr. Cole to Harvard.
Instead he's sent up the river.


"Let's do it." - Gary Gilmore

Seven a.m. I watch my victim.
In his black shirt and black hood,
he is still. He might already
be dead, but for the slow
rise and fall of his chest,
where a white target hangs,
round as the moon.

I stand behind a black cloth.
A small rectangular window
frames my man, who sits
on a leather-backed chair,
proud as any king on his throne.
I am his subject - anonymous.
He makes his history.

In a killer's mind, I think
the sky must be black and low.
No woman or fire can warm you.
"One, two...," the count begins.
Now the man needs nothing -
not even love. Three rapid
reports, and his heart explodes.

And here's justification for another not-great poem. I liked writing it. This one also written in 2006.

and it's another fine day when nothing happens

it's not
an exciting life I lead,
but I'm not such an exciting guy
so that's just fine with me

no scary movies or conflict for me,
no rushing to and fro chasing dreams
or demons or wealth or power over events

that used to be me, but now I prefer
to start slow in the morning and maintain
that pace for the rest of the day

nobody cares much what I think
of the issues of the day, especially
not those who could make things
so I prefer smaller thoughts
closer to home and closer to me

I like sitting in little coffee shops
writing little poems that come and go
in the larger world like saltine crackers,
crunchy, a little salty on your tongue,
then gone
and mostly forgotten

I like keeping my decisions small,
the flavor of jelly to put on my toast,
the kind of sauce for my pasta, rare
or medium rare when I grill my steak

that's enough excitement for me

Next I have the title poem from the collection In Hitler's Window by Dennis Tourbin. The book was published in 1991 by the Tellem Press of Ottawa.

In Hitler's Window (Close to Midnight)

In his room
a small party
has gathered,
a quiet party
of people
and soldiers
and dogs.

Outside, the
darkness descends;
the windows become

The people move
through the room
exchanging glances.
Hardly a word
is spoken.

A fierce wind
gathers outside,
moving through
mountains and
trees, sweeping
the landscape.

The dogs huddle
near the door,
sniffing; a strange
odor penetrates
the room.

In distant fields
prisoners shovel
white lime into
open graves.

Time seems suspended.

And a slow train
moves through
the countryside.

It is close to midnight.
The guests are preparing
to leave. The walls
begin to close in.

He opens the door.
The dogs race out
into the heart of
a blazing fire,
stars exploding.

He stops,
looks at his watch,
the hands revolving
faster than the
speed of light.

Time disappearing now.

In his cold heart
he longs for a
sudden rain,
the smell of
wet fur,

the comfort of
crawling deep
into the damp
earth, his
only escape.

There is a proper way to start a morning.


Sunday morning,
pert new waitress,
young and pert, highly pert,
exuberantly pertish,
by the time I finish my two eggs over easy
I’m feeling myself
the world’s first victim
of perticide…

not that I have anything
pert, it just that pert
is like oysters,
okay at the right time, but
never okay
first thing in the morning

works best in the early stages
of morning, then rejection and rage
at the chirping crickets and singing birds,
easing into dispassionate
disapproval of daylight, followed by the slow
settling of acceptance, then, moments of tentative
cheer, and, finally, no earlier than 10:30 am,
flashes of pert

that’s the morning routine, as approved
by all manner of foreign and domestic early
risers of whatever race, whatever religion, whatever
ethnic and cultural presumptions - that’s just,
in other words,


in a position of authority
needs to have a word with this


the side- issue of premature pertocity
plumbed to it depths, this is the
place in the poem where a skilled
and experienced poet would gracefully
lay out a transitional bridge to the true
subject of this poem, -

or, rather
lack of same,

a cleverly articulated transition
such as,

the great Roman philosopher
Plasticus the Elder
in his great treatise
on falling water,
“rain don’t count
as rain
unless it falls on your house”

and, while there are numerous
pertly exuberant people in this city
who claim that it rained here
for the past two days, that is solely
the result of rain falling on their houses,
it has not rained on my house, meaning
as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t rained
and probably won’t ever again

and that is why this pert young waitress,
who probably had rain on her house for the past two days
shouldn’t be rubbing it in to those of us upon whose house
rain did not fall by being
so damn pert
at such a dry early hour

My next poems are by my poet friend Stacey Dye. Though born in Florida, Stacey has lived most of her life in Georgia and considers herself, she says, a true Georgia peach.

She says she writes to touch people. Her love affair with words is life long, she says, and she collects them on rocks, jewelry and through music and memorable quotes.

Her credits include Mused, Touch: The Journal of Healing, and BluePrintReview.

Learn more about Stacey at her blog, www.stace-onawhim.blogspot.com.

On Being Lonely


Shadows mimic clouds—
I see dragons, demons.

The din of the outside world
muffled only by the sound
of my
as it pounds
in my ears.

Cobwebs in my head
won’t clear.
Their inhabitants
long since gone.

I’m fuzzy on the truth,
but I continue
to hack
my way through
because “around”
is not an option.


When all seems lost, nature
fills the spaces between the sadness.
In my garden at night I am surrounded
by trellises ablaze with fireflies.

I revel in the aroma of jasmine,
in the crooks and bends of oaks
that loom in my backyard; draped in moss like the colored scarves I sometimes wear for disguise.

I’m humbled by the sky’s vastness,
the mystery of the forest that lies beyond my gate.
Owls screech, foxes cry--wind and warmth embrace me.
A milky moon punctures the sky.


The briny scent of ocean foam
and the seagull’s song no longer sustained her.
The time had come that her escape
was only a faded memory.

Instead, her mind reran old tapes
from a time when she was not enough.
Lashings from an ancient whip
thrashed her over and over again.

Bits of light from her respite
still hovered in the gloom
and she grasped at them,
dust motes glowing in the dark.

Bathed in tracings of shadows
that overwhelmed the room
her hands remained empty
an acrid wind displaced the salty air.


A cluttered village,
a darkened church,
ponderous hillsides.

The huge black mass
left for interpretation.

Is it you Vincent,
standing alone
in your dark night?

Your boldest vision--
moon and stars
that captivate in this,
your fantasy
of nighttime and nature.

You stood, candles dangling
from the brim of your hat,
as you painted through the night
in the asylum at St. Remy.

What were you feeling my friend,
as you made real your starry night
embedded in shadows of blue?


I should move
to solid ground,
pour a foundation
and frame with good sturdy lumber.

But the lure of the sea is hypnotic,
it calls to me in the conchs
I place next to my ear.

I hear its ebb and flow at night--
a lullaby that’s calmed me
for as long as I can remember.

Even now I watch the waves breaking
and I am not afraid.
This time, I’ll move inland a bit,
dig my moat a little deeper.

I guess you could call me a "tree-hugger." I don't mind, better than hugging a lot of people I've known.

tree huggerr

I’m a planter
of trees wherever I go

I have three oak trees
in my backyard
and though it is the plan
and bounty
of nature that makes them grow
I take credit
for moving them
to a place where nature’s
plan and bounty has a better chance
of bearing them true to the promise
of their beginning

all three,
vargrant offspring
of a mature red oak in my front yard,
are products
of acorns that fell in inhospitable
places, rescued as sprigs and moved
to the backyard where there is sun and space
and all the things a young tree needs to grow tall and straight

the oldest of the tiny sprigs
carried from front to back in a small
bedding pot is now twenty feet tall, a tree
in all it’s imposing aspects

the second of the transplants, two years ago
is at about three and a half feet, stunted
by the summer drought , and though an adolescent in its growth cycle,
advancing still, a tiny inch at a time, on its way to become
the great oak
it’s acorn-birth destined it to be

and last, the infant tree, standing straight and confident
at three inches in its little crib-pot, growing,
new leaves greening from the red-brown of birthing leaf-hood,
its growth spirit determined, producing miniscule advance
even if not yet quickly obvious…


I’m a planter of trees,
wherever I go…

it is in the nature of my life
that I’ve never stayed in one place long enough
to see the trees I planted grow
to their full forest-potential, and I don’t suppose
I ever will,
just as a thousand
years ago, an early traveler stopped to rest
beside a tiny tree, too small and slender to lean against,
too small for more than a small circle of shade
at its base, a nap taken,
never imagining that the small tree beside him
would someday be a towering redwood, lost in a forest
of towering sisters

so I sit beside my transplanted trees, knowing
that in their time
they will be giants
that I, in the differing span
of my life and theirs, will never see..

but somewhere, within the tangle of their roots,
there will be a space where
I will dwell,
long past any other evidence
of my coming and going

The next poem is by Sunil Freeman, from his book, That Would Explain the Violinist, published in 1993 by Gut Punch Press of Cabin John, Maryland.

This is a funny, funny satire, shooting down several hard targets at once.

Just Say No

The public awareness clip cuts
through sales pitches that imply
you have a volcano in your pants
and a Nerf ball in your skull.

She's 15 or 16, cute but vulnerable,
and she's talking right to you:

    I started with limericks.
    It was fun. It was daring.
    After awhile I was playing
    with rhymes all the time
    Then my friend Billy
    told me about free verse.

    Billy's dead.

The camera closes in on her eyes.
They're tunnels to hell.
Mercifully a voice-over breaks in.
It's a doctor on a prime time series;
a voice we all trust:

    Sylvia Plath. Suicide.
    John Berryman. Suicide
    Ezra Pound. Insanity.
    Dylan Thomas. Suicide by alcohol.

    Billy. Suicide
    When will it end.

I've been paging through my 2006 files today, running across a few poems it was fun to read again. I posted two earlier, here's another.

naming the rose

as a child
I was called "A"
at times of endearment
and "Allen Ray"
when I had pushed the behavioral envelope
to it's maximum extension

worked for my buddies at school,
along with many wildly imaginative
rhyming alternatives,
often filthy to one degree
or another

to my Drill Instructor
in basic training
I was "big-un,"
so called,usually loudly
and inches from my face

in my early days at work
in South Texas
I became "Alaniz,"
honorary Mexican due to linguistic
difficulty with "Allen Itz"

in later years I was "Mr. Itz"
to those who worked for me
and, as a frequent media presence
for a while, was known as
"Allen Itz, (insert title here),
which encouraged me to be
as imaginative with my titles
as my schoolmates had been
with my name

forty-five years ago when I made
my first stab
at poetic immortality, I tried
the pen name "A.Ray" because
I thought it sounded cool
and poetically charged,
but it didn't impress anyone else
and I never published under that name

now that my son's full grown
and a retro-hipster, I've become "Pops"
which I kind of like since I'm something
of a retro-hipster wannabe myself

I'm back to "A" with my wife
when I've been good and a nonverbal
icy stare when I'm not up to her

one of these days, coming much sooner
that I want, you can just call me


I have two poems now by Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book, Given Sugar, Given Salt, a National Books Critics Circle Award finalist.

The first poem is about the difficult of writing a poem on demand on a specific topic, person, or event.I have been asked several times to do this and found it very difficult to come up with something true and meaningful and not just an accumulation of poetic tricks.

The second poem moved me because of the reference to the old dog who can only lie, watching all the comings and goings until her time to go comes. I have such a dog lying beside me right now.

Commentary Inflection: Invented Form

I received a letter requesting that I invent a form, a task
you will thing should be easy, but
it was not. The request simmered, month by month, half forgotten.
We have an agreement, the muse and I,
you see, about requests:
they have to come from her, or else be like
  those winter flies suddenly slow and loud in a house
  whose doors and windows have been long closed and locked.
  When the owners return in spring, the small, dark bodies remain -
  evidence that something always happens.
  Even when there is nothing,something happens.

  As with love, "Not here, not now," the heart protests
  Then the evidence: irrefutable, the low buzzing.

Inflection Finally Ungraspable by Grammar

I haven't yet found the pronoun through which to touch it directly.
You may feel differently.
You may think you can simple reach through all the way
  with your hand, petting the shoulder of an old dog, who, when
she can no longer stand, lies on her bed, watching her kingdom
  arriving and leaving, arriving and leaving, until at last
it only departs.
We want our lives and deaths to be like that - something formal, a kingdom.
  Filled with the sense of the manyness of existence. As the French say
"Vous" to that which cannot be made familiar.
They do this less and less these days, it seems.

A fresh breeze like afresh take on life.

a new broom

fresh breeze,
a new broom sweeping in
in from the northwest,
from the Rockies
and the high plains beyond,
mountain-blue skies
and first scent of my October

I smell
the mountains coming

Next, I have five short poems by Gary Snyder, from his book, danger on peaks. A 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, the book was published by Shoemaker Hoard.

I can't remember the name of the form Snyder uses for these pieces, but I used to know someone who was very good at them.

Gray Squirrels

Three squirrels like,    dash to the end of a pine limb, leap, catch an oak borough angling down - jump across air to another pine - and on - forest grove canopy world "chug-chug" at each other - scolding empty space

        Follow their path by the quivering oak leaves
        and a few pine needles floating down

Spilling the Wind

The faraway line of the freeeway faint murmur of motors, the slow steady semis and darting little cars; two thin steel towers with faint lights up blinking; and we turn on a raised dirt road between two flooded fallow ricefields - wind brings more roar of cars

        hundreds of white-fronted geese
        from nowhere
        spill the wind from their wings
        wobbling and sideslipping down

(Lost Slough,Cosummes, February 2002)

One Day in Late Summer

One day in late summer in the early nineties I had lunch with my old friend Jack Hogan, ex-longshore union worker and activist of San Francisco, at a restaurant in my small Sierra town. The owner had recently bought and torn down the adjoining brick building which had been in its time a second-hand bookstore, "3Rs," run by a puckish ex-professor. Our lunch table in the patio was right where his counter had been.Jack was married to my sister once.We all hung out in North Beach back in the fifties, but now he lives in Mexico,

        This present moment
            that lives on

        to become

        long ago


California Laurel

The botanist told us
"Over by Davis Lumber, between house furnishings and plumbing, there's a Grecian laurel growing - not much smell, but that's the one that poets wore. Now California laurel's not a laurel. It can drive off bugs or season a sauce, and it really clears your sinus if you take a way deep breath - "

        Crushed leaves, the smell
        reminds me of Annie - by the Big Sur river
        she camped under laurel trees - all one summer
        eating brown rice - naked - doing yoga -
        her chanting, her wayk deep breath.

Baking Bread

Warm sun of a farmyard    a huge old chestnut tree    just yesterday the old woman said    been raided by wild reesus monkeys
we had boar meant, inoshishi, stewed with chestnuts    for lunch.
Deer, boar, monkeys,foxes    in these mountains
and lots of dams    little trucks on narrow winding roads

        Four hours from Tokyo
        brightly colored work clothes
        living on abandoned farms
        fighting concrete dams
        "I am hippy" says this woman
        baking bread

early October 2000 in the headwaters
of the Mibu River, Southern Japan Alps)

Here's another poem from 2006 about another strange encounter. I seem to have so many of those.

the pretty young girl who mooed like a cow

dressed for the summer
in halter
and capri pants,
open-eyed alert
and eager with a question
about where she could find
tickets for the Fiesta

I tried to help
but everyplace I suggested
she had already been
but it was nice talking to her
because she seemed
and fresh
and I am neither

then she laughed

not at anything I said
but at something
she said herself that I didn't hear,
but she seemed to think it was great
because she laughed, mouth
wide open, stretched wide open
like she was trying to stretch
the edges of her mouth
from ear to ear,

and she mooed

like a cow in a pasture,
she mooed


then again,
without taking a breath

since I was fourteen years old
like this always happens,
every time
I get to talk
to a pretty young girl


and it turns into
another encounter
in a Twilight Zone rerun

Now I have two poems by Lorenzo Thomas. The poems are from his book, Dancing on Main Street,published by The Coffee House Press in 2004.

Now You Can Worry

Tonight she's wearing her rejection slip
A plotted frumpiness

O you don't know the pain
To look into the midnight eyes
Of that little child
In that picture from El Salvador
That total silence
That premature despair
And feel you can do nothing
Nothing you can do

Tonight she feels so frustrated
She almost cries

I've put up with that woman
For three years
You'd have been proud of me
I didn't turn all black, you know
All red eyeballs, "Now listen Bitch!"
Instead I did it
Like that Larry Davis song
You used to like
"Walk Out Like a Lady"
But I did tell her
Where to put her job

I mean it seems so hopeless
So deeply meant but somehow also false
Crying about retarded whales
Dim-witted dolphins hunting tuna
Who wind up horrifyingly in salads

Sometimes you wonder
Think how the whole world
Is just going to hell
Not just this neighborhood and this house
The environment
A world with just
The darkest colors of the rainbow left
As i we try but just can't do enough
God knows,I try.
But anyway, I've decided
To do the little I can do

No sex for you


I know you don't know what
Love is it isn't
Dagwood kisses on the way to work
It's going to work

Love could be but it's now
a 50/50 partnership
Matched sets of polished lies
A usury of affection

I understand that you don't understand
Money don't grow on trees

And if it did,
Those trees would grow
So far away
It would be work to get it

This poem was written in 2006 and, it appears, was published somewhere, but I don't remember where.

I saw this young woman in a bookstore and was moved by her beauty and the grace of her movements.

warrior queen

she walks,
no, not walks,
with the air
of a warrior queen,
her short skirt
with every step,
by her swinging hips
in waves
like froth on a swelling sea

her left leg,
firm and tan,
with every step,
and the other,
a construct
of metal parts
like the cyborg
in the first "Terminator"
from the flames
free of the artificial flesh
that hid the true power
of its titanium frame,
the girl's leg just like that,
a beautiful machine
of gleaming rods
and levers and joints
that moved smoothly
like oil on glass
with ever step

how can we not
be entranced
when something
usually dark
and hidden from us
is revealed
in all its unexpected

I didn't mean to post this next piece, but posting the one above, I was reminded of another young girl, this one a very young girl, whose memory brings me great pleasure.

we will,we will

goes to the supermarket
for early shopping

her little girl
sits in her little shopping cart seat,
her dark hair fluttering
in the fresh morning breeze,
her dark eyes
gleaming in the sharp, new-day
as loud as she can
in her squeaky little-girl voice


and the mom looks at me
and shrugs and
I smile

we will


that's the way
to start a

Here are two poems by Jack Kerouac, from his book Mexico City Blues (242 Choruses), first published by Grove Press in 1959.

238th Chorus

Who ws it wrote "Money is the root of all evil?"
Was it Oscar Wilde in one of his witties?
Was it Celine - nah.
Was it Alexander Pope, Benjamin Franklin
    or William Shakespeare -
Was it Pope in one of his many
    clever lines?
Benjamin in his Almanac of Peers
    Has Richard the Chicken Liver
    Express a private pear.

Or is it Shakespeare blowing wild
Confucius-Polonius witticismical
Paternity-type advice -
"Money is the root of all evil"
For I will
in my will
"I regret that I was not able
To love money more."
For which reason I go into retreat
And monastery - all monastic in a cell
With devotions and hellpellmell
And Yumas Arctic Gizoto Almanac
Protho Consumas Konas
  In the Corner, & Mother Damema

239th Chorus

Charley Parker Looked like Buddha
Charley Parker, who recently died
Laughing at a juggler on the TV
after weeks of strain and sickness,
was called the Perfect Musician.
And his expression on his face
Was as calm, beautiful, and profound
As the image of the Buddha
Represented in the East, the lidded eyes,
The expression that says "All is Well"
- This is what Charley Parker
said when he played, All is Well.
You had the feeling of early-in-the-morning
Like a hermit's joy, or like
                                        the perfect cry
Of some wild gang at a jam session
"Wail,Wop" - Charley burst
His lungs to reach the speed
Of that the speedsters wanted
And what they wanted
Was his Eternal Slowdown.
A great musician and a great
                                        creator of forms
That ultimately find expression
In mores and what have you.

A rainy night.

well and truly bent

washing gullies at midnight,
just as I was drifting off to sleep...

the elemental man,
I could not stay in bed

as thunder, like a low, rolling wave
across the ocean sky,
shakes the earth
beneath my bare feet,

and lightning flashes hyper-white,
like daylight one planet
closer to the sun,

and wind-driven rain
like sharp pebbles on my bare skin,
unimaginably cold
on my chest and back

I cannot stay clear of it, cannot
stay out of the wet of it,
the outline of my backyard
under the torrent,
left to right
front to back,
as it slopes to the creek, running wild now,
here at the bottom of the hill, flowing
in a rapids-rush to Apache Creek
several blocks away, then, miles away,
the San Antonio River, rushing on it’s way to the Gulf,
a salty, sea-breeze world far from
my backyard
where first it fell,

walking through the beating rain,
glorious mud between my toes…

the drought,
well and truly

And that's it for this week. All stuff belongs to people who made it. My stuff you can use, if you want it. Just credit "Here and Now" and me.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and sleepy now, having taken something to sleep last night and greatly needing something to wake up this morning.


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