High, Wide, and Handsome   Friday, October 07, 2011




I needed the break to happy to be back again, after a super 10-day visit to the mountains in New Mexico and Colorado. My photos and my poems (most of them) were taken or written on the road.


I also have my usual quota of great poets from my library and a shameless little announcement at the end.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Junkman's Obbligato

Me
eager-eyed

Marina Tsvetaeva
From Poem of the End

Me
San Antonio to Carlsbad

Rosemary Catacalos
With the Conchero Dancers, Mission Espada, July
The Lesson in "A Waltz for Debbie" “
One Man’s Family


Me
Carlsbad to Santa Fe

Sundeep Sen
Shattered Pieces of a Quarrel
Sun Streaks on Telephone Lines


Me
a morning in Santa Fe

From Poetry - February 1973
Leroy Seale
Turkey Shooting on Mount Monadnoc
Robert Pinsky
Waiting

Me
Santa Fe to Durango

Aaron Silverberg
Morning Aikido
Prosperity


Me
day trip to Ouray

From Poetry - February, 1973
Michael McGee
The Hand
Lynn Strongin
Countdown

Me
day trip to Telluride

Gary Soto
A Simple Plan

Me
a day off in Durango

e.e. cummings
From Love Poems
X
XI


Me
homebound, Durango to Albuquerque

Monica Youn
Ignatz in August
Ignatz Oasis
Semper Ignatz
The Death of Ignatz
The Subject Ignatz
Invisible Ignatz


Me
homebound, Albuquerque to Fort Stockton

Mary Crow
Montserrate

Me
last leg home, Fort Stockton to San Antonio

Bruce Weigl
Black-and-Tan Dog
Meeting Mr. Death


Me
rainy day confabulations

John Updike
Stretch
TV


Me
path to enlightment









I start this post with a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from his book A Cony Island of the Mind, A New Directions book, originally published in 1955. As I mentioned before, I had a copy of the book from a seventh printing, which I bought in very early 1960s. During the course of many years since then, I lost the book I was excited to find a copy, aged yellow pages and all, of that 1958 edition in my secondhand book store. The book originally cost less than $2.00, less than I paid for it at the second-hand book store.

With eBooks, we can finally match that price again today, and maybe move reading poetry back outside of the academic circles where it's been stuck for years.

The poem I borrow this week is one of Ferlinghetti's best know pieces, and one of seven in the book conceived, not for the page, but performance reading with jazz accompaniment, subject to change at every reading. If you can find it anywhere, a performance of the poem by the poet in a reading with Kenneth Rexroth and the Cellar Jazz Quintet was recorded by Fantasy as "Poetry Readings in the Cellar."

Not having that recording, this is the paper-bound best I can do.



Junkman's Obbligato

Let's go
Come on
Let's go
Empty out our pockets
and disappear.
Missing all our appointments
and turning up unshaven
years later
old cigarette papers
stuck to our pants
leaves in our hair.
Let us not
worry about the payments
anymore.
Let them come
and take it away
whatever it was
we were paying for.
And us with it.

Let us arise and go now
to where dogs do it
Over the hill
where they keep the earthquakes

behind the city dumps
lost among gas mains and garbage.
Let us see the City Dumps
for what they are.
My country tears of thee.
Let us disappear
in automobile graveyards
and reappear years later
picking rags and newspapers
drying our drawers
on garage fires
patches on our ass.
Do not bother
to say goodbye
to anyone
Your missus will not miss us.

Let's go
smelling of sterno where the benches are filled
with discarded Bowling Green statues
in the interior dark night
of the flowery bowery
our eyes watery
with the contemplation
of empty bottles of muscatel.
Let us recite from broken bibles
on streetcorners
Follow dogs on docks
Speak wild songs
Throw stones
Say anything
Blink at the sun and stretch
and stumble into silence
Diddle in doorways
Know whores thirdhand
after everyone else is finished
Stagger befuddled into East River sunsets
Sleep in phone booths
Puke in pawnshops
wailing for a winter overcoat.

Let us arise and go now
under the city
where ashcans roll
and reappear in putrid clothes
as the uncrowned underground kings
off subway men's rooms.
Let us feed the pigeons
at City Hall
urging them to do their duty
in the Mayor's office.
Hurry up please it's time.
The end is coming.
Flash floods
Disasters in the sun
Dogs unleased
Sister in the street
her brassiere backwards.

Let us arise and go now
into the interior dark night
of the soul's still bowery
and find ourselves anew
where subways stall and wait
under the River.
Cross over
into full puzzlement.
South Ferry will not run forever.
They are cutting out the Bay ferries
but it is still not too late
to get lost in Oakland.
Washington has not yet toppled
from his horse.
There is still time to goose him
and go
leaving our income tax form behind
and our waterproof wristwatch with it
staggering blind after allycats
under Brooklyn's Bridge
blown statues in baggy pants
our tincan cries and garage voices
trailing.
Junk for sale!

Let's cut out let's go
into the real interior of the country
where hockshops reign
mere unblinding anarchy upon us.
The end is here
but golf goes on at Burning Tree.
It's raining it's pouring
The Ole Man is snoring.
Another flood is coming
though not the kind you think.
There is still time to sink
and think.
I wish to descend in society.
I wish to make it free.
Swing low sweet chariot.
Let us not wait for the cadillacs
to carry us triumphant
into the interior
waving at the natives
like roman senators in the provinces
wearing poet's laurels
on lighted brows.
Let us not wait for the write-up
on page one
of The New York times Book Review
images of insane success
smiling from the photo.
By the time they print your picture
in Life Magazine
you will have become a negative anyway
a print with a glossy finish.
They will have come and gotten you
to be famous
and you still will not be free.
Goodbye I'm going.
I'm selling everything
and giving away the rest
to the Good Will Industries.
It will be dark out there
with the Salvation Army Band.
And the mind its own illumination.
Goodbye I'm walking out of the whole scene.
Close down the joint.
The system is all loused up.
Rome was never like this.
I'm tired of waiting for Godot.
I am going where turtles win
I am going
where conmen puke and die
Down the sad esplanades
of the official world.
Junk for sale!
My country tears of thee.

Let us go then you and I
leaving our neckties behind on lampposts
Take up the full beard
of walking anarchy
looking like Walt Whitman
a homemade bomb in the pocket.
I wish to descend in the social scale.
High society is low society.
I am a social climber
climbing downward
and the decent is difficult.
The Upper Middle Class Ideal
is for the birds
and the birds have no use for it
having their own kind of pecking order
based upon birdsong.
Pigeons on the grass alas.

Let us arise and go now
to the Isle of Manisfree.
Let loose the hogs of peace.
Hurry up please it's time.
Let us arise and go now
into the interior
of Foster's Cafeteria.
So long Emily Post.
So long
Lowell Thomas.
Goodbye Broadway
Goodbye Herald Square.
Turn it off.
Confound the system.
Cancel all our leases.
Lose the War
without killing someone.
Let horses scream
and ladies run
to flushless powderrooms.
The end has just begun.
I want to announce it.
Run don't walk
to the nearest exit.
The real earthquake is coming.
I can feel the building shake.
I am the refined type.
I cannot stand it.
I am going
where asses lie down
with customs collectors who call themselves
literary critics.
My tool is dusty.
My body hung up too long
in strange suspenders.

Get me a bright bandana
for a jockstrap.
Turn loose and we'll be off
where sports cars collapse
and the world begins again.
Hurry up please it's time.
It's time and a half
and there's the rub.
the thinkpad makes homeboys of us all.
Let us cut out
into stray eternity.
Somewhere the land is swinging.
My country 'tis of thee
I'm singing.

Let us arise and go now
to the Isle of Manisfree
and live the true blue simple life
of wisdom and wonderment
where all things grow
straight up
aslant and singing
in the yellow sun
poppies out of cowpods
thinking angels out of turds.
I mus arise and go now
to the Isle of Manisfree
way up behind the broken words
and woods o Arcady.








Our journey began the day before.



eager-eyed

breakfast done,
newspaper read, headlines
and comics only, having discerned
some years ago
that everything you really need
to know in the world
can be found in the comic pages -
headline-reading, only habit and patriotic duty
to confirm that everything that’s been
happening is still happening,
sun still burning.
earth still turning,
clouds still fluffing,
fools still fooling, ball
still rolling, no further attention
from me required…

poem struggling to emerge
from the cocoon
of a morning-dry and entangled
mind - will find its way out of the morass,
one way or another,
love child or circus freak, a
chance taken every day, like flipping a coin,
what it will be, what it has no choice
but to be on this near 25,000th day of my
life -

I will wait…

in the meantime,
today,
I take our Queen Reba
to Austin to visit our son
for ten days, while Dee and I
venture,
beginning tomorrow,
to parts not entirely known,
mountains,
but which and where
to be determined by the most
promising horizons that
approach us -

two to fhree thousand miles,
not certain I have the
stamina
for that kind of drive anymore, that and
ten nights in hotel rooms,
but I know it is time to get away
from these low hills for a while,
to find a vista requiring
a greater arching of neck,
a longer view,
to see where the road meets
the sky…

**

my last stationary poem for a while,
beginning tomorrow,
ten days of poems written to the hum
of asphalt,
the cool of thin mountain air,
the evergreen scent of forests -
pictures of the beautiful and the absurd,
seen as we pass, eager-eyed.








Next,I have several exerpts from a long narrative poem by Marina Tsvetaeva. The poems are from Poem of the End, Selected Narrative and Lyrical Poems, published in 2004 by Ardis Publishers.

It is a bilingual book, Russian and English, with translation by Nina Kossman

Tsvetaeva, born in Moscow in 1892, published her first volume of poetry in 1910, attracting notice from some of the most important critics an poets in Russia at the time. Following the revolution, she went into exile in Paris in 1922, becoming one of the leading writers of the emigre community. After she returned to Russia in 1939, her husband was arrested and subsequently executed. She committed suicide in 1941 in Elabuga, a small town to which she had been dispatched at the onset of World War II.



From Poem of the End

1

In the sky, rustier than tin,
Is a lamppost like a finger
He rose at the appointed place,
Like fate.


"Quarter to. Have I kept you...?"
"Death can't wait."
exaggeratedly smooth,
The doffing of his hat.

In every eyelash, a challenge.
The mouth, contorted.
Exaggeratedly low,
His bow.

"Quarter to." "On the dot?"
His voice lied.
My heart - fell.(What's with him?)
My brain: a signal.

______

Sky of bad omens.
Rust and tin.
He waited at the usual spot.
Six o'clock.

This soundless kiss:
the stupor of the lips.
Thus - empresses' hands are kissed,
Thus - dead men's hands...

A hurrying laborer
Elbows my side.
Exaggeratedly dull,
The train-whistled howled.

Howled - yelped like a dog.
On and on, angrily.
(The exaggeration of life,
In the final hour.)

What yesterday was waist-high,
Suddenly reaches the stars.
(Exaggerated, that is:
To its full height.)

Thinking: darling, darling.
"The time?" "Seven."
"To the movies,or?"
(Exclaiming) "Home!"

2

Gypsy brotherhood -
This is where it led!
Like thunder on the head,
Or a naked blade,

All the terror
Of anticipated words,
Of a house collapsing,
That word: home.

______

A lost spoiled child
Wailing: Home!
A one-year-old:
"Give me! Mine!"

My brother in sin,
My fever and fervor.
They dram of running away
The way you dream of home.

______


Like a horse jerking at its tether -
Up! - and the ropes in shreds.
"But we have no home!"
"Ah,but we do. Ten paces away.

The house on the mountain. "Not higher up?"
"The house on the top of the mountain,
The window under the roof."
"Burning not only with the light

Of dawn?
" "So we start over again?"
"The simplicity of poems!"
Home means: out o the house
And into the night.
        (Oh, whom shall I tell

My sorrow, my grief,
Horror,greener than ice?...)
"You've been thinking to much."
Pensively: "Yes."

3

The embankment.I keep to the water -
A dense thickness
The hanging gardens of Semiramis,
There they are!

The water - a steely strip of it,
Deathly pale.
I stay with it like a singer
Sticks to the score; like a blind-man

Sticks to the edge of a wall...You won't turn me back?I stay with it, the quencher of all thirsts,
Like a sleepwalker sticks to the edge

Of a roof...
    Oh, but it's not the water
That makes me shiver - I was born a naiad.
to hold onto the river, like holding hands
When your lover's here

And faithful.
    The dead are faithful.
Yes, but not all in the same casket...
On my left side, death; on my right -
You. My right side seems dead.

A vivid sheaf of light.
Laughter, like a toy tambourine.
"We need to have a..."
        (shivering).
"Will we be brave?"








Our first travel day took us from San Antonio to Carlsbad, New Mexico.



San Antonio to Carlsbad

Holiday Inn Express,
not where I wanted to stay
but I couldn’t find the hotel
I wanted on the web,
but…

a bed that doesn’t feel like
something liberated from a medieval
Abdizhwanni torture chamber, fluffy towels
and plenty of them, a shower with hot water
and a generous spray that doesn’t require
running around in the shower to get wet

so the day ends
well…

the day began,
as usual,
not as early as I would have liked -

the male person, being me,
in the morning scenario,
wants to leave, vamoose,
hit-the-road- jack, pedal-to-the-medal,
put the get in the get-on-going,
while she who must not be named
in any but the most serious and loving manner
wants
to sweep the kitchen
and do a load of laundry first…

so, as anyone familiar with the history
of domestic contention surely
suspects, we
finally got on the road at ten, after sweeping
and doing a load laundry

^^^

the first leg -
San Antonio to Carlsbad, New Mexico,
a short day, only 398 miles, northwest from home,
neon-green mesquite, yellow huisache,
purple sage,
black creosote brush
spread over rolling limestone hills,
the hills split
for the highway, millions
of years of geologic history on either side as we
pass through the cuts
at 85 miles an hour, time displayed,
from now to that distant past
when all around was covered by a salty sea,
layer upon layer demonstrating
the truth of constant change, the earth
we walk upon with such confidence
is always shifting,
never what it was; never what it will be,
I can only look
and be humbled by my transience…

to the flat pastures and cotton fields
of southern New Mexico,
to the city of the great cavern…

a night’s sleep
before Santa Fe
and the first mountains








I used a poem by Rosemary Catacalos in my last post. I'm going back to her again with several poems from a different book than the one I borrowed from last time.

This time the book is the anthology After Aztlan, Latino Poets of the Nineties, published in 1992 by David R. Godine, Publisher.

Catacalos, winner of the Texas Institute of Letters Prize in Poetry, former recipient of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship, and former director of the Literature Program of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio.

The Mission Espada referred to in the first poem is one of five 18th century Spanish missions that line the San Antonio River from Mission San Antonio de Valero (most commonly known as the Alamo) in the center of downtown San Antonio to Mission Espada, last in the string of missions, on the far south side of the city. All the missions provide regular weekly Mass for congregants, many descendants of the original worshipers, as well as weddings and funerals and other religious and cultural activities.



With the Conchero Dancers, Mission Espada, July

There is something in all this. The heat
heavy on us till it might as well be the mesquite
beam the young goat drags to each day's thin
grazing in the courtyard. It might as well be
the babies, fitful in their baskets, in our arms.
Their cries go out alongside the thick smell of copal
burning, as we do, in frail clay vases, Xelina,
who is seven and doesn't know the goat will soon
be meat, wants to touch the beginnings
of its horns, buries her trusting fingers
in the tufts on either side of the mouth.
And there is an old woman in black whose days
are a dark slow vine retreating into memory,
even in full sunlight: the middle son lost in Korea,
the comet-eyed cousin in San Luis Portosi
who loaned her gold earrings and died
in childbirth. Buenos dias, el sol como siempe,
no?. Si,senor,
the sun as always.

Celebrating the mass, strangers embrace as though
history were more than it is, resuming their fanning
with the Sunday bulletin. There will bge a jamaica
at Cabrini, a parish council meeting Tuesday.
Something in all of this. In the lightning strings
of the mandolins tuned tense as lovers arching
their backs, the unerring summons of a tree
becoming drum, bare feet hugging limestone, the earth's
bones, plumed crowns flying in light of everything.
This ancient prayer from the high valleys of Mexico,
spinning and spinning for dear life,
this world to be learned by heart.


The Lesson in "A Waltz or Debby"

in memory of Bill Evans

Amazing how this world manages to be all of a piece.
In Beirut an old woman haring guns that are nothing
like drums pulls her apron up over her head
and wrings the air in entreaty. In La Resurrection,
Guatemala, Mayan Indians in bright handmade cloth
are hung in trees with their wrists slit and left
to die slowly, turning like obscene ornaments

or jungle birds. And on a strait named Juan de Fuca
off the coast off Washington state, a stranger
is within peaceful shouting distance of six whales
rising and falling on the water: the usual
and regular breathing of God. All this has everything
to do with how you wrote "Waltz for Debby" when she
she was three and still had a right to believe life
would always come in gentle measures, the swoop and
sweep of a good dream doing what comes naturally.
You knew better but went ahead

anyway. Just as today I balance in sunlight
with my own three-year-old nieces, chambering around
one of Fuller's dreams become a toy, the joyful
geometry of a dome turned into triple-sided air.
Even if Demetra refused to step where her favorite tree
cast shadows and twice wouldn't pronounce
the name of her missing uncle,

suspecting the pain it would bring out in the open.
Later she was sullen with the weight of it. Her swing
would not fly, though she leaned with all her might
and crazily against gravity. I thought how all the waltzes
in the world wouldn't save her from learning this.

The man watching the whales, meanwhile, may
fear that in a few years there won't be whales
on the coast. Men either, for that matter.
But more he remembers your fingers as wingtips.
Your remains, clear notes phased with possibility.
And since jazz musicians mostly work nights, how
you were always finding you way in the dark.


One Man's Family

in memory of Bill Gilmore

There was the Dog Man again today,
bent under his tow sack,
making his daily pilgrimage
along St.Mary's Street
with his rag tied to his forehead,
with his saintly leanness
and his bunch of seven dogs
and his clothes covered with
short smelly hair.
Pauline,the waitress up at
the White House Cafe, says
he used to be a college professor.
In a college. Imagine.
And now he's all the time
with them dogs.
Lets them sleep in the same room
with him. Lets them eat
the same thing he eats.
Pauline don't like it.
All them eyes that light up in the dark
like wolves'.

I imagine he carries his mother's
wedding dress around in that filthy sack.
I imagine he takes the dress out on Sundays
and talks to it about the dogs
the way he might talk to Pauline
if she ever gave him the chance.
About how to him those seven dogs
are seven faithful wives,
seven loaves,seven brothers.
About how those seven snouts bulldozing
through neighborhood garbage and memories
give off a warmth that's just as good
as all the breasts and apple pies and Christmas trees
and books and pipes and slippers
that a man could use on this earth.
But mostly about how they're dogs.
Friends that don't have to be anything else.
About how nothing could be more right
than for a man to live
with what he is willing and able to trust.








Our second day took us to Santa Fe.



Carlsbad to Santa Fe

leaving behind
Carlsbad
and the rough scrub flatlands
of southern New Mexico, we enter
a topography of rolling hills, slowly climbing
toward the Rockies to the north,
the hills, covered by short yellow grass,
become broader and higher as we drive on
toward Santa Fe - mountains shadow
the horizon to the north and to the west…


cattle walk single-file on the crest of a higher
hill, black forms against the blue, cloudless
sky, an orderly line, like a military platoon, led
to feed by the boss-cow, one in every herd,
who knows where to go and when to go there

below that disciplined line,
an unruly rush by calves and big mama bossies,
running to catch up with a truck
crossing the pasture, loaded with hay,
the God-Truck, bringing
afternoon vittles
for its bovine charges,
manna from
the bed of a Ford pick-up…

then Vaughn,
small town among the wide, rolling
hills, a diner,
like an old-fashioned city diner
built around a retired railroad dining car -
great music from the fifties,
and a really lousy hamburger…

past Vaughn,
past Encino, the hills roll on,
ground beneath the low grass, now pumpkin
powder orange, shining in the sun, slipping,
as we pass on to a light rose color while the mountains
become near companions
on either side…

until we are there - the near edge of Santa Fe
according to my GPS, but
it doesn’t look like “there” - high, rough, tree-covered
hills, steep, deep canyons, even as the GPS tells us
we are close, and even as I am a disbeliever,
we follow directions,
left turn, right turn, left turn, the road
getting smaller and rougher, asphalt to washboard gravel,
narrower and narrower as we climb steeper and steeper
slopes - until directly ahead of us, a gate
to a private drive,
and on the gate, a yellow sign with a simple
and direct message - “you are not where you
think you are,” the sign says, suggesting
we are not the first misled by our GPS…

a strategic retreat…

back to where we figure we ought to be,
and, our instincts proving better
than our GPS, finally, eight miles from the sign
on the gate, our hotel in the immediate
downtown crush of narrow Spanish-laid streets,
three blocks from the central plaza,
within walking distance of all the places
we want to see in the two days we expect
to stay here -

here, among the tourists crowding
sidewalks in every direction -
(what I always wonder when myself a tourist
in a place of many tourists,
are we really as funny looking, I think,
as these people crowding all around us)

dinner at six, seven our time,
$80 for two,
great grub,
but,
I’ll never get fat
at $80 a pop, contrary
to the usual description of travel
as broadening…)








Next, I have two poems from the collection Postmarked India, by Sundeep Sen. The book was published by HarperCollins India in 1997.

I've included Sen's work many times on "Here and Now," complete with biography. Since I'm a little pressed for time this week, I'll let readers do their own Google search.



Scattered Pieces of a Quarrel


we listen while a dustpan eats
the scattered pieces of a quarrel.
    Vern Rutsala


Every night, for many years now I hear voices next door
through the thing of the wall, every core

of the crackling scream, like an old
stylus needle on a scratched gramophone record,

stuck. Every night it happens, shriller and fiercer
every night. At midnight, the ritual starts over:

the first conversations barely audible,
then the decibel levels, a plateau of maimed muffles

before taking off sharply, into the crystal
air of coded cries, on a steep delirious climb until

breaking glass-ware scatter smithereens
as the soprano of anguish startles a bluebird in

nest outside, on the terracotta ledge
of my alcove. Every morning when the sun's edge

clears the neighbour's roof, I sweep the apartment floor
trying o extricate rolls off dust from under the doors.

They somehow seem to huddle in fluffy balls
insulating the crevices between adjacent flats, the same wall

that simultaneously separates and shares, just like the array
of dust coils clinging together, in fear of being swept away.


Sun Streaks on Telephone Lines

In Japanese she said it was amae,
though the translation provided only a weak

dependency. The telephone rang all night, the next day,
and on and on for a whole year, in

metaphoric exchanges as the pulse
matched the tones. Tones of a new language

defied the stasis of the existing ones.
Even the sun's power couldn't scorch the linkage,

its rays streaking into a Brooklyn apartment, to cast
the bleach, roasting the innards, and a human being.

The same sun in the evening spread over the vast
view: over blackened roof-tops and the rippled bay,

its light tinting the metallic verdure of the Statue
of Liberty, the geometric axes of lower Manhattan towers,

and the silver criss-cross of telephone lines. On cue
the calls came through, regardless, from another

island, the lines humming, "ame, amae, amae."
Amae
it had to be, after all, telephones work only on the

dependency of their senders and receivers, or else
why would such lines exist. The

sun had set long over the East River peninsula.
but had left enough energy stored, in excess,

for the unfinished conversation to carry on, with her,
undeterred, in glinting solar pulses.








Although we had passed through Santa Fe a number of times, but had never spent any significant time there. So, for the third day, we decided to stay in Santa Fe.



a morning in Santa Fe

walking around the plaza
at six a.m.
in the downtown
were nothing opens before eight,

cool,
quiet, no one out but me
and an old lady,
looking , like me, for first light,
pictures to be taken
as the sun turns the night
sky glowing pale
light…

Starbucks!
the mythical Starbucks,
a known entity,
but lost on an inadequate
map, like black planet
in a black galaxy
on the other side of the moon,
there,
in front of me, a half a block
from where my walk ended yesterday…

latte
and a Times,
sharing a long table
with the Indian vendors who spread their jewelry
on blankets around the plaza…

seven a.m. -
the vendors leave to lay out their
wares
and the first dim morning light
softens the night-shadows
creeping back into
the corners

and a crow, flies,
like the closing night's own dark devil,
lands among the towers of the Lorretto Chapel,
cries, it's guttural hacking call
echoing, bouncing from adobe wall
to adobe wall in the high thin air…

at eight,
the bells from the three missions
near the square
begin to toll, bring in the morning,
open the day
for
hiking from gallery to gallery,
up hills, down hills,
reminding
by noon that, as to the condition
of my knees and hips,

things just ain’t what they used
to be








Here are two poets from the February, 1973 issue of Poetry.



The first poet is Leroy Searle, in 1973, an assistant professor of English at the University of Rochester.

I think I may have use this poem, maybe a couple of years ago, but it's funny and I like it so I'm using it again. Also, the journal is falling apart as I page through it so this might be my last chance to use it again.


Turkey Shooting on Mount Monadnoc

I saw all the signs:
"Turkey Shoot on Sunday."
Well now.
Come in your pick-up;
drive right to the village green
and load your shotgun

Blusterer of feathers,
gobbling in a wire cage,
neck-tics gesturing
the shape off space.

I took my turkey,
a Swift's Premium butterball
weighing eighteen pounds.
Hung it in the tree
where it swayed there, peaceful
as a moon of fat,
glistening like a great carbuncle.
And I sat down calmly
and shot it several times.

It seemed like the thing to do.


My second poet from the journal is Robert Pinksy, who, in 1973, was teaching at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.


Waiting

When the trains go by
The frozen ground shivers
Inwardly like an anvil.

The sky reaches down
Stiffly into the spaces
Among houses and trees.

A wisp of harsh air snakes
Upward between the glove
And cuff, quickening

the sense of the life
Elsewhere of things, the things
You touched, maybe, numb

Handle of a rake; stone
Of a peach; soiled
Band-Aid; book, pants

O shirt that you touched
Once in a store...less
the significant fond junk

Of someone's garage, and less
The cinder out o your eye -
Still extant and floating

In Sweden or a bird's crop -
than the things that you noticed
Or not, watching from a traIn:

The cold wide river of things,
Going by like the cold
Children who stood by the tracks

Holding for no reason sticks
Or other things, waiting
For no reason for the trains.








Day four - on to Durango.



Santa Fe to Durango

a good breakfast…

- food, especially breakfast,
an integral part of the pleasure
of travel for me -

and an early start
with another GPS glitch,
but we are saved from a lengthy
detour by my innate sense of direction
and my intimate knowledge of
such as on which side of the tree
does the moss grow,
and as regards the sanitary habits
of coyotes who are known to pee on either north
or south sides of the pinon bush
depending on the phase of the moon

- my advice to all GPS
users…turn your machine off
upon crossing the borders
of the not always so great
state of New Mexico, they seem
most often lost and quite pleased to have you
join them -

but on,
north by northwest,
past the mountain road
outside Santa Fe
that would take us up the mountain
and through the high forests.
past Los Alamos,
where secrets still hide
in the thin, cold air,
and around, a wide arc
spinning, us back to Albuquerque,
a five-hour drive
over mountain and forest roads,
among
the most beautiful
drives in the state, if you have time
to spend five hours going
where you could go in forty-five minutes
on the interstate…

but
we have no time this trip
and push on…

past Espanola, following
the Rio Grande River, the same river
I grew up alongside more than 67 years
and a thousand miles ago…

green pastures between the mountain
foothills, small valleys where cattle and horses feed,
and running through the pastures, the river,
and along the river, tall trees, yellow
in their seasonal change,
yellow
like sunshine gathered
in a bouquet
shifting like flowing gold
in the wind,
yellow so bright
it makes you blink -
like when you turn a light on
in the dark at midnight - yellow leaves
blown across the road by the wind
like golden snow
flurries…

and the road, after dropping
from 7,000 feet in Santa Fe, begins
to rise again, until, as we pass Tierra Amarilla
the small town in its valley of yellow earth, we see
the first snow-tipped mountain, at over
10,000 feet, the southern tail of the Rockies,
and just a few miles further, as we pass through
Chama, a stone’s throw from the Colorado border,
the mountains and their snowbound peaks
surround us on three sides, all sides but south…

the anti-climax,
Pagosa Springs, and a turn to the west,
an hour from Durango,
to our hotel, to our fourth floor balcony
overlooking the clear, frigid Animas River
flowing fast over rocks ground round by the flow,
a second home in my mind, a city that reminds
me of Austin in glory years in the 70s, before all
the rush and crowds that are too much a part of it
now, a small liberal-arts college atop a hill overlooking
downtown, sidewalks through town, quietly
and un-hurriedly busy with young people and
a few of us, the more grizzled, passing through, and
Magpies Coffee and Espresso, on the corner,
my place to watch and write and drink in the air
breathed by only a very few before me - my place
in Durango, still there after all these years
and all my visits…








Here are two poems by Aaron Silverberg, from his book Thoreau's Chair, published by Off the Press Enterprises in 2001.



Morning Aikido

deep breath
in unison
resounding clack!

the one body of many
hissing
into the rafters - arises!

cool wood on bare feet
muffled thumps
silent spinning bodies
tumble and tumble and tumble
across the floor

stiff gis yield
to warm, round bellies.

the long hall is cut
into circles
snapped out
into delicate origami.

just outside
the breath still steams...

On-nee-gosh-e-mas!
let's play.


Prosperity

several hours outdoors daily,
moving freely,
juicy conversations,
tears of happiness,
a good mess,
animal sounds,
a nap,
a hand-written letter,
chance encounter,
candlelight at night,
subtle aromatics,
singing in the shower,
watching children play,
gazing at an entire sunset,
inventing constellations,
helping someone in person,
listening,
a sacred place alone,
wind on bare skin,
giving what others can receive,
receiving what others give,
remembered dreams,
staying in bed,
certainly home.








Using Durango as our home base, we took a day trip to Ouray on the fifth day.



day trip to Ouray

no train
for us today, for it goes
only to Silverton, while our
destination, Ouray is further
up the road -

but if you’re so inclined
for a train ride
through canyons and forests
and up the side of a mountain,
riding in the open observation car at the train’s
tail, smelling the pine-scented forest,
the fresh cold wind blowing in your hair,
I surely recommend it…

but our trip was by automobile
beginning by following the train tracks
past green fields, and, on the east side,
aspen groves lining the Animas River,
that same fast river I watch from my balcony
at the hotel…

the train follows the river back to its high
mountain source, sometimes alongside the river, the
river in view of the passengers and sometimes not,
sometimes the train on a cliff-ledge barely more than
the width of the train,
with the river hundreds of feet below …

in the car
we see the river only intermittently
as we climb our highway path up the mountain,
at lower altitudes, driving through groves of aspen on either side,
like driving through a cloud of golden creamery butter, then higher,
where the leaves have already fallen, the bare white trunks
like patches on the pine-greened mountain side, then, above us
mountain crests covered by clouds flowing over the top
like melted marshmallow, snow blown over the top
and down to us, frozen
to ice pin heads, hitting our windshield
like river pebbles thrown against us by some wild
mountain child resenting our intrusion…

then higher,
over Molas Pass, more than ten thousand feet now above the low lands
where I grew up, four thousand feet above our hotel in Durango -
all around mountains white in clouds of blown snow, and the road
wet with ice and snow melt, the temperature dropping,…

then down from Molas, skirting Silverton, and up
again to Red MountaIn pass, even higher, eleven thousand feet,
the temperature has fallen to thirty four degrees, half what
it was when we started…

then down and into Ouray, determined to cut our visit short,
certain we didn’t want to tackle the two passes again, after dark
when the wet might have started freezing…

Ouray, a silver-rush survivor like Silverton, though
slightly larger, almost all the buildings on main street
(the only paved street we saw) dating from mid-to-late nineteenth
century, mostly brick and native stone, the thought of getting
the bricks up the mountain to here suggesting of the determination
of the people who made a life here, even after the silver was gone,
the determination that kept the city alive for the hunters and skiers
who are it’s lifeblood
now

the stubborn strength of mountain people never to be denied…

a very fine lunch of beef stew and a visit to a bookstore, the proprietor
pleased to sell me a book of poetry by a poet I never heard of, not
much interested in buying a book from me, a poet he’d never heard of -

truly the life of the poet in a nutshell, a buyer often, a seller rarely to ever be…

and the way back -

a reverse of the way we came
under sunshine all the way, ups and downs
and twists and turns and switchbacks
and views of our road high above or far below
that it takes ten minutes of maneuver to get to,
uneventful

but for the tumbleweed the size of VW bus
blown by the wind in front of us
as we approached Durango…

the biggest tumbleweed I’ve ever seen,
and I’ve seen
a few








Now I'm back to the February, 1973 issue of Poetry for two more poets.



The first of the poets, Michael MaGee who studied creative writing at the University of Washington and was making his first appearance in Poetry with this 1973 issue.



The Hand

I

I watch the sun rise in my hand,
the rays break light between my fingertips,
until sunshine fills my palm.
It stretches itself and yawns,
uncurling as the sun mounts higher,
extends those fingers spreading outward,
trembling before the heat of day.

And as the noon descends to dusk,
it marks the change and shivers.
Inside the thumb, a crescent moon emerges
as darkness creases a closing palm.
And as the night secures its hold,
knuckles whiten, fingers clench,
and veins grow blue with cold.

II

And when the dawn came, it opened again,
but I was closed and it had changed.
Veins stiffened like a mountain range,
rocky knuckles spiked the back country,
the fingers tightened to a fist.

The flesh raged on all day, all night:
I looked at it as though a world away.


My last poet from Poetry this week is Lynn Strongin, a teacher, in 1973, of creative writing at the University of New Mexico and recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Countdown

Going out into clear moon-flooded night in my oilskin.
So full of joy today I wanted to rape the paperboy
then grocer's boy still wet behind the ears & with cowlick.
But it's a dark act for a girl to commit.

"Rope the eye in on me, scoot those sweetrolls 'cross table."
 : (Southern accents have suddenly become sweet, yellow
 :  : Texas rose.)
Guests arrive with white wine (can they never be on time?)

Paperboy, who came in morning, and grocer's boy by
 :  : afternoon,
your news is flat; your loaves are stale by evening.
Got a roomful of guests on my hands
who stack like priests out at ten.

The real news, the nourishing loaves
are that my dear in schoolgirl coat and nervous hands
is waiting round the corner, lightning matches, counting
 :  : down.








On the sixth day, another day trip, this one to Telluride.



a day trip to Telluride

a block away,
the train hoots
it’s long, loud moan
and a cloud of steam rises
from behind the trees

“all aboard, all aboard”

but not us…

today
we go west,
past Mesa Verde,
where the Anasazi people,
the ancestral people,
built their stone villages
into the sheltered walls
of deep canyons atop the high mesa,
a green table high above the harsher
prairies, a Eden in the clouds,
with wood for the fires that blackened
the carved out ceilings
of their cliff dwellings, where prey
roamed to be killed and eaten
where they found safety
from their enemies,
from where, one day, they left
seemingly all at once, all together,
moving their culture and
all their people,
seeking what, fleeing what,
no one knows, but leaving behind
stores of grain, assuming, it suggests
that one day they would return,
though they never did, becoming after they left,
what…
who…
no one knows that either…

but we’ve been there,
walked the ruins, heard the ghosts
of the disappeared people
whispering
in the pines and down the canyons -

today we go on to Dolores, little Dolores
on the Dolores River,
Dolores Del Rio, I cannot pass up the chance
to say, on our way to Telluride,
stopping at the Old Post Bed and Breakfast
on the northeast corner of the square, an old hotel
from the mid-nineteenth century when the trains
ran through and stopped and people would stay
for a night’s lodging on their way to the silver mines
higher up,
bought three years ago and run now
by Sheryl and Doug and Dan, the place threadbare now,
like most everything in Dolores…

breakfast in a little kitchen area,
listening to Sheryl and another woman,
discuss the relative merits of men from the oil fields
in Alaska as compared to the local product, finding
and ennumerating each
as to their merits and demerits in the areas
of practicality. reliability, physicality, grace on the dancefloor,
and sexual inventiveness and
stamina…

breakfast - fair

eavesdropping opportunity - outstanding…

the drive before and after Dolores, along
the river most of the way, not so twisty,
except for a few miles before reaching Telluride,
and much easier than the route to Ouray,
a steady climb to the little town in the mountains, famous
in song and cinema, surrounded
on three sides by mountains in the 13,000 to 14,000 range,
snow peaks looking down on the town, it’s sidewalks
full of young people, many more people than I expected,
considering that ski season is still several weeks
away…

our main object for this trip -

aside from the pleasure of seeing someplace
we had never seen
before -

Bridal Veil Falls -
the longest continuous fall waterfall
in Colorado, it’s base,
accessible, it turns out, only in a four-wheel drive
vehicle, the picture I had driven 100 miles
to take, despite the best efforts of my hardy little
SUV, turns out to be a far dribble
on the side of the mountain, like a white thread
draped over a not-very exceptional oil painting by
a student landscape painter

and lunch wasn’t very good either…

the drive back to Durango
unexceptional, mostly downhill,
inured by now to the beauty of the
trees and mountains, we don’t stop for
more pictures, the going down side of the
beautiful trees, etc. pretty much the same
as the coming up side

but for the herd of elk breaking from a stand
of trees and loping across an open pasture,
the only wildlife we’ve seen on this trip, more
than worth the quick glance we got
in passing…

back to Durango by five,
and, finally,
in the early evening,
a very fine dinner at the Italian place we found years ago, which
has, in the years since, changed it’s name
and moved to a different location,
and which may not really be the same place at all,
except that, for the purpose of the narrative
of our lives, we will identify it as the same place
and be pleased with ourselves
that we found it again,
no matter if it is or not,
real life, after all, is just a lengthy narrative
which can often be brightened
by a skillful application of
fiction which I am
good at…
five days of driving, plus a day
climbing up and down streets in Santa Fe
and I’m ready for a day off
tomorrow…








Here's a poem from Gary Soto, featured frequently on "Here and Now" and one of my favorite poets. It is the title poem from his book a simple plan, published in 2007 by Chronicle Books.



A Simple Plan

for V.M.

To get rid of
A dog, you put on
Your brother's shoes,
Slip into a shirt
Hanging on a nail
In the garage,
Smack Dad's hair oil
Into you dirty locks,
The scent of confusion.
You call, Let's go, boy,
And with the
Dog's neck in
A clothesline noose,
You follow your skinny shadow
Down the street
And cut through
A vacant lot,
Same place
Where you stepped
On a board with a nail
and whimpered home,
The board stuck
Like a ski to your shoe.
You walk past
The onion field,
Little shrunken heads
Hiding hot, unshed tears,
And stop at the canal.
the dog laps water,
Nibbles a thorn from his paw,
And barks at a toad
In the oiled weeds.

The sun's razor
Is shining at your throat,
And wind ruffles
Your splayed hair,
Where a hatchet
Would fit nicely -
You feel the sharpened
Edge of guilt.
Come on, boy
You say, and leap
On slippery rocks
Set in the canal.
You stop to
Look inside an abandoned
Car with a pleated grill -
Three bullet holes in the door
On the driver's side.
You think, Someone
Drove this car
Here and killed it.

You brave another mile.
When you arrive,
The dog prances with
Joy. What is it?
A jackrabbit in
The brush? Feral cat
Or stink birds? You pick up
A board, one just a little
Smarter than the one
That nailed you with pain.
With all your strength,
You hurl it end over
end. The dog knows
What to do. He runs
After it. Time for you to spin
On your heels and, arms
Kicked up at your side,
Lungs two bushes
Of burning fire,
Get back home.
That night it's steaks
On a grill, a celebration
Because someone
In the family won
A two-hundred-dollar lottery.
You eat to the bone
And then nearly
Choke on the gristle.
You drag your full
Belly to the front
Yard, and stake
Yourself on the lawn.
The neighbor's porch light
Bursts on, and a shooting
Star cuts across the sky -
You touch your throat
And think, Something just died.
You lay your hands
Laced behind your head.
Somewhere up
The block a dog barks.
My dog is out there,
You think, and behind
Your closed eyes
You see him, a nail
In his bloody paw,
A board in his mouth,
And shooting stars
Passing over the curves
Of his wet pupils.
If you were a better person,
You would stab
Your own foot
and let him pick up a scent
Back home.








Five days on the road and a day walking in Santa Fe, by the seventh day both of us were ready for a rest.



a day off in Durango

Wednesday,
seventh day on the road…

a rest day -

for Dee a day to restock at Walmart,
a nap, and a walk along the river
to the park, later a walk with me
downtown to find that Italian restaurant
that was so good when we first
found it five years ago…

for me
a morning at Magpie’s
to catch up on work undone
since the road intervened -

process
and prepare pictures (159 of them),
upload them from the camera then transfer
to Photobucket so that I can
process them to bring out the color
of the leaves and the green of the pines
and the white snow laid like clouds
across mountain peaks;

post pictures on the draft for my next
blog post next week;

review the proof and suggestions
my friend, Erin, made to my next book,
make corrections as she suggested, submit the
manuscript
to my publisher;

and somewhere and sometime in all that,
write my poem for the day, recounting the adventures
of the day before;

a dip
in the hot tub;

a short walk along the river;

nap;

and, with Dee, walk downtown, look at
and laugh at the properties posted to real estate
offices windows, everything half the size
of what we’ve got at twice the price , possibilities
of moving to Durango, dead and buried
along the roadside;

walk the aisle of a shop
full of very strange things tourists apparently buy,;

visit the bookstore where I sold
a couple of copies of my first book to a couple of years ago
(closed and for rent,
apparently I have that effect on booksellers);

enjoy an end-of-day drink (Tequila Collins,
my choice on those infrequent occasions
when I drink anything stronger than Pepsi One)
in the elegant ambience of the Diamond
Lil Bar and Grill at the historic Strater Hotel (100
(and a whole bunch years old on the corner by the train
station where the trains seems to hoot on an irregular schedule
whether it’s going anywhere or not) followed by superior $5 hamburger,
both drink and burger served by a scantily-clad young woman
with superior legs and breasts (Dee didn’t mind my appreciation
of said legs and breasts, understanding that after a certain age
men viewing superior legs and breasts are doing so out of appreciation
of beauty, unrelated to any carnal desires or intentions,
recognizing impossible dreams
when we dream one...

in the end,
a pleasant day of rest and work…

tomorrow,
a start on the way home,
first stop Albuquerque








Next, I have early work by E.E. Cummings, the final two poems from an eleven part series titled, Love Poems. The series is from the collection, Etcetera - The Unpublished Poems, published in 1983 by Liveright Publishing. The poem were written during Cummings Harvard years, 1911-1916.

It's heretical to say, but I like Cummings early poems at least as much I like his later work, (maybe more, when, it seems to me, despite his most famously sharp exceptions, he lost faith in the force of his narratives and began his final phase as the experimental trickster.

But even in these very early poems, signs of the future Cummings and his innovations can be seen.

To me, this is the poet at his best.



X

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we'll leave it far and far away -
(Only you and I, understand)

You have played
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and -
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And I knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart -
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble,the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dreams,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.


XI

Let us lie here in the disturbing grass,
And slowly grow together under the sky
Sucked frail by Spring, whose meat is thou and I,
This hurrying tree,and yonder pausing mass
Hitched to time scarcely,eager to surpass
Space:for the day decided; O let us lie
Receiving deepness,
Hearing,over

The poised,rushing night ring in the brim
Of Heaven;then, perpendicular odors stealing
Through curtains of new loosened dark;and one -
As the unaccountable bright sun
Becomes the horizon -
Bird,nearly lost,lost;wheeling,wheeling.








Then, on the eighth day, time to head for home.



homebound, Durango to Albuquerque

US-550,
a different road back
from the way we came,
straight to Albuquerque,
south from Durango, then
through the western side of New Mexico,
avoiding Santa Fe…

beginning
on the edge of Durango,
a long climb on the side of a steep,
steep hill, the city and green pastures
far below - a gentle, green landscape,
farms, pastures - from the road,
an idyllic pastoral life,
not seeing this time off the year
the isolation of winter snowbound
homes and cottages, drifts across the road
and up against the side of the houses and barns,
feeding horses and cattle in the cold…

just a few miles and we cross into New Mexico
and the pastoral life is behind us,
the view to road side showing the rougher side of
rural New Mexico, brush, desert sand, tiny towns
far-separated, low rolling
hills, growing steeper and larger until
we pass Aztec and Cuba and into the badlands,
the splendor of stark desolation, deep arroyos cut
by mountain run-off, cliffs of soft stone, sculptured
into fantastical forms and figures through erosion,
angels and gargoyles carved into the cliff’s sides, or
standing tall between sandstone towers and spires high
against the pale blue sky, cold looking skies, like the blue
inside ice in the sun, mounds of black volcanic gravel,
huge, irregular shaped volcanic boulders, black as a
catastrophic night on pale rose sand -

incredible to find such beauty in this end of the world
landscape, minimal and stark, old, so very old,
changed so very slowly over
the course of eons, that it appears new as the day
the volcanoes blew and the earth shook
and human kind still far ahead in the stately passing
of time, sea, to swamp, to desert, to eventually humans,
generations and generations of us, who, in our modern
arrogance will turn it all to swamp again…

the day ends in Albuquerque, a city
of special meaning to me - September, 1964,
20 years old, climbing down from my first airplane ride
to see my first mountains, the Sandias, to the east,
hanging, in my mind, over everything, air sweet and clear
and dry and so thin to my coast-grown lungs, a few months
later my first snow…

September to December, Peace Corps training
at the University of New Mexico, consorting with people
the likes of whom I never imagined in my small town life, the
birth of a new me, no going back, grown different
from where I started…

____

a restless night, my back objecting
to consecutive nights of hotel beds, early coffee at Starbucks
while Dee sleeps, red dawn
through the window, the new day
begins…

today - nearly 400 miles to go,
through Carlsbad again,
then to Fort Stockton,
tomorrow,
home








I bought this new book today (used as are all my new books) that looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. The book, by poet Monica Youn, is ignatz, a collections of poem concerning the additional imagined adventures of "Ignatz" the obsessive mouse character from the comic strip, Krazy Kat, created by George Herriman. The strip ran in daily papers from 1913 to 1944.

Youn is an attorneey at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where she is the Director of the Money in Politics project. She has been awarded poetry fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Stanford University. She has taught creative writing at Pratt Institute and Columbia University.

This book, published in 2010 by Four Way Books, was a National Book Award finalist. It is her second book.



Ignatz in August

you arch
up off me

sweat flowers
white out

of my every
desert pore


Ignatz Oasis

When you leave me
the sky drains of color

like the skin
of a tightening fist.

The sun commences
its gold prowl

batting at tinsel streamers
on the electric fan.

Crouching I hide
in the coolness I stole

from the brass rods
of your bed.


Semper Ignatz

How could it have been other

than abrupt
when as ever

im medias Ignatz remarked,

Sometimes     I don't     like
fucking.     Whoosh!     a billow

of white cambric sheets the scene,
through which her nipples glow dully.

taillights     in snow.


The Death of Ignatz

The mesas
sink to their knees

and let the snickering dunes
crawl over them.


The Subject Ignatz


     once more an urge; once more a succumb.

Even as a lawn
or tree

is more attractive
when configured

as individual
leaves

than as
a seamless

green integument.

     *

Asbestos
interlude:

the rubber
button

replumps itself.

The pin
pokes through

the black
wax

and scratches
the bottom

of the pan.

     *

All the unseen
valves

of the night
click open,

a blue-violet
pour down

a fretless throat.

     *

There can be no
launch, only

trajectory

in this elastic
room.


Invisible Ignatz

I would forget you were it not that unseen flutes
keep whistling the curving phrases of your body.








The next leg home is Albuquerque to Fort Stockton, in Texas. Not the place I'd prefer to stop for the night, but every other place in every other direction is too far.



homebound, Albuquerque to Fort Stockton

back to Texas
today,
Albuquerque to Fort Stockton…

from our hotel
three blocks from Old Town, Albuquerque,
I-40 through the pass between
the Sandia and Manzana mountains,
an easy drive east through rolling foothills
at expressway speeds, then south
at Cline’s Corners, a city consisting
of a glorified gas station for long-haul truckers
and not a single other thing
that I can see…

south on US-285, the highway we followed north
to Santa Fe eight days ago, nothing ahead
but a long, long drive and small lost towns, until
Roswell, Carlsbad, and then, 60 miles across the state line,
Fort Stockton and a night’s rest before the last leg home…

not a journey
suggesting poetry, epic or beautiful or even poetic,
from north of Roswell to Fort Stockton, flat brown
nothingness, stretching in every direction except west,
where a mountain range tries to hide barely above the horizon…

desolation,
not beautiful like the stark and severe desolation
of the badlands, but desolate like beige paint
on an institutional wall, lost people, it seems to us
traveling through, knowing, but still faintly disbelieving.
that there are people who live here, convinced,
to obvious appearances, that it is a good life -

on the other hand,
there is an inordinate number of UFO sightings
in this Roswell to Fort Stockton region, possibly , I theorize,
because of the very large number of persons living here
who’ll do anything to get away,
including, if necessary,
hitching a ride with little green men
with bubble heads and knobby knees
and a perverse interest in examining
the sexual organs of ranchers
and oil well roughnecks

(it’s like hitchhiking, those who wish to escape
must think,
a ride is a ride is a ride
and as long as it’s going the other way
from here, it’ll work in a pinch
and a little sexual organ examination
might be fun,
and better than they’re getting at home
anyway)

____

but perhaps
I am being overly harsh…

I’ve been away from home
for nine days
after all,
and have seen mountains and streams
and forests and clear blue skies and all manner
of things far and beautiful
and I miss my bed and my easy chair
and my dog and my favorite
comics
in my daily newspaper
and my early-morning breakfast place
and my coffeeshop
and all the other pleasures of home
not always recognized
until taken away -

all of which will be returned to me
tomorrow afternoon,
by which time I am sure I will
be feeling
better








The next poem is by Mary Crow, from her book, , published by BOA Editions in 1989. I bought the book in Durango at a bookstore whose proprietor expressed disinterest in buying a couple of copies (cheap!) of my first book, Seven Beats a Second. This bookstore was several blocks down the street from the bookstore whose proprietor bought several of my books a couple of years ago and which is now closed and boarded up.

I try not to take any lessons from situations such as this.

Crow, the poet, was winner of a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 for her own work and a Translation Award for her book of translations of Latin American women poets. At the time this book was published, she taught creative writingt at Colorado Staste University in Fort Collins.



Montserrate

They climb the mountain on their knees
Dirty, their patched pants
breaking open
the dark-faced lady sobbing
A child holding his crutch over his head
hauls his body up a foot at a time
and the sky is so beautiful
full of green fingers of pine
below clean clouds
the blue color of church windows
At the top in the church
racks of tiny candles
50 pesos each
burn for the dead
for the living
in that dark church
the moreno Christ looks darker
blood streaming down his arm
down his leg
The people think he is theirs
but the priest has wrapped him
in plastic to protect Christ's knees
from their wet kisses and dirty fingertips
They have crawled up here
their bloody knees burning
and like Christ they wear drops of sweat
on their foreheads and backs
Here they are in this high church
in their temple of trees
the sough of wind a music
the white and blue sky
church and Mary
a cleanness they desire
But Christ
the Chis of Sorrows
collapsed above the pulpit
leans on his arm
and can't raise his head
to look at them
They have left their crutches
their walking sticks
here for him
here for love
and think they will walk again
without their cross
Urchins pass through the pilgrims
as they arrive
looking for worshippers
blinded by tears
or tourists
snapping the worshipers
the urchins' faces hard
their eyes beady as Christ's








Finally, the last leg home, 300 miles to go, out of 2,500 traveled over ten days. As usual, mile by mile, the longest we traversed.



last leg home, Fort Stockton to San Antonio

from Fort Stockton,
first, flat mesa after flat mesa,
each spiked,
in this area of constant wind,
with turbines, so elegant and beautiful
against the sky, sharp, straight lines, vanes
turning slowly, alien, in a way,
like giant steel grasshoppers overlooking
the highway from every side, but still a marvel
of beauty and utility, promise
of a better cleaner future in this desert
where grit blown from giant coal-fired electric plants
in Mexico floats in a haze between
the mesas…

then flat for a while, a high plain between
Sonona and Ozona, a dry plain, little to see
in any direction but black creosote brush
and small mesquite, and an occasional hunting
stand high above the highway…

until a stop in Ozona for breakfast at Pepe’s,
off the expressway, on the road through town,
the only thing open, a small purple and gold stucco building,
inside walls covered with the owner/cook’s art,
everything from a copy of Warhol’s Marilyn
to creations from the artist’s own imagination, including
excellent eggs over easy and sausage, strong, rich,
coffee, the first since the weak brew at the hotel
a hundred and fifty miles back - a drive through town,
small city square with grand stone buildings
in the late nineteenth century Greco-Roman style
of important people and important places…

sic transit Gloria mundi…

past Ozona
and the high planes, entering
the long, steep inclines of the high Hill Country,
high rolling hills, highway cuts showing
the different colors of all the geologic ages
since the sea-covered beginning, limestone surface,
dark to light green, yellow, large chestnut (what the original
Crayolos called “Indian Red”) patches, like red-brown rust
stains across the hills, occasional deep red and white, the foliage
of central Texas in the fall…

then home, grass high, plants in the back, limp and brown
from ten days of inattention, things to do tomorrow -

but not today…







I have now two poems by Bruce Weigl. The poems are from his book, The Unraveling Strangeness, published in 2002 by Grove Press.

Weigl is the author of thirteen books of poetry, a memoir, three collections of criticism, translations (as sole or co-translator) of three books of poetry from the Vietnamese and one from the Romanian. He's received the Pushcart Prize twice, the Academy of American Poets Prize and fellowships from Bread Loaf, the Yaddo Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.



Black-and-Tan Dog

I hit a black-and-tan dog
with my car,
at night on a windy road
at 50 mph.
Thump, thump
was all that it said,sitting
strangely in the middle of my lane
like a suicide,
and it saw my eyes
in a moment
that I didn't want to
have with him,
so the next morning I drove back
to find who owned the dog,
and to say my grief
under gray autumn clouds
that hung so low
they seemed to want me. We
shift around from thing to thing
inside our minds. The geese
have come to rest
all over these cornfields.
There are so many,
like a blanket, but
on one home at the farmhouse,
where there's a bloodstain
in the road near the driveway
where the dog must have landed,
or where they had dragged it
earlier in the morning, and
stuck in the weedy ditch nearby
a homemade wrath of wildflowers
bound with a wire.
No one else in the car had seen the dog.
I was driving too fast.
It was sitting in the middle of the road.
There was no chance for me to stop.
I've played it over in my mind more than once, and
there was no chance for me to stop.


Meeting Mr. Death

You could say I
kept my cool
when I met Mr. Death.
I even made him
laugh
by offering my
hand to shake
in the bullet-torn
morning hours,
and then I said,
Are you looking for me
and he got the joke. Death
gets the joke
or else
our whole lies
are a lie and a waste.
He didn't take my hand,
but he laughed at my jokes
and he made me feel
welcome inside the grace
he still wore,
shawl of the ghostly
angel he had been
but could not remember.

Mr. Death,
he was hanging around some
pals of mine, some
boys of the unspeakable
rapture of war. He
could have had me that morning
too, when I looked away
to the monsoon-heavy
river
where the bodies
had come to rest
in the last eddies,
but he changed his mind.








Trip over, but post yet to finish. I'll end with a couple of poems I wrote before we left.



rainy day confabulations

summer’s
bitter days
washed away
in a night of lightning
and thundering
rain

which is both
wonderful
and true
but doesn’t
change the fact that
the old man at the table
across from me
has the shiniest bald head
I’ve ever seen, maybe the shiniest thing
I’ve seen since the spit-shined shoes
of my DI in basic training way back when,
really shiny shoes, that fellow maintained,
and expected us to do the same
but it was damn hard to do
making me wonder how the old guy
at the table keeps his head so shiny,
making me wonder if he requires his wife,
the very prim lady in purple, to spit-shin his head,
that’d be a sight to see,
unlikely, I know,
but the only way I know to get anything that shiny

…but
wait!

I think it must be shiny day
today
since a very tall older fellow
just walked in with the shiniest
hair I’ve ever seen, gunmetal gray
flowing back to his neck, shiny
as the barrel of a Colt 45 Gunsel
Grappler revolver like Sheriff Jimmie Mac
Wayne wore in the movie Gunsel Grappling
at Flat-Rock Creek Crossing Flats, or some such
cowboy
title…

really shiny hair
that fellow - I had fairly shiny hair
until I cut it all off, but not shiny like
this guy, dull shiny more like the hull of the
aircraft carrier USS Wisconsin
which I was on once and found amazing
though the only really shiny thing
on it was the teak deck which was deep brown,
shiny and beautiful…

perhaps I could grow my hair long again
and make it shiny like the tall fellow
or , maybe easier, clear it all away, even
the stubble that remains, shave my head
bald like the first fellow
and spit shine it, except I can’t do that myself
and don’t know anyone who’d do it for me, and
i know better
than to even ask
my dearly beloved to help on such a particular
task

what to do?
conundrum upon conundrum
this fine Sunday morning, refreshingly
though that, while I think about it, conjugate
the perimeters of the issue, collaborate
with my inner know-it-all, I can at least
watch it rain, which it has been doing now,
after a night of lightning and thundering
rain, for about six hours, and I’m wondering
about the man with the shiny bald head, does
the rain bead and run off like it does on a Windex
slippery window…

that’s what I like about Sundays, slow, quiet
mornings , with time to think about all sorts of things
usually unconsidered in the normal course
of a regular day








And, last this week from my library, two short poems by John Updike. The poems are from his book, Endpoint and Other Poems, published Knopf in 2009.



Stretch

What light is tenderer
than this of early February
at 5:05 p.m. or so,
just trying brightness out

The trash cans lie emptied
and cockeyed on the curb,
the trees in the little park
hold old snow in their shade,

but a bird's rude song pierces
the cloud of expectant twigs
while a real cloud turns magenta
in the newly prolonged blue.


TV

As if it were a tap I turn it on,
not hot or cold but tepid infortainment,
and out it gushes, sparkling evidence
of conflict, misery, concupiscence
let loose on little lashes, in remissions
of eager advertising that envisions
on our behalf the the better life contingent
upon some buy, some needful acquisition.

A sleek car takes a curve in purring rain,
a bone-white beach plays host to lotioned skin,
a diaper soothes a graying beauty's frown,
an unguent eases sedentary pain,
false teeth are brightened, beer enhances fun,
and rinsed hair hurls its ting across the screen:
these spurts of light are drunk in by my brain,
which sickens quickly, till it thirsts again.








And here it is, a final travel poem of a sort. Well, maybe uniquely of my sort. And my final poem of this week's post.



path to enlightment

I intend
to put my brain
on a leash this morning
because I’m thinking I want to be taken
seriously
as a poet and
adult human being
of the masculine persuasion
and nobody takes nobody serious
who’s always running off at the brain
like I’m prone to do,
chasing every little bushy-tailed squirrel
that happens to cross my path
to enlightenment,
meaning making it hard to get to the end
of that path,
difficult to find the enlightenment
that one naturally expects
of a human being
of the masculine persuasion
and a poet to boot

never
even close

chasing squirrels
instead…

but, second-guessing myself,
something us chasing-every-squirrel types
rarely do, and
never without good cause,
I’m reconsidering my decision
to adopt the leash-constrained
mode, thinking to abandon
the chase for the mantle of seriousity
expected of poets and adult human beings
of the masculine persuasion
because there are advantages
to the chasing-every-squirrel
state of mind, like flushing out a bird
bath, getting rid of all the leaves and algae
and bird poop that collects in the presence
of birds and shallow water, giving it a good flush,
a good scraping out, leaving behind clear water,
water free of entrenched distraction, water
renown for it’s clear thinking, water that knows
its own mind - and I’m thinking that is a clear advantage
for the chasing-every-squirrel state of mind, because
how is one to find enlightenment when the path
is strewn with leaves and algae and philosophical bird
poop?

just won’t work…

if you want to find enlightenment
you have to clear the path, flush the pump,
like you flush a birdbath and that’s what a chasing-
every-squirrel state of mind, freed from the leash
and on the chase, is good for, stirring up such
a frenzy, a regular twister of misdirection
that blows
all the extraneous crap out of the way, leaving
a clear path, enlightenment
just over the next
rise…

seriously…








The end.

All the normal stuff here, and this


COMING IN NOVEMBER







POEMS

AT AN EBOOK RETAILER NEAR YOU

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