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


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

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

Lana Wiltshire Campbell
22 Cinquains

arguments in the night

The Hearth
The Island

one day it’s like this

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

the blond started it all

Larissa Szporluk
Occupant of the House
Under the Bridge

now, at 2,000 plus

Jonathan Holden
Dancing School
El Paso


Frank Pool
At Barton Springs
Home and the Trail

creating perfection

From One Hundred Poems from the Japanese
Six poems

a slim reed

Sharan Strange
The Crazy Girl
Jimmy’s First Cigarette

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

Robinson Jeffers
To the Stone-Cutters
Shine, Perishing Republic

the climb

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

so what am I to do now?

Rita Dove
Best Western Motor Lodge, AAA Approved

it’s all about me

Richard Wilbur
Two Voices in a Meadow
Advice to a Prophet

old man on an autopsy table

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

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

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

after the storm

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


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


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


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

after so long

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

at first light

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


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


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

El Duende

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

each morning

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


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

last night

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

this life

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


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


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

at the job fair

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

the memory of salt air

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


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

first step

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


or design, no bright flame
illuminates the dark places

And here's a three-cinquain poem.

in the end

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

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

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

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

through the ages

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

Early peace interrupted by yesterday's business.

arguments in the night

on my patio
at 4 a.m.

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

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

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

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

apparently she does for after
a moment
nothing else is heard

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

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

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

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

The Hearth

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


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

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

The Island

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

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

And that was only on one island.

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

This one if from 2005.

one day it's like this

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

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

but then you begin
to notice things

sighs that come
like a quick wind
among the trees

then gone,
by the quiet still
before and after

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

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

never mind

and you know
the moment's past

the turn is made

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

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

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

Treatise on Nostalgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Near Uvalde, Texas

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

clumps of cacti and short
tough trees.

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

orange dust
and a song about loneliness.

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

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

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

they ask, tuned-in
to my hunger.

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

the air is both flat and prickly.

Not such a quiet breakfast this morning.

the blonde started it all

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

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

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

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

and the damn blonde started it

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

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

Occupant of the House

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

Under the Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so,this poem.

now, at 2,000 plus

let's just call them bunnies

laid our alongside the road



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

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

they just got in the way

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

history's built on piles
of dead bunnies -

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

and now
we have our bunnies

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


let's just call them dead bunnies


not that other thing

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

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

Dancing School

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

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

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

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

El Paso

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Saturday morning poem...


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Barton Springs

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

Home and the Trail

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

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

creating perfection

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

this tiny imperfection
on taut, tanned skin
creating perfection

like a god
who laughs
at the absurdity
of his creations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a slim reed

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

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

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

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

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

the old order

and I am old myself
and fear the


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

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

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

a slim reed,
but I hold tight to it anyway

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

The Crazy Girl

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy's First Cigarette

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

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

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

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

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

Here are several more short pieces from 2005.

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied

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

and another lands
and another and another

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

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

intelligent design

designs the future

eliminating the failed
and all of failure's brood

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

how to lose a lover in 15 words or less

say little


assume surety
in a universe
of constant

summer light

sun streams all around
through floor to ceiling windows

a black man
in a chalk white hat

and searing flash
through the room of bright

the girl with the small mouth and long brown hair

threw back her hair
with a flip of her head

and smiled

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

fat men hugging

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


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

becomes like a shadow
on the wall

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

if a tree fell in the forest

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

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

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

The book was published by Random House in 1965.

To the Stone-Cutters

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

Shine, Perishing Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

the climb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The State of the Economy

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

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

In Answer to Your Query

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

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

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

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

Carnation Milk

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

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

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

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

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

so what am I to do now?

I have written
a horrible
today -

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Best Western Motor Lodge, AAA Approved

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

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

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

bloody palm prints everywhere.


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

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

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

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

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

it's all about me

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

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

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

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

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

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

and vote
in even-numbered

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

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

Two Voices in a Meadow

A Milkweed

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

A Stone

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

Advice to a Prophet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

old man on an autopsy table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

at 10:46 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

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

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

allen itz

at 10:12 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

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