Bear Creek Road After Cold November Rain   Saturday, November 26, 2011





Regular stuff this week, poems and pictures and shameless promotions.



Joyce Sutphen
Grand Canyon, Early December
Canyon
Great Salt Lake
Fishing in New York


Me
and what a strange honor this is, she thinks

Jimmy Santiago Baca
From Meditations on the South Valley

Me
"Black Friday”

Gwendolyn Brooks
My Little “Bout-Town Girl
Strong Men, Riding Horses
The Bean Eaters


Me
rain in the hills and possibilities of other adventure

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan
Neighborhood
Counting Sheep
Her Words


Me
Bear Creek Road after cold November rain

From The Sound of Water
Basho, Buson, Issa

Me
about the three older men

Arunansu Banerjee
12 Haiku

Me
cowboys and indians

Andrey Voznesensky
Autumn
First Ice


Me
unlike some, I’ve been born only once

Jorie Graham
Spoken from the Hedgerows

Me
this old bed

Victor Hernandez Cruz
An Essay on William Carlos Williams

Me
a gentle and polite sort of non-believer

Zbigniew Herbert
Three Poems by Heart

Me
a minor poet explains it all

From Till I End My Song
Stevie Smith
Black March
William Carlos Williams
The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image

Me
big news in the astrophysical world

Wendy Barker
Three Poems in Dead Winter

Me
From Places and Spaces (Publication pending)
spring storm
home court









I begin this week with poems by Joyce Sutphen. The poems are from her book Straight Out of View, published by Beacon Press and winner of the 1994 Barnard New Women Poets Prize. At the time the book was published Sutphen lived in Minnesota.

Timely news - I just read today that Sutphen has been named the new poet laureate of Minnesota.



Grand Canyon, Early December

There they are on the North Rim
of the Grand Canyon. NOtice that
his hair was longer than hers.
It was almost Christmas, and
they thought they might drive up
to St. Paul after they had a look
at this archipelago, tis purple-
throated ocean of canyon and cliff.
It was cold and they slept
along the way, entirely avoiding L.A.
(they had never been to there
and like saying that they didn't care).
Just outside of San Francisco,
they picked up a hitch-hiker
and took him along to somewhere
past Needles, Arizona. It's hard
to remember now,but it seems they had
to turnover some food at the state line:
tomatoes? apples maybe? They filled
the gas tank and drove along the blue-black
highway until they felt pulled to that place.
He stood for a long time on the rim
in that way he had: close to the edge,
zenlike in his solitude. (Oh, if she
had only taken this a a warning,
but her motto then was to ignore all clues,
make all moves as randomly as possible,
and never try to understand.) The view was,
she thought (and knew the echo), satisfactory:
the glass and silver river snaking through the
canyon bottom, the violet-tinged
gorge of scar that made her wonder:
What meteor was it slammed its fiery fist
into earth's smooth face? What terrible,
titanic angel reclined his limbs
in the slaking, new-made planet
and beat his pinioned wings
deep and deeper into the rock?


Canyon

And I,who feared the ledge, the rim, the scrimmed edge,
where you would stand storklike, your right foot
resting on your left

As you looked out,over the vast deep canyon,
the titanic expanse of rainbowed rock,
I now th this high-wire act,

Leaning to center my weight over the sag of thin line,
willing myself into the clenched pose of one
who walks without a net.

to do this is a kind of craziness - I wrench forward
with every step, to frightened to see
the birds flying under my feet,

Deafened by the roar of blood in my ear, I cannot
hear your voice telling me to touch the clouds.
I don not touch the clouds.

Gravity fils my bones and runs in my veins.
Descending, I taste time, layer by layer.
It tastes like nothing.

Now I can meditate upon the barren bones of the years,
the purple of gaudy days, sinking into
the hourglass of ocean

Stretching farther than horizon, moving with
motionless crashing, the wisest wave
that never breaks.

Only a whisper comes back to the ledge
when I remember how I walked on air,
the future underfoot.


Great Salt Lake

The clouds on the horizon brought
a storm later that night, but here
they are lovely,rubbing their dark
knuckles over the yellow dunes,
flickering slivers of lightning
into the sage-green water.
Plagues of midges sweep the salt-white beach;
coppered snakes swirl in the silken lake.

Still we go in. We make this one
pilgrimage, and though we try to sink,
we stay afloaat. We sit cross-legged
in the water, supported by ropy
fingers that leave ghost traces
on our skins. We think we hear
a choir singing. Eventually we grow
tired of skimming the surface
and wash the brine from out bodies.

Night, we roll into sleep
and dream of coyotes, of rattlers,
of door handles breaking off
in our hands, the brittle
chrome of our first fears


Fishing New York

Here, while dogs bark
in the bottle-green air
of lonely, I hold my pen
like a three-barbed hook
tied to the reel of thoughts
drifting through
the deep of me.

Away
the flickering
nylon goes,
from out my
winding heart,
and I
wonder what I might
catch: what baited
revelation
might I haul
into this, my
rocking.

When I sleep,
I dream the city.
I put a finger
in its gray navel
and peel away the skin.
What next I touch,
trees and birds
erupt through
the cement.
I make a stringer
of the things I catch.








OK, it's over. Let's get this Thanksgiving business over so we can move on to Santamas.



and what a strange honor this is, she thinks

printer and patriot,
portly ol’ Ben Franklin
thought

the wild
waddling turkey
should be the symbol

of our country, celebrated
throughout all the various parts
of our great United States of America…

poor bewildered fowl
for one day a year
she is

and
what a strange honor this is,
she thinks








Next I have poems by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from his semi-autobiographical book Martin & Meditations on the South Valley, 1987 recipient of the American Book Award for poetry published by New Directions. The book includes two complete series of poems. My poems this week are from about mid-way through the second series, "Meditations on the South Valley."

Baca was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1952. Abandoned by his parents at the age of two, he lived with one of his grandparents for several years before being placed in an orphanage. He wound up living on the streets, and at the age of twenty-one he was convicted on charges of drug possession and incarcerated. He served six years in prison, four of them in isolation. During this time, Baca taught himself to read and write, and he began to compose poetry. A fellow inmate convinced him to submit some of his poems to Mother Jones magazine, then edited by Denise Levertov. Levertov printed Baca's poems and began corresponding with him, eventually finding a publisher for his first book.

A self-styled "poet of the people," Baca conducts writing workshops with children and adults at countless elementary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, reservations, barrio community centers, white ghettos, housing projects, correctional facilities and prisons from coast to coast.



X

Barrio Southside
used to be called
Los Ranchos de Atrisco
eighty years ago. Before that,
Rio Abajo. Names change.

Dawn arrives,
shimmering like a hammered tin santito,
dangling from a viga portal, tic-tic,
clicking in the breeze against stucco & adobe.

I study the faces of boys
playing in dirt yards,
and see Cuauhtemoc-images
that reflect gold-cuts
engraved on medallions
in Spanish museums.

Vatos,
eyes sleek with dreams,
lounge on porches
reading the flight of geese
above the Rio Grande,
look like Netzahualcoyotl.

And thrashing out from the bosque's
wall of trees and wild bushes,
see a man in threadbare clothing,
work-worn muscles,
eyes weathered as war-drum skins,
his skin glowing with sweat
like rain on old rocks,
and here you see
a distant relative
of Aztec warriors.


^^^


XI

Things change.
Pseudo Spanish-style apartments
now loom on the east mesa.
Used to be land grant tierra.
Now retired Texas ranchers park
their Revcon travel-homes,
pampering them like prize bulls.

The other morning
Mr. Churner's grandson came to visit him.
Mr. Churner shouldered a saw-horse
out to the parking-lot
next to his chromed bull,
and tottering on new boots, he threw
the rope six times, missing the imagined cow,
and his grandson walked to retrieve
the rope six times,
watching his grandfather's face redden
with each to toss.
Slumped shouldered, wobbly footed,
angular old withering cowboy,
Mr. Churner turns, shouldering the saw-horse
back onto the apartment patio.
Sipping his tea in his lawn chair,
in his face I see a man who scowls,
          "I made a goddamn mistake,
          selling out. Hell, I'd give anything,
          for a nice, cold, tall
          glass of well water."


^^^


XII

I am remembering the South Valley.
Rain smacked tin-roofs
like an all night passenger train,
fiery flames of moon flashing
from the smoke stack.
Beneath the rain shaded sky,
faint surge of rain pulsing down my windows,
rain's blue mouth curling around everything.
          I dream
myself maiz root
swollen in pregnant earth,
rain seeping into my black ones
sifting red soil grains of my heart
into earth's hungry mouth.

I am part of the earth.


^^^


XIII

Antonio, you want to say something
with your polished brown-wood eyes.
Your legs bend to steady you
on the unseen horse. You turn your head back
to see me, then go
into red hills of sunlight
in the backyard, down curving paths
of moss and fire,
awake the sleeping Goddess of Dirt,
to plant your yellow flower soul
in her mouth
with a stick.

My son,
          your eyes
are music storms,
filled with the black song of earth,
your heart's reddened eyes
peers at a blue alfalfa flower,
glowing with your destiny.


^^^


XIV

El Pablo was a bad dude.
Presidente of the River Rats
(700 strong), from '67 to '73.
Hands so fast
he could catch two flies buzzing
in air, and still light his cigarette.
From a flat foot standing position
he jumped to kick the top of a door jamb
twice with each foot.
Pants and shirt ceased and cuffed,
sharp pointy shoes polished to black glass,
El Pachucon was cool to t he bone, brutha.
His initials were etched
on Junior HIgh School desks,
Castaneda's Meat Market walls,
downtown railway bridge,
on the red bricks of Civic Auditorium,
Uptown & Downtown,
El Pachucon left his mark.
Back to the wall, legs crossed, hands pocketed,
combing his greased-back ducktail
when a jaine walked by. Cool to the huesos.
Now he's a janitor at Pajarito
Elementary School -
          still hangs out
          by the cafeteria, cool to the bone,
          el vato
          still wears his sunglasses,
          still proud,
he leads a new gang of neighborhood parents
to the Los Padilla Community Center
to fight against polluted ground water,
against Developers who want to urbanize
his rural running grounds

Standing in the back of the crowd
last Friday, I saw Pablo stand up
and yell at the Civic Leaders from City Hall.

          Listen cuates, you pick your weapons
          We'll fight you on any ground you pick."








And what's the first step to Santamas, "Black Friday," of course.



Black Friday

no sense
looking for profundity
today

assume instead
another day of
excess
following the excess
of the day before

predators
stalking the retail
worlds
of gotta buy, gotta
buy…

don't -
whatever other mistakes
you make today -
don’t get in the way
as tattooed fat ladies
in flip-flops mill at the gates,
snort through flared nostrils the
flame and the acrid smoke
of greed unleashed,
primed for the chase, don’t -
whatever other stupid thing you do today -
don’t be the underweight
gazelle ,
crushed between the jaws
of rapacious mania,
caught innocent-eyed
between the slavering herd,
blood high, hot, and burning bright
with intent on more weighty
prey

stand
on the sidelines,
if you must observe
the bloodlust rampant, and
observer how quickly
all that peace and love and
thank you lord for all the blessing
upon us horse hockey you assumed
with such guiless piety yesterday
dissipates
in the very early morning
when the doors open early
for Black Friday sales…

it’s a grim world we live in
when the hunter
gets the scent of fresh kills
waiting

enter it
at your peril








Here are three poems by Gwendolyn Brooks from her book of Selected Poems, published by Harper and Row, first in 1963, my edition in 1999.

Born in 1917, Brooks was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985. She died in 2000.



My Little 'Bout-Town Girl

My little 'bout-town gal has gone
'Bout town with powder and blue dye
On her pale lids and on her lips
Dy sits quite carminely.

I'm scarcely health-hearted or human
What can I teach my cheated Woman?

My Tondeleyo,my black blonde
Will not be homing soon.
None shall secure her save the late the
Detective fingers of the moon.


Strong Men, Riding Horses

Lester after the Western


Strong Men,riding horses. In the West
On a range five hundred miles. A Thousand. Reaching
From dawn to sunset. Rested blue to orange.
From hope to crying. Except the Strong Men are
Desert-eyed. Except that the Strong men are
Pasted to stars already. Have their cars
Beneath them. Rentless, too. Too broad of chest
To shrink when the Rough Man hails. Too flailing
To redirect the Challenger, when the challenge
Nicks; slams; buttonholes. Too saddled.

I am not like that. I pay rent, am addled
by illegible landlords, run, if robbers call.

What mannerisms I present, employ,
Are camouflage, and what my mouths remark
To word-wall off that broadness of the dark
Is pitiful.
I am not brave at all.


The Bean Eaters

They eat beans mostly; this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two have have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering...
Remembering, with twinkings and twinges,
As the lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full
     of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco
     crumbs,vases and fringes.








Rain! Who cares about plans for the day.



rain in the hills and possibilities of other adventures

had some plans today
to take a drive
in the hills, take some pictures

- everything’s crazy in the hills
this year, everything green,
trees and grass that should be
bare or brown, green as
St. Pat’s Day beer; delayed
cold and late rain after long, dry
summer, botany and meteorology
in a dance of chromological confusion
leaving green when green
should be
last month’s news -

but it’s raining
cats and at least a dog
or two, and I drove yesterday
and the day before (600 miles, total)
and do I really want to drive some more
today, I’m asking myself and besides
it’s raining, dogs and at least a cat or two
and what kind of pictures can I take
in the rain except rain pictures which
might be a treat, some moody rain on the hills
pictures, dark, mysterious, hillbilly-noir, rain
pouring from a dark and cloudy sky, running
down the hillsides, driblets becoming gushes,
dry creek beds filling up to their inner
rushing rage, tiny fish, warty frogs swimming,
galumping ahead of the flood, fleeing the tumult
less the fishes drown, the frogs croak

and upon continued thinking, even considering
the long drives yesterday and the day before,
this drive today sounds like fun, as long as it
doesn’t stop raining before I get there

but I’m delayed in my departure,
mind stuck on the three middle-aged men
and two young women, sitting in the booth
in front of me, talking middle-aged me talk
in which the young women pretend to be engrossed,
which, as an outside observer, I find pretty damn
hard to believe, maybe just my dirty mind,
maybe possibly more interesting than
rain in the hills and croaking frogs and drowning
gophers and all - maybe possibly thinking about them
will be my adventure for tomorrow…

Let’s all wait and see...








Next, three short poems by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, from her first full-length collection, Parties, published in 1988 by Louisiana State University Press.

Born in Atlanta in 1939, Morgan graduated from Hollins University in Roanoke in 1960 and moved to Richmond, where she taught English and creative writing for many years at St. Catherine's School, an Episcopal preparatory school for girls. She earned a master of fine arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and has taught poetry writing at the University of Richmond, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, and served as the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University.



Neighborhood

I jerk awake at dawn to snarls.
Guttural, dangerous. In my yard
three dogs are tearing up my cat.

They stretch her to three points above the grass,
bend their necks between their stiff front legs,
shake her with their teeth.

I charge out in my nightgown,
wave my bare arms as if I held weapons.

Oh no,I just think so. Motionless
I stand at the window and watch them finish.

Two lope off across my lawn and down the street.
The third trots home next door
where the family calls him Caleb

They've trained him to come when they whistle,
to leap and catch sticks in midair.


Counting Sheep

The drunk in the kitchen is MOther.
The dry metal crack is the ice tray.
The long liquid silence is whiskey.
the spigot's quick gush is the water.
The cupboard doors ganging is searching.
The one-sided talking is pleading.
The God-damning sobbing is praying.
The dry metal crack is the ice tray.
The drunk in the kitchen is Mother.


Her Words

Mother wrote words
on the torn-off margins of magazines,
then she held each scrap
to the flame of her lighter.

Writing and burning,
drinking bourbon,
she sat all night at the counter
writing and burning in the fluorescent kitchen.

One morning I turned off the light
and claimed two-black edged fragments
from the ashtray. One said sham, the other Go.
Maybe shame or God, or maybe not.

When I asked, she shrugged
and never left another sign.
In daylight I find the glass
ashtray racked with the dishes.

Mother stands at the stove, stirring soup,
her glasses opaque with steam.
She talks about nothing
that makes any difference.

When she wipes her glasses and turns
to me, her eyes are edged with ashes.
She looks straight through the light
naming something that I cannot see.








Bear Creek Road after cold November rain

enough rain
to leave puddles
across the narrow
asphalt road
but not so much
as to rouse the creeks

blue sky
over trees still dripping
from the rain, cold November
wind pushes the collar
of my coat against the back
of my neck

and rattles dead trees, those still standing
their dry limbs moaning in the wind

- oak blight
stripping the hills tree by tree,
leaving a skeletal forest
across the stone-scattered
cactus-cluttered
ground,
stick-figures,
bare arms to the sky,
above the limestone outcroppings
that buttress
sharp ridges rising
on either side of the road -

dead trees, pockets of desolation
scar the landscape, black
and white patches amid surviving
oak and mesquite and cypress,
overlooking valley pastures
sheep and goats and cattle
graze,
fenced around
with stones pulled
hand by hand
stone by stone
to make the pasture
soft and smooth

the largest stones from the fields
taken for the large houses,
built, like the pastures
and fences, over many years
hand by hand, stone by stone...

the Germans who brought the
cattle and sheep and goats,
persistent pioneers, left the green
fields
of home for this, knowing,
even as they looked at this
land so different from the one they left,
so unlike what they had expected,
what had been promised to them
in the new Texas nation,
that they were here to stay, did what they
needed to do, made peace with the Comanche,
hoed the stones from their fields,
damned small rivers to make gristmills
to grind their scanty wheat crops
into flour, bred animals to flourish in
the scorching heat of summer, the freezing
north winds of winter, long dark nights
alone, harsh burning sun during the day…

they came to settle these hills
and small towns like Comfort, (try to imagine
the comfort of having this little place
to come to when the days and nights
got long and sun burning, the night sounds
strange), little Comfort, downtown, four
blocks of old stone buildings, and in
the center a large stone tablet standing upright,
six feet or more tall, a memorial
to the German Free thinkers who settled these hills
and this little town,
believers in reason and science, seeking
a new country where religious freedom included
freedom from the dogmas and schisms of religion…

it was hard people who brought European life
to these hills, I know, for some of them were my
ancestors and I’ve seen their portraits, still-necked
and stone-faced, tough as the land they
bet their lives and fortunes on

***

the creeks
are scant but running glass clear
along stone creek beds, worn smooth
by the flow of time and slow moving water,
life in the hills,
hard,
but still it flows








Next, I have several poems from the masters of classical Japanese poetry. The poems are haiku from the book The Sound of Water, a tiny little book published in 1995 by Shambhala Publications.

All poems in the book were translated by Sam Hamill.



The first of the poets is Basho


A solitary
crow on a bare branch -
autumn evening

~~

Exhausted,I sought
a country inn, but found
wisteria in bloom

~~

Seen in plain daylight
the firefly's nothing but
an insect

~~

Long conversations
beside blooming irises -
joys of life on the road


The second poet is Buson

A lightning flash -
the sound of water drops
falling through bamboo

~~

Moon in midsky,high
over the village hovels
and wandering on

~~

With no underrobes,
bare butt suddenly exposed -
a gust of spring wind

~~

A long hard journey,
rain eating down the clove
like a wanderer's feet


And the last poem, Issa


Thus spring begins: old
stupidities repeated,
new errs invented

~~

Just beyond the gate,
a neat yellow hole -
someone pissed in the snow

~~

For you too, my fleas,
the night passes so slowly.
But you won't be lonely

~~

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle








Back the story from a couple of poems ago.



about the three older men

about the three
older men
and the two young
women
mentioned earlier...

the men,
easily twenty-five to thirty
years elder to the women,
looked like coaches,
and the women, come to think of it,
had the long, lean look of
athletes,
so it could be the kink
that so entertained me
is in my own mind and not in events
previously or soon to transpire

that is a great disappointment
to me,
for my less than fresh mind
feasts
on imaginations
of older men, maybe even
old men, alive with the passions
of young women -
forgive us, ladies, young
and not, it’s a genetic survival
of the speciess thing
with men, fear that our species continuation roles
diminished, we might be deemed
obsolete,
tossed aside, banished from the tribe,
and while we know better than anyone
the increasing range of our limitations,
we are not deterred,
no matter, we seek always to maintain
the illusion, no matter
how old we get, we are ever loath
to give up
the pretence
of our own virility and sex
appeal

and it is the certainty
that the women of the world,
all the women of the world,
are waiting for us - such thoughts,
such delusions, the only thing
that keeps us from falling
facedown dead
into our morning bowl of
porridge








You've read the classical haiku masters earlier. Next, I have several modern haiku by my poet friend from India, Arunansu Banerjee. Born in West Bengal, he's been writing poetry only a few years, but has published in a number of journals. He is a teacher by profession, with a degree in physics and a specialty in softwares. He says his primary love is listening to Indian Classical music, while his favorite poets include and eclectic mix of Charles Bukowski, John Keats, Rabindranath Tagore, E.E.Cummings, Li Po, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda and Matsuo Basho, all of which, by the way, have appeared in "Here and Now."

Arunansu has caught the essence of haiku in his offerings, beyond the line and syllable count, he goes to the essence of the haiku, poems of the moment, the universal and eternal now.



1.

a murky
anniversary morning--
the red table cloth

2.

our third date
she studies my
palm lines

3.

toying with
pressed rose petals
early winter wind

4.

summer end--
the fan blade knocks off
a butterfly

5.

dinnertime
at the hospital, I wait
for sedatives

6.

at the crossroads
a tramp speaking to himself
my lost poem

7.

shadows
bringing back the anguish
winter without you

8.

summer …
village boys plunging
into the pond

9.

the pensive face
peeled off a tree trunk—
autumn…

10.

the hospital smell
still following me
their forced smiles

11.

the new sedative…
she disappears behind
a veil of thick mist

12.

hospital window—
firecrackers lighting up
Diwali sky








The next poem is from my first book Seven Beats a Second, published in 2005. The book is available on Amazon and at my website, www.7beats.com.



cowboys and indians

redskins on the warpath
whooping
chasing cowboys
across
bonyback ridge
down
sidewinder trail
past
that same big saguaro cactus

look
there it goes again


war bonnets streaming
cowboy hats flapping
in the wind
shooting forward
shooting back
whooping
horses falling
goddamn
ain't
it fun to be
a movie star









Next I have poems by Russian poet Andrey Voznesensky, from the book
Voznesensky - Selected Poems
, published in 1966 by Hill and Wang, with translation by Herbert Marshall.

Voznesensky, born in 1933 in Moscow, USSR, died in 2010 in Moscow, Russia, a measure of the extent of change in his lifetime.

He was one of the Soviet Union's boldest and most celebrated young poets of the 1950s and 60s who helped lift Russian literature out of its state of fear and virtual serfdom under Stalin. He was also known for the popular rock-opera Juno and Avos, which was made into best-selling video-movie. Before his death he was both critically and popularly proclaimed "a living classic", and "an icon of Soviet intellectuals."



Autumn

To S. Schipachov

Ducks' wings flapping and flopping.
And on the paths of the forest darkening
The last brief shimmer of cobwebs,
The last spokes of a bicycle sparkling.

And following the example they give,
At the last house you'll knock for leave-taking.
In the house a woman lives
But for supper no husband's awaited.

She'll fling back the latch for me,
Against my jacket rubbing her cheek,
She'll hold out her mouth laughingly.
And suddenly limp, will understand everything -
Understand the autumnal summons of the fields,
The break-up of families, seed-flight and yield....

Quivering and young
She will think about how
Even the apple tree bears fruit,
A calf is born to the old brown cow.

And that life ferments in the hollow of oaks,
In meadows, in houses, in the windswept woods.
For them - to shoot into ears, to bell and troat.
For her - to lament and grieve and brood.

How those lips whisper burningly:
"What are my hands, my breasts, my shoulders for?
What I live for and stoke the stove
And go to my daily chores?"

I take her by the shoulders tight -
I don't know myself what it means at all...
Through the glass the first frost falls
And the fields like aluminum lie.
Across the black - across the grey,
right up to the railway line
Stretch out tracks of footprints - mine.


First Ice

A girl in a phone box is freezing cold,
Retreating into her shivery coat.
Her face in too much make-up's smothered
With grubby tearstains and lipstick smudges.

Into her tender palms she's breathing.
Fingers - ice lumps. In earlobes - earrings.

She goes back home, alone, alone,
Behind her the frozen telephone.

First ice. The very first time.
First ice of a telephone conversation.

On her cheeks tear traces shine -
First ice of human humiliation.








Tuesday morning musings.



unlike some, I’ve been born only once

unlike some
I've been born only
once
and seeing as how
I feel like I made a pretty good
show
out of that one shot, feel
no need to be born
again

even though I recognize that,
on a deeper level
i am a being of universal elements,
and thus certain to be born
again
as I have been born
before uncountable, uncountable times
for the parts that make me
are as old as the universe
and so must be all the things
I’ve been, things
near to home and faraway-lost
in the vast
unknown regions where stardust
still drifts -
vastly travelled are my parts
so vastly travelled I must be as well, so
varied and old and well-travelled,
I am a marvel

look around you at the vast everything-ness
that we are, have been, and will be
a part of and
consider how marvellous I am
and you as well

sometimes I think of the me that was a
daffodil,
how beautiful I was, much more
beautiful than I am now
though rooted and consequently
less curious than the proto-cat I was,
roaming with early felines
newly-created to hunt the me
that was the deer, or the beaver,
or the small mouse, hidden in high grasses,
or the grass I might have been or the wiggling
worm that fertilized the grass-of-me with my
worm droppings...

so many places I’ve been; so many beings
I’ve been, so much more than twice
born am I; so much more than twice-born
will I be in the millennia ahead,
so much more to be,
so much longer to be them,
I can only imagine those who think of themselves
as more limited must be so very
jealous








I have a poem by Pulitzer Prize winner, Jorie Graham, from her book Overlord, published by HarperCollins in 2005.

Born in New York City in 1950, raised in Rome, Graham studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, but was expelled for participating in student protests. She completed her undergraduate work as a film major at New York University. After working as a secretary, she later went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She the first woman to be appointed as Boylston Professor at Harvard. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1996 for The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 and was chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.



Spoken from the Hedgerows

I was Floyd West (1st Division) I was born in Portia Arkansas Feb 6
1919 We went through Reykjavik Iceland through the North Atlantic through the
                         wolf packs

That was 1947 I was Don Whitsitt I flew a B-26 bomber
Number 131657 called the Mississippi Mudcat I was a member of

The 387th Bomb Group and then later the 559th Bomb
Squadron. Picked up the Mudcat in Mt. Clemens Michigan
Flew over our whole group four squadrons sixteen planes each
from Hunter Field at Savannah Georgia then to Langley Field at

Norfolk Virginia from there to Grenier Field at Manchester New Hampshire
In each place stayed a day or two
From Grenier went on port of embarkation
which was Presque Isle, Maine, then started across, first to Goose Bay, Labrador,

then to Bluie West One, Greenland, then over the cap to
Mick's Field Iceland. Made landfall at Stornoway,Scotland, from there
down to Prestwick, north London, finally Station 162 at Chipping
Ongar. My name was Dan, 392nd Squadron of the 367th Fighter Group


March 21 boarded the Duchess of Bedford in NY,
an old English freighter which had been converted
to bring over the load of German prisoners, whom we replaced

going back to England. Slept below decks in hammocks.
April 3rd arrived at Scotland, and, following a beautiful trip through
the country arrived at Stoney Cross, ten miles from the Channel -
it was a beautiful moonlit night. I was known as Bob. I was in
D Company. My number was 20364227. I was born Feb 3,
1925, Bistol,Tennessee. We embarked on the HMS

Queen Mary, stripped, painted dull gray, hammocks installed with
troops sleeping in shifts. The Queen was capable of making twenty-eight knots
and therefore traveled unescorted, since it could outrun any

sub. Walter, given name, 29th Division. We crossed on the Queen Mary. The
swimming pool was covered over, that's where most of us slept.
My name was Alan, Alan Anderson, 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery. I was given


birth November 1,1917,Winchester,Wisconsin. They took us to
Fort Dix for England. We took the northern route in the extreme rough sea of
January. It was thought this would confuse the

German subs. It didn't exactly work that way.
A convoy ahead of us by a few days was hit, many ships sank.
I saw the bodies of so many sailors and soldiers floating by us

with all the other debris and ice on the water. The name given me
was John, born September 13, '24, in Chattanoga, but raised
in Jacksonville. I was a person, graduated high school in '42,

crossed over on the Ile de France, a five-decker, ten thousand on board.
They loaded over twenty on the Queen Mary
there on the other side of the pier. My name was Ralph, Second Class Pharmacist's Mate,
july 4 received orders to Norfolk. There's no describing

crossing the Atlantic in winter. We couldn't stay in our bunks
without being strapped in and fastened to metal pipes on
each side. We had one meal a day. My name, Robert, was put to me

in Atchison, Kansas, United States, August 15, 1916, year of the

Lord we used to figure on, there, in the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion,
which we arrive Liverpool, england January 8 1944. It rained every day.
From there we were taken to the town of Paignton. The authorities

would go down the road, and the truck would stop, and they'd say
"All right, three of you out here" and they'd march you to a house and say to
                         the owner,
"all right, these are your Americans. They are going to be staying with you."








The next poem is from my second book, my first ebook, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony eBook store and the Apple iBookstore.



this old bed

i sleep
on the bed
where my father
was born
ninety five years ago,
second child of Celeste
and August
amid rocky hills
and pecan and oak and
flowing streams
in the little
Texas-German town
of Fredricksburg


i sleep
on the bed
that has slept my family
through two world wars
a cold war
and multiple wars of lesser scope,
through twenty Presidents
of the United States,
some wise,
some not,
some equal
to the needs of their time,
some not,
through musical genres
from ragtime
to hip-hop,
through prohibition
and bathtub gin,
through the gilded age
the jazz age,
normalcy,
fire bombing,
atom bombing,
getting bombed
in the suburbs
and getting sober
with AA,
through seven presidential
assassination attempts,
death
in Dallas,
death
on the launch pad,
death
in near earth orbit,
Kitty Hawk
to men on the moon,
the cries of the dead
from famine,
from genocide
from indifference
of the ruling class,
through Bull Connor
and his police dogs,
through King
and his dreams
and his death
on a motel balcony,
to Barack Obama
and the triumph
of dreams,
through the triumph
of good
and the reemergence
of evil,
the cycle played out
over and over again
in the days of yellow
journalism, through
Murrow and Cronkite
and Brinkley and Huntley
on radio and TV
and on the web,
Wikipedia fact
and Wikipedia fancy,
truth swaying
on a tumbling pedestal,
lies flying in the wind,
opinionators,
blowhards,
conspiracists,
plain racists,
and everyday bloody
fools
through it all,
all the times of reaping
and sowing,
the bed has calmed the nights
through three generations
of sleep and passion
and midnight dreams,

waiting now
for the final sleep
of this generation
and the lying down
to rest of the next








The next poem, a tribute to William Carlos Williams, is by Victor Hernandez Cruz. It from his book Red Beans. I've used the poem here before, but it so perfectly describes why Williams is my favorite poet second only to Whitman, that I like to go back to it now and again. The opening lines to the poem describe what I like best about Williams and what I try mot to emulate in my own poems.

I love the quality of the
spoken thought
As it happens immediately
uttered in to the air


Cruz was born in 1949 in the small mountain town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to the United States in 1954 with his family and attended high school in New York. Winner of numerous honors and awards for his poetry, he is a co-founder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York and the Before Columbus Foundation and a former editor of Umbra Magazine. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego, San Francisco State College, and the University of Michigan.



An Essay on William Carlos Williams

I love the quality of the
spoken thought
As it happens immediately
uttered into the air
Not held inside and rolled
around for some properly
schemed moment
Not sent to circulate a cane
field
Or on a stroll that would include
the desert and Mecca
Spoken while it happens
Direct and pure
As the art of salutation
of mountain campesinos come to
the plaza
The grasp of the handshake upon
encounter and departure
A gesture unveiling the occult
behind the wooden boards of
your house
Remarks show no hesitation
to be expressed
The tongue itself carries
the mind
Pure and sure
Sudden and direct
like the appearance
of a green mountain
Overlooking a town.








I'm the guy in the corner, wondering what all the fuss is about.



a gentle and polite sort of non-believer

I am not
one of those fire-breathing
radical atheist,
rather a non-believer of a more
gentle sort

I just don’t believe in
magic, though I know
many people do
so I try not to offend
or discomfort them with the honesty
of my own inclinations

a careful practitioner
of lies-of-omission
am I

so
why do I always have to put up with
people pushing their
prestiggieo!
poof!
fantasies off on me

no, thank you, but I'd really rather not be blessed
today

no, thank you, I don’t want to join you in worship
at your
local tax-exempted
church/temple/mosque
next Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday
whenever

no, thank you, I don’t want to join you for
potluck dinner and sermons
at your Holy Temple of the Hotdish

and, please don’t tell me I’m going to hell
cause, truth to tell, from my own earthly
observation,
eternity with all my old best friends
doesn’t sound so bad,
and surely better
than endless harp-plucking
in a heaven where there is no beer
(I’m told)
eternity on a cloud
with all the people I do my best
to avoid here among the blood and blowing dust
of home<

etcetera

etcetera



I’m going to the library
instead, going
to see a short film on
Charles Darwin
and the future of the one-cell
organism,
guaranteed no magic required,
just common sense and a
$2 donation to the
library fund…

you could go with me if you want…

maybe we could go for drinks later,
a place I know,
high-life hooting
and occasionally wanton
philosophies abounding…

worship together,
we could,
at the alter
of humanity and a free
and unbowed
spirit,
set subservience aside
and celebrate life, our lives
while we have them,
so much grander than anyone’s
soul-squelching, self-appointed
celestial
Boss-Of-It-All

but I would never
offend
by saying such a thing out loud
since I’m but a gently
and polite
sort
of non-believer…

really…








My next poem is by Zbigniew Herbert, from the collection Elegy for the Departed, and other poems which includes a complete collection of the poet's work from 1950 to 1990, including poems never before published in English. The book was published by The Ecco Press in 1999. The poems were translated from Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter.

Herbert was born in 1924, in a area of eastern Poland that is now a part of the Ukraine. His grandfather was an Englishman who came to Lvov to teach English and his father, a former member of the Legions that had fought for restoration of Poland's independence, was a bank manager. His formal education began in Lvov where he was born and continued under German occupation in the form of clandestine study at the underground King John Casimir University, where he majored in Polish literature. He was a member of the underground resistance movement. In 1944, he moved to Krakow, and three years later he graduated from the University of Krakow with a master's degree in economics. He also received a law degree from Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun and studied philosophy at the University of Warsaw.

During the 1950s he worked at many low-paying jobs because he refused to write within the framework of official Communist guidelines. After widespread riots against Soviet control in 1956 brought about a political "thaw," Herbert became an administrator at the Union of Polish Composers and published his first collection.

In addition to his own writing, Herbert was co-editor of a poetry journal, Poezja, from 1965 to 1968 but resigned in protest of anti-Semitic policies. He traveled widely through the West and lived in Paris, Berlin and the United States, where he taught briefly at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Herbert died in 1998, in Warsaw.



Three Poems by Heart

I
I can't find the title
of a memory about you
with a hand torn from darkness
I step on fragments of faces

soft friendly profiles
frozen into a hard contour

     circling above my head
     empty as a forehead of air
     a man's silhouette of black paper

II
living - despite
living - against
I reproach myself for the sin of forgetfulness

you left an embrace like a superfluous sweater
a look like a question

our hands won't transmit the shape of your hands
we squander them touching ordinary things

calm as a mirror
not mildewed with breath
the eyes will send back the question

every day I renew my sight
every day my touch grows
tickled by the proximity of so many things

life bubbles over like blood
shadows gently melt
let us not allow the dead to be killed -

perhaps a cloud will transmit remembrance -
a worn profile of Roman coins

III
the women on our street
were plain and good
they patiently carried from the markets
bouquets of nourishing vegetables

the children on our street
scourge of cats

the pigeons -
          softly gray

a Poet's statue was in the park
children would roll their hoops
and colorful shouts
birds sat on the Poet's hand
read his silence

on summer evenings wives
waited patiently for lips
smelling of familiar tobacco

     women could not answer
     their children: will he return
     when the city was setting
     they put out the fire with hands
     pressing their eyes

     the children on our street
     had a difficult death

     pigeons fell lightly
     like shot down air

now the lips of the Poet
form an empty horizon
birds children and wives cannot live
in the city's funereal shells
in cold eiderdowns of ashes

the city stands over water
smooth as the memory of a mirror
it reflects in the water from the bottom

and flies to a high star
where a distant fire is burning
like a page from the Iliad








This poem is from my second eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around, available, as are all my eBooks, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony eBookstore and Apple iBookstore.



a minor poet explains it all

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

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

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

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

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








Japanese poetry has a tradition of "death poems" - poems written by the poet as he or she faced imminent death. Many poets actually wrote their death poems well before death, not wanting to be caught short when the moment came. Many others actually wrote their poems as the final moment approached. These are often the best poems, written with all the clarity or ultimate questions that the final end might bring.

There is no such tradition in western literature that I'm aware of, but I did find a book, Till I End My Song - A Gathering of Last Poems, edited by Harold Bloom and published in 2010 by HarperCollins, that approximates the impulse to record famous personages' last word. Unlike the Japanese tradition, these were not written in the face of death coming around the corner. In most cases, the poems just happen to be the last poem written before death called.

Here are two poems from the book.



The first poem is by Stevie Smith, born in 1902 and died in 1971.


Black March

I have a friend
At the end
Of the world.
His name is breath

Of fresh air.
He is dressed in
Grey chiffon. At least
I think it is chiffon.
It has a
Peculiar look, like smoke.

It wraps him round
It blows out of place
It conceals him
I have not seen his face.

But I have seen his eyes, they are
As pretty and bright
As a raindrop on black twigs
In March, and heard him say:

I am a breath
Of fresh air for you, a change
By and by.

Black March I call him
Because of his eyes
Being like March raindrops
On black twigs.

(Such a pretty time when the sky
Behind black twigs can be seen
Stretched out in one
Uninterrupted
Cambridge blue as cold as snow.)

But this friend
Whatever new name I give him
Is an old friend. He says:

Whatever name you give me
I am
A breath of fresh air,
A change for you.


The second poem is by William Carlos Williams, born in 1883 and died in 1963.


The World Contracted to a Recognizable Image

at the small end of an illness
there was a picture
probably Japanese
which filled my eye

an idiotic picture
except it was all I recognized
the wall lived for me in that picture
I clung to it as a fly








The next poem is from my latest eBook, Always To the Light, available at the major eBook retailers, just like the earlier eBooks.



big news in the astrophysical world

big news
in the astrophysical world
is the massive explosion some
12.2 billion light years
from our own little howdydoody home
from whence
we oft-times claim a place
as big-time Charlies
in the heavenly order of things,
even though, being only
8 light minutes from our own star
we call the sun
and 12 light minutes from the
furthermost
named object to circle that sun
with us, it is a very small neighborhood
we live in, with all our searching and
seeking,
we have yet to reach
even our own
front
gate

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
and thought he had circled the world,
such ignorance is to us denied and we
are better for it...
for it
lets us see
our true place, tiny bits of carbon base
in a vastness we can quantify
but not imagine,
little carbon dandies
important only in our doings
with our little carbon
fellows...

frankly
my dear, the rest of all that is
doesn't give a damn








My last poem from my library is by Wendy Barker, from her book Winter Chickens and Other Poems. The book was published in 1990 by Corona Publishing Co. of San Antonio.

Barker, born in 1942, is Poet-in-Residence and a professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she has taught since 1982. A widely published poet and translator, she received her B.A. and M.A. from Arizona State University and her Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of California at Davis.

Before teaching at UTSA, she taught high school English in Scottsdale, Arizona, between 1966–68 and in Berkeley, between 1968-72.



Three Poems in Dead Winter

1.
I wait for birds.
Prepared. Old field guide
and the new one,slick photographs.
All around are tidelands,
reeds like giant nests
tangling with dried grasses,
seeding shrubs.
I study the drawings of Goldeneyes,
Buffleheads.
The water is the color of asphalt.
On the surface of this cold pond
I can't even see
the reflection of my own face.

2.
The knife blade is discolored.
Bread crumbs clutter
the edge, but it cuts clean,
cuts and orange right through.
The skin splits down
to the soft meat, juice, small tendons.
Seeds drop to the table,
we suck on the half-spheres,
leave them, orange, white, empty.

3.
Finches land in pairs
at the feeder.
You can hear small crunchings
as they crack
covers of seeds.
Their tongues are gray like gravel.
While their beaks work
their heads are upright.
Ready to leave.








In the earlier part of next year, I will be publishing a new eBook. The book's title will be Places and Spaces. It will be a book of five long travel poems from five of my road trips, bookended front and back by two short poems that I hope serve as an opening and closing to the book.

I finish off this week's post with those two bookender poems.



spring storm

clouds
dark as the devil’s black eyes
behind
as we race to clear skies
ahead




home court

there is pleasure
in travel
but comfort
in routine and the everyday

so
I’m back

second table from the rear,
by the window,
back to the river,
looking out on the corner
of Martin
and Soledad,
San Antonio, Texas

life
in the slow lane,
looking
for a poem
in all the old familiar places








That's it for another week. As usual everything in the post belongs to those who created. Anyone can have my stuff; just credit me and "Here and Now."

And in case anyone asks, I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and, as usual, I'm trying to sell a book or two.




Available for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Appple ibookstore -


"Always to the Light"




"Goes Around, Comes Around"




"Pushing Clouds Against the Wind"




And
For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon


"Seven Beats a Second"



The copies on Amazon are being sold, through prior agreement, by my publisher. Copies are available directly from me at my website, www.7beats.com. I can't compete with the Amazon price, but if purchased from me, I will include a copy of the CD chimeras, ideals, errors by the

Ray-Guhn Show Choir



I haven't done any maintenance on that website in a couple of years but you used to be able to hear a cut from the CD. Maybe you still can.

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Color Splash   Thursday, November 17, 2011





All as usual,good poems and photos. I played with the photos this week, using a feature on Photobucket called "Color Splash" that allows you to change your color photos to black and white, then, using a little paintbrush thing, return the original colors to places on the photo that you choose. It makes an interesting effect, and is really striking if done on the right photos. Maybe I did; maybe I didn't, but I did it anyway.



Here's this week's posse:


David Meltzer
Lamentation for Celine
Lamentation for Jack Spicer


Me
another few moments in the prosaic saga of me

Bobby Byrd
Motel Room
Traveling by Air
Body of Christ, Texas


Me
all fuzz-brained

Philip Larkin
High Windows
Forget What They Did


Me
deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009

From Poetry for the Earth
Basho
Year’s End
Anna Akhmatova
Tashkent Breaks into Blossoms
Walt Whitman
From Song of Myself
Alice Walker
On Sight

Me
just another artifact

From the Kanginshu
Six short songs

Me
time, liquid as a river, flows - as I wait

William Matthews
Night Driving
Eternally Undismayed Are the Poolshooters
Herd of Buffalo Crossing the Missouri on Ice


Me
boots, no saddle

From Spillway
Alex Richardson
Vacation
Bill Ransom
Catechista

Me
discovery

Federico Garcia Lorca
The Guitar
Riddle of the Guitar
Farewell
Gracela of the Bitter Root


Me
it is early, still, in our relationship

Octavio Paz
Night, Day, Night

Me
a real loss to poetry

Shirley Kaufman
Bread and Water
Snow in Jerusalem
"The World’s Longest Tramway" at Albuquerque


Me
spiders dancing

James Hoggard
Conception
Getting Groceries
By the Riverside Down


Me
thanks a bunch









First off this week,here a a couple of pieces by David Meltzer, from David's Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer, published in 2005 by Penguin Books.

Meltzer, born in 1937, is a poet and musician of the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance. He also a jazz guitarist, Cabalist scholar, and the author of more than 50 books of poetry and prose.



Lamentation for Celine

Dead the day Hemingway blew his brains out in Ketchum.

Celine died of contagious poison
crawled on hands & knee3s to our plate
& puked it all out

like Artaud, Rimbaudhe chucked up his gripes
& barfed back at the dogs

Mean Frog doc loved his kids
had none, had icey blue eyes
WW I shrapnel in his brain
and electric sander hits a knothole every second

Disorder prophet
healer, wife-beater
one with people who talk to themselves
argue with history's phantoms
confer with shadowy bomb-throwers in burgundy silk suits
framed in cinema alleyways
offering up gold for bridge or a boat
or Paradise to slay the King murder the Leader

Upstairs, a radio's too loud
a man pounds his head against plaster
a sniper loads up
another man bangs his wife's head open with an iron fryingpan
rushes her howling to the doctor's pigpen salon
& Louis-Ferdinand swabs out the muck
sews her up & out she goes, she & the old man
hold to earth, stumble into Atlantis
knock off a half-pint
Celine was one with men
whose hair grows out of the heart
into the head & onto the chin
Remplestiltsken wolf-man

Like them he saw thru the world like a worm thru a tomato

Died the day Hemingway blew his brains out in a hunting lodge
in Ketchum, watching a mountain range disappear


Lamentation for Jack Spicer

Sir, I'm out of touch with stars.
The bar's closed. We go
stumbling down Grant to Columbus
to the Park to somebody's parked car.
Somebody says, Let's all go to Ebbe's.
Says Ebbe, Sure, why not, let's all go.
We're gone in the car, piled in the back
seat, breathing wine on the windowpanes.
This, seven years ago. Tonight.

It is pain to realize you're dead,
your last book on the shelf,
your last words to a nation
not indivisible but invisible;
a nation that will never will its mystery to poets
who even in Greece weren't poet enough to handle man
nor touch the dark forms. Gone.
Maybe that night it was Marco
who fell back upon a park bush.

We left him there to sleep.

The Jew in me is the ghost of me
hiding under a stairway

or retuning home to a hovel
to find table & a chair
wrecked by Golem's fist

bed broken, my black rags
hanging from his teeth.








Yes, it's true, everyone has to find an aim in life.



another few moments in the prosaic saga of me

for the past several years
I have eaten breakfast at the same
restaurant, a pleasant place,
food fair, waitresses who wait
for me in the morning, concerned
if I’m late, as if I might have fallen
into the depths of the Mariana trench,
or taken by the rapture, or abducted
by inter-galactic aliens, then relieved
and somewhat peeved when I finally walk
through the doors all fine and dandy
after oversleeping-

there are great windows
that I can sit by and imagine weather,
usually better than the weather I can see,
and the people zoom-zooming on I-10,
some commuters, some far-travelers,
all subject to my fantasy-extrapolations
of their lives, the trees and the wind and
the meadow across the way where the deer
but no antelope roam - all this imaginary
landscape and wifi and an electrical
outlet in the last booth by the wall
that they try to hold for me, and just
enough other breakfasters come in
to maintain the quiet buzz of humanity
that I require to fire my creative impulses
and whatever poem I’ll write for the day

for the past couple of the several years
I’ve been eating here, I set myself the goal
of spending no more than $5 a day for breakfast,
including coffee and my senior discount…

I tend to do this kind of thing to myself,
set myself up with some kind of ridiculous
quest like this that I’m too stubborn
to turn away from even when the foolish
triviality of the quest becomes apparent
to everyone, including me…

except now,
when I have become very tired of one
toasted biscuit with sausage gravy
every morning, $4.95, less senior discount,
$4.71, not including $2 tip about which
I made an executive decision early on
not to apply to my $5.00 ceiling…

so I have decided, just decided, in fact,
that I will abandoned my every day $5.00
limit and set one day a week, Tuesday,
probably, when I can raise my breakfast
ceiling to $10 - enough for half a waffle
or half an eggs benedict, or one egg,
toast and bacon or sausage (no ham)
or maybe even a whole bowl of oatmeal
(no toast)

and with this ever-so-slight adjustment
I am certain my quest (though minutely altered)
will continue undiminished or abandoned
or left by the roadside of promises
broken - a promise to myself, the worst
kind of broken promise…

I can hardly wait until next
Tuesday...

I'm thinking egg-benedict,
$7.94
with coffee








I have three poems by Bobby Byrd, from his book White Panties, Dead Friends & Other Bits & Pieces of Love. The book was published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2006.

Byrd, poet, essayist and publisher, grew up in Memphis. In 1963, he went to Tucson where he attended the university. In 1978, he and his family moved to El Paso and have made the city and border region home since.

I would say, though, in defense of little Ozona that, small though it might be, they have a first class Dairy Queen and a very good Mexican restaurant run by a cook/artist proprietor.



Motel Room

Ozona,Texas.
Empty. Empty
As a wine bottle


Traveling by Air

The schizophrenic woman
black curly hair square jaw
smoked her cigarette
and watched the full moon
navigate the bright skies.
I said: "It's a pretty night, huh?"
She didn't answer my question.
She knitted her thick eyebrows
and puffed on her fag.
Thinking is work.

She was moving ideas around
in her head like furniture.
Furry clouds scattered like frightened dogs.
She said she sees things printed in the sky.
"The clouds tell me stories.
Like a regular storybook.
Look, there," she said, "there's an angel."
I follow her finger toward a cloud
swirling around the moon.
The night got darker.
The woman swallowed more smoke
and blew it at the sky.
the smoke was a shield to protect us.
A weapon.
She said: "I don't like angels.
They can't be trusted."
She smashed the cigarette into a dish and lit another.
She took a drag and sucked up the smoke through her nose.
She was an expert.
The fresh cigarette was like a new idea.
She relaxed. She lay back in her chair.
She said: "My mom and dad,
They're both dead.
They just went away.
I'm glad.
But lots of times I see them in the sky.
And today I saw an airplane
big enough
to pick me up and take me away.
It had windows and a toilet and everything."


Body of Christ, Texas

September 1999

A motel room for 45 bucks a night.
The American League Championship Series.
Boston ahead 2-1, bottom of the 7th.
Good.
I hate the Yanks.
I fix a martini.
Life is okay thus far.
But Knobloch doubles to left.
Score tied 2-2.
Fuck the Yanks.
There's no hope for the world.
There never was.
Than comes the knock on the door.
A skinny woman wants me to help her with her boat.
The boat sits on a trailer and the trailer is hitched to a red Trans-Am.
The car is old and beat-up.
Yellow Mexican plates.
The woman is taller than I am, wearing those black wedges on her feet.
I like tall women.
Silver toenails.
Brown hair.
Sunglasses.
Leathery brown skin from too much sun.
She lives near a Mexican beach on a street at the edge of middle age.
She wants to die before she's 50.
She has long leg, and she's so thin
I could put my fist between the flesh of her thighs.
the boat is a white speedboat.
It has two huge Mercury outboard Motors perched on the stern.
She uses the boat to smuggle prophecy and other contraband
into the heart of the American Empire.
I tell her that Mercury was the messenger for the gods.
Also a thief and a capitalist.
Like a good American citizen, she says.
Like George Steinbrenner,I saay.
Like the fucking Yankees.
She says I have been selected.
She says we will be going somewhere soon.
My job is to be ready.







Sometimes the cure is worse than the diesease.



all fuzz-brained

walking
around Alamo Heights,
near the coffeehouse where
I spend my morning, a chilled, over-
cast day, walking,
trying to clear my head,
fuzz-brained this morning
from the little atomic pill
I took last night to get some sleep…

and it’s nearly eleven o’clock
and I’m trying to write a poem
hours after I normally write my
poem and it does seem poets have
a daily shelf-life and mine has
expired and I am
due
for the poetry barge
that dumps expired poems
into the Mariana Trency in the Atlantic,
or maybe the surplus van where
expired poems go
to be distributed to
the lyrically
needy
starving for the word, even
old, used-up words
from old used-up
poets,
overdue, past their sell-by-dates
even for the Goodwill
poetry
store,
a defunct-poetry
contribution
scornfully refused
like
a torn tee-shirt
with obscene words
screen-printed front
and back,
or a three-wheeled lawnmower
or a two-legged bar stool,
or a wobbly, bottom-rusted,
one-wheeled wheelbarrow...

and old, mis-used poets
past distressed,
no good
even for the desperate…

and
I am desperate,
standing on the corner of poetry avenue
and inspiration highway,
holding my little cardboard sign,
hungry for the word
“will work for a poem,” the sign
says,
“veteran poet,” the sign says…

I’m fuzz-brained, the sign says,
took a little atomic pill last night
to sleep, and now I’m fuzz-brained
and can’t find my little morning poem
anywhere - not actually all said
on the little cardboard sign,
but implied by the capital letters
and blood red ink of the sign...

desperate…

“help !” it says, “send me a poem…”

“roses are red
violets are blue…”

“I’m all fuzz-brained,
how about you?”








Next,I have two poems, including the title poem, by Philip Larkin, from his chapbook, High Windows.



High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And I guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise.

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives -
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought,That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
and his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds.
And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.


Forget What Did

Stopping the diary
Was a stun to memory,
Was a blank starting,

One no longer cicatrized
By such words,such actions
As bleakened waking.

I wanted them over,
Hurried to burial
And looked back on

Like the wars and winters
Missing behind the windows
Of an opaque childhood.

And the empty pages?
Should they ever be filled
Let it be with observed

Celestial recurrences,
The day the flowers come,
And when the birds go.








Here's a poem from 2009, complete with original dedication. Seems things never change.



deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009

Dedicated to all the deep thinkers at "National Review," "Weekly Standard" and the like as well as all those deep thinkers formerly occupying high levels of government and currently seeking to hock their GWB magic decoder rings.

as with many people
I like to think deep
thoughts
about things i know
nothing
about

an explanation,
some might say,
as to why
all
the world’s problems
I solved
last year are back on the table
today

balderdash,
as we
deep-thinkers like to say

obviously
the world wasn’t paying
adequate attention

meaning
I’m just going to have to
deep-think
louder
in 2009








I have several poets from the anthology, Poetry for the Earth, with the very long sub-title, "A collection of poems from around the world that celebrate nature. The book was published by Fawcett Columbine in 1991.



The first poet from the book is the Chinese master, Basho


Year's End

Year's end,
all corners
of this floating world, swept.


Next, something a little longer by Anna Akhmatova. The poem was translated by Richard McKane.


Tashkent Breaks into Blossom

1

As if somebody ordered it
the city suddenly became bright -
every courtyard was visited
by white, light apparitions.
Their breathing is more understandable than words,
but their likeness is doomed to lie
at the bottom of the ditch
under the burning blue sky.

2

I will remember the roof of stars
and the radiance of eternal glory,
and the little kids
in the young arms
of dark-haired mothers.


And now, something by the father of modern American poetry, Walt Whitman.


From Song of Myself

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of
   the stars,
And the prismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the
   egg of wren,
And teh tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of
   heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all
   machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any
   statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of
   infidels.
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits,
   grains, esculent roots,
And I have stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness.
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heart against my
   approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd
   bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean setting in hollows and the great monsters
   lying low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure off the
   cliff.


And last from the anthology, I have this by Alice Walker.


On Sight

I am so thankful I have seen
The Desert
And the creatures in The Desert
and the desert itself.

The Desert has its own moon
Which I have seen
With my own eye.

There is no flag on it.

Trees of the desert have arms
All of which are always up
That is because the moon is up
The sun is up
Also the sky
The stars
Clouds
None with flags.




.



What a shock. I'm old.



just another artifact

in my coffeehouse
in the afternoon
listening
to a couple of college students
behind me
talk about, prepare for,
a history test…

American history
from the fifties, sixties and seventies,
history I lived, prime-time
me

and how strange
it is to hear my life from
a college lesson plan, from
a history book…

the names are the same,
Eisenhower, Kenedy, Johnson,
Nixon,Agnew, John Foster Dulles, Nikita
Kruschev, Charles DeGaulle, Mao, and the
places are the same and the wars
and their battles are the same, Suez,
Berlin, VietNam, Chicago…

but how remote and dry they all sound
coming from the mouths of babes, so much
simpler it seems when they talk about it
than it was at the time,
so different it all sounds
without the passions of the time,
such an artificial sense of order
when the past is seen from the future…

maybe not the first time this kind of chronological
dissonance has happened in my life, maybe
just the first time I heard it

and how strange
it is to hear it, to recognize
how so much of my life has been relegated
to freshman history, how bizarre it feels
to be of the past
when it’s the future I still
look to

I feel the dust
settling
on my grave, and,
in the young voices of these students,
new grass growing
over it








I had saved this space for a young poet I met here in San Antonio last week. I read some of his stuff and liked it. Apparently he couldn't get his material to me in time for this post. Maybe next week.

In the meantime, here are some pieces from the book Simmering Away, a collection of songs from the Kanginshu, published by White Prine Press in 2006.

The Kanginsbu is a classic Japanese poetry collection which appeared in Japan in the early 16th century.

The poems, translated by Yashuhiko Moriguchi and David Jenkins, are not titled.


^^^


Who is this
     (you naughty boy!)
that hugs me tight
and bites me,
a married woman

     but it's fun
     we're in full bloom
          at seventeen
          we're in full bloom
          at seventeen

but nibble gently -
if your teeth leave marks,
then he will know


^^^


My hair
that I had just tied up
has loosened,
     gently tumbling,
     as my heart
     has fallen for you


^^^


How I envy
this my heart
     always with you
     night and day


^^^


with love in your eyes
   pour your wine
     into my cup
   pour your wine
with love in your eyes


^^^


The plum blossoms
are manhandled
by the rain,
the puffs of willow seed
by the wind,
     and always,
     our world
     by lies


^^^


The scent of fine incense
leaks through the reed screen

     cold wind in the trees

on such an evening
you can even sense
the fragrance off the moon








I am a punctuality fanatic. Best to just say that some people in my circle of domesticity are not.



time, liquid as a river, flows - as I wait

I am married
to a woman who sees time
as a liquid,
flowing like a river,
subject to such diversions
of speed and course
as an individual’s needs
and desires might
direct…

I on the other hand
know
that time is a product
of another kind of
motion,
the moon circling the earth,
the earth circling the sun,
the sun intent in its own galactic
revolutions, and the galaxy, itself,
moving within a universe
that takes its own path, motion,
always constant, making time,
also always constant,
making her always late
and me always early

my wife believes
time is a liquid flowing,
like a river, easily distracted
from its normal course

and it so frustrates me,
even as I write this, waiting,
understanding the constancy
of all but us, the need for us
to adapt to the constancy of the universe
and not the other way around

I wait,
as the moon circles
and the earth circles
and the sun circles
and the galaxy circles
and as the universe moves
ever outward, not caring if we are late,
like now, though
I do,
under the moon and the sun
and the universal motions
of galaxies and universal tides
as I wait
and wait and
wait…

another constant
in my life








I have three poems by William Matthews, from his book, Search Party - Collected Poems. The book was published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin.

Matthews was born in Cincinnati in 1942, and educated at Yale University and the University of North Carolina. He taught and lectured all over the United States. At the time of his death in 1997, he was professor of English and director of the writing program at the City University of New York.

He won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1995, two years before his death.



Night Driving

You follow into their dark tips
those two skewed tunnels of light.
Ahead of you, they seem to meet.
When you blink, it is the future.


Eternally Undismayed Are the Poolshooters

for Robert Preston

A slow circular flail of fan
not moving the still air.
Shee-it. Slap of pool balls. Hot.
Arms sag from sweat-stained sockets,
drenched tendrils.

"It's so hot at my place
you can hear the paint crack."

Everything's slick with a soft sweaty grit.
In the parking lot
a sponge-tongued beagle
spurns a dirty puddle
shaped like a woman's foot,
crumples into the shade
beneath a Buick, sleeps.

She loved heat.
On the beach for hours
like a snake, then daintily
to the water, foamtoes,
one deep breast-heaving breath
and in.

"104 out there. Too hot to fuck.
I once love a woman left me
on a day like this."
We woke marbled with sweat.
"Those days I was working straight commission,
I could sell a truss to a trout.
I said, my love
let's buy an airconditioner.
She put my shirt on, then her slacks."
Like a bride aiming her bouquet of a tubby friend, she tossed me
her underpants and left.
"I haven't seen her since."

Each ball slides for no reason
where it wants,
glasses of beer warm up to room
temperature (about 78 degrees)
at the same pace
the balls click quietly
like tumblers in a lock.
Freddie brings the paper in,
hangs around, goes back out.
Nothing from the poolshooters,
faces of camels
working their gums
among the smoke rings.


Herd of Buffalo Crossing rthe MIssouri on Ice

If drangonflies can mate atop the surface tension
of water, surely these tons of bison can mince
across the river, their fur peeling in strips like old

wallpaper, their huge eyes adjusting to how far
they see when there's no big or little bluestem,
no Indian grass nor prairie cord grass to plod through.

Maybe it's because it's bright in the blown snow
and swirling grit, their vast heads are lowered
to the gray ice: nothing to eat, little to smell.

They have their own currents. You could watch a herd
of running pronghorn swerve like a river rounding
a meander and see better what I mean. But

bison are deeper, deliberate water, and there will
never be enough water for any West but the one
into which we watch these bison carefully disappear.








Don't wear boots anymore (as a diabetic, have to be more solicitous of my feet, but I wish I did.

This is a poem from 2009.



boots, no saddle

never
was a cowboy
but did wear boots

most of my adult
life,
always owned

two pair of dress boots
one black
and one brown

worn depending
on the color suit
i was wearing that day

one pair of
not-dress-up boots,
that were the dress-up-pair

last replaced
and one pair of
work-outside-in-the-rough

boots,
the-not-dress-up boots
in their final

incarnation -
never paid more than
$100 for a pair of boots,

no fancy stitching,
no alligator or lizard
or emu or boa constrictor,

just your basic plain old cow-wear,
and all were beneficiaries
of multiple visits

to shoe repair elf
as they made their way
through their various lives

from boardroom
to muddy field -
well-traveled

were my boots
when finally
discarded -

now
i’ve been to
run-of-the mill

shopping mall
boot stores
with boots on their shelves

with $3,000 to $4,000
price tags
and have never figured

out
why people with that much
money to spend

on basic footwear
would spend it
on ready-made off-the-shelf

boots
when there are so many
master-craftsmen

in the business
of custom boot-making
in South Texas,

cobblers
to presidents and kings
who would custom-create

a one-of-a kind pair of boots
fitted precisely to the buyer’s feet
for half that price -

has to be some kind of
deviant mental or moral condition
is the way i see it

from my perch
in the $100 boot
section








Next, I have two poets from the Spring/Summer 1999 issue of Spillway.



The first poem is by Alex Richardson. He received his master's degree in creative writing and Renaissance drama in 1991 from the University of South Carolina. At the time of publication, he lived in Mississippi.


Vacation

We rest cross-legged on the silver porch
And talk about ourselves:
You say you have a certain feeling
For our future.
That everything we say we want
Will work its way into our lives.
We fill in the last crosswords together:
four letters for "Indian garment,"
Seven letters for "Indefinite time,"
And talk some more about what we'll do
Tomorrow or the next day.
Having said everything twice
We look respectfully to the sea,
Receding from where we sit
Sipping tea and whiskey,
Read tide charts and ocean almanacs,
Occasionally lifting our heads
Towards the perfect flight of gulls,
The windy dives of pelicans
Undulating green.


The second poet from the journal is Bill Ransom, author of many books of poetry, short fiction and journalism and a nominee for a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry.


Chatechista

Guatemalan villagers-lay down a red and white bed of petals
in Mayan design from the airport to the national cathedral.
Tomorrow the Pope will kiss the grieving earth and
crush the petals under his new bulletproof tires.

Soldiers fidget at the ready while a giant cross
tilts into place at the end of the fragrant path.
Their gazes flick about the crowd, and their
fingers click select to full auto on their rifles.

Religion is a dangerous business here. The president
preaches in tongues and offers real blood to the highlands.
This woman beside me stinks. She walked barefoot
three hundred miles for a glimpse of the car of the Pope.

Her foot, black with gangrene, split like a ripe plum,

oozes something thick and green onto these crisp,
white petals. "Help me," she whispers, "in the name
of God." She will die here, and soon, with or without God.

But I spend a handful of Ceclor on my conscience
and tell her the foot has to come off. She nods.
Her lusterless eyes stare at the pills in her palm.
I shift my aging sack of healthy flesh upwind.








Clarity, fading quickly, is the best I ever do.



discovery

the serenity
of the moment
before

the micro-gnat
of a second when the universe
stops to inhale

before breathing again
with a gasp of stars
shaken and stirred in their orbits

the idea,
the thought complete,
all the pieces floating in confusion

slide through the chaos
to find their place
together

and you know
you finally know
how your life fits in the greater

pulsing ocean of creatures
like and unlike
yourself

the greater scheme
is yours, now it is only
to not forget

again








Here are four short poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, from his book In Search of Duende. (Duende, as frequently used, refers to, in modern parlance, "soul" or authenticity.)

This is a bilingual book, Spanish and English translation on facing pages.

Lorca, born in 1898, was executed in 1936 by anti-communist death squads during the Spanish Civil War. A poet, dramatist and theatre director. he achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the "Generation of '27," an influential group of poets that arose in Spanish literary circles between 1923 and 1927, essentially out of a shared desire to experience and work with avant-garde forms of art and poetry.



The Guitar

The guitar
begins its weeping.
The wineglasses of dawn
are shattered.
The guitar
begins its weeping.
It is useless
to hush it.
Impossible
to hush it.
It cries monotonously,
as the water cries,
as the wind cries
over the snowfield.
It is impossible
to hush it.
It cries
for distant things.
Sand from the hot South
asking for white camellias.
It cries, arrow with no target,
evening with no morning,
and the first bird
dead on the branch.
Oh guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

(Translation by Christopher Maurer>)


Riddle of the Guitar

At the round
crossroads,
six maidens
are dancing.
Three of flesh,
three of silver.
Yesterday's dreams pursue them,
but they are held fast
by a golden Polyphemus.
The guitar!

(Translation by Christopher Maurer.)


Farewell

If I die,
leave the balcony open.

The little boy is eating oranges.
(From my balcony I can see him.)

The reaper is harvesting the wheat.
(From my balcony I can hear him.)

If I die,
leave the balcony open!

(Translated by W.S. Merwin


Gracela of the Bitter Root

There is a bitter root
and the world has a thousand terraces.

NOr can the smallest hand
shatter the door of water.

Where are you going, where, oh where?
The sky has a thousand windows
- battle of the livid bees -
and there is a bitter root.

Bitter.

The ache in the sole of the foot
is the ache inside the face,
and it aches in the fresh trunk
of night only just lopped off.

Live, my enemy,
bite our bitter root!

(Translated by Edwin Honig.)








This is a poem from 2009. Mr. Potter is still there, along with her year-old son, George, so-named because of a resemblance to Boy George. Both accept my offering of food, daily, but not my offer of an ear-scratch.



it is early, still, in our relationship

smooth, soft fur, a banker-cat,
slick,
dressed
in charcoal gray,
yellow eyes, pink tongue,
and white needle teeth
ready to foreclose on any food
that wanders her way,
dead or soon-to-be dead
if mouse or lizard or
other scurrying thing

a street cat,
sly, shy,
she has come to accept me
as a reliable food source,
comes to my front porch when
she knows i’m around,
sits and waits for a handful
of kitty chow,
appreciates
my patronage but still won’t
let me come too close -
i sat with her, about a foot and a half away,
for ten minutes this afternoon,
the closest she’s let me,

we talked,
or rather i talked
while she munched the cat food
i brought out for her, she watched
while i talked, watched and munched,
listened?
i don’t know, could be...

it’s still early in our relationship,
but i think we have begun
to communicate...

i think i'll call her
Mr. Potter
unless
gender identity issues
become a problem








Sticking to bi-lingual, Spanish/English books, here is a poem by Mexican poet, diplomat, and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature, Octavio Paz. He was born in 1914 and died in 1998.

The poem is from the book The Collection Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987. It was published by New Directions in 1990.

The poems were translated by the book's editor, Eliot Weinberger.



Night, Day, Night

1

Stream of light: a bird
singing on the terrace.
In the valleys and mountains
of your body it dawns.

2

Fire asleep in the night,
water that wakes laughing.

3

Under the leafy canopy of your hair,
your forehead:

        a bower,
a clarity among the branches.
I think about gardens:
to be the wind that shakes your memory,
to be the sun that clears through your thicket!

4

At the foot of the palm tree,
tall as a savage,
rippling green against rhe warrior sun,
you rest.

        Your body
a backwater in the shadows.
Stillness. Vast noon
barely throbs.
Between your legs time, stubborn, flows.

5

A vein of sun,living gold,
grooves, crosses, spirals,
green constellations:
the triangular insect
moves through the grass
at three of four millimeters an hous.
For an instant you held it
in the palm of your hand
(where fate traces its arabesque secrets):
it is a living jewel, a creature
fallen, perhaps, from Titania,

- and reverently you let it go,
back to the Great All.

6

The day,ultimate flower,
hour by hour it burns.
Another flower, black sprouts.
Imperceptibly you cross
the shadows and enter,
lady of night.
Barely a wave,
barely aroma, white,
you stretch out on my bed.
And become a woman again.

7

Plain of sheets
and night of bodies,
tide of desire
and grotto of dreams.

8

an intangible village
sleeps under your eyelids:
avid whirlwinds,
children of touch become flesh,
drink blood, are the changing
forms of desire
and are always the same:
face after face
of the life that is death,
of the death that is life.








I really had fun writing this poem; I hope you enjoy it almost as much as me.



a real loss to poetry

it was a golden night
no moon
stars buried
behind thick low
clouds
reflecting back to the ground
and streets and houses
the golden light of the city
never sleeping golden light
filtering through the trees
like spun gold orange shadows
in the golden night
and down at the creek water
flowed in golden bubbles of light
while the crickets
cricked
and the frogs farted
and oh crap
haven’t I done this
before
and who cares
anyway
poetry
is a serious business
and ought to be about
serious things
like
how about
that helium
if I ate a ham
and helium sandwich
would I rise to the ceiling
like those balloons they give
to kids at the supermarket
who let go of the balloon
and the balloon rises to the
ceiling which is lined with
balloons given to kids
who let the balloons go,
red blue yellow green
what a bunch of colors
lining the supermarket
ceiling
and what about if I ate
two ham and helium
sandwiches or maybe
three
would I float away
into the sky
if outside where
there is not super
market ceiling to keep
me safe would this be
a new mode of green
energy for air transportation
great airplanes guided
through the air by
teams of pilots gorging
on ham and helium sand
wiches and what about
the porpoise, Einstein
of the sea, Aristotle
with fins, Plato
with a snout and
a jolly smile what
do you call more than
one porpoise - is it
porpiees, maybe, and
what about a gathering
of porpiees not a “school”
cause that’s fish and porpiees
are not fish and not a “herd” cause
that’s cows and horses and sheep
and porpiees are none of those
and not a “swarm” cause that’s
bees and not a “flock” cause that’s geese
and chickens and not a pod because
that’s whales (which I think is
a silly name for something as vastly
gargantuan as a congregation of whales -
it would be much better if we called such
a gathering a “tundra” or something
else equally as vastly
gargantuan, but that’s just me)
and at least whales
are mammals like
porpiees and not fish even
though like whales porpiees
like the water and frolic all about
in it a least the porpiees I saw
at Seaworld like to frolic around
in the water so maybe a group
of porpiees who travel together
might be called a “frolic”
but that’s just a suggestion

and anyway I could go on and on
because there’s lots
and lots of important things
poetry should deal with instead
of getting stuck in frou-frou poems
about golden nights and cloudy skies
and absent stars and vanished moons
and crickets and frogs and what about
those frogs and the way they mate
in Amarillo has anyone ever written
a poem about that well I did
but no one else and that’s a real
loss to poetry

I’m telling you a real
loss








Next, I have three poems by Shirley Kaufman, from her book, Rivers of Salt, published in 1993 by Copper Canyon Press.

Kaufman, daughter of Polish immigrants, was born and grew up in Seattle. She graduated from James A. Garfield High School in 1940 and from University of California, Los Angeles in 1944, She and her husband immigrated to Jerusalem in 1973.

I've used the first of the three poems before,but it is such a powerful expression of oppression and hope that I decided to use it again.



Bread and Water

After the Leningrad trials, after solitary confinement
mot of eleven years in a Siberian Gulag, he told us
this story. One slice of sour black bread a day.
He trimmed off the crust and saved it for the last
since it was the best part. Crunchy, even a little sweet.
Then he crumbled the slice into tiny pieces. And ate
them, one crumb at a time. So they lasted all day. Not
the cup of hot water. First he warmed his hands around it.
then he rubbed the cup up and down his chest to warm his
body. And drank it fast. Whey, we asked him, why not
like the bread? Sometimes, he said, there was more hot
water in the jug the guard wheeled around to the prisoners.
Sometimes a guard would ladle a second cup. It helped
to believe in such kindness.


Snow in Jerusalem

After it stops the air is still
whirling around our house and the pine trees
shake out their iced wings the way
dogs shed the sea from their bodies
after a swim, a white curst slides
like shingles down the backs of the branches,
soft clumps loosen themselves from
sills and ledges, fall past our window
with the swoosh of small birds
or of moths at night that beat themselves
senseless against the lamp until
we switch it off and reach for each other,
warm and slightly unraveled under
the worn nap,under the flannel
of the snow sky, under the overhanging
sorrow the city listening to the
plop, plop, it's all coming clean now,
starting to thaw a little from the inside.


"The World's Longest Tramway" at Albuquerque

Once on the Gornegrat I thought the wind
would sweep me out of my body,
all the immensity of light
and the gates wide open.
If I didn't look back
I'd be lost.

Looking back is the problem.
Every chunk of the poor earth keeps us
accountable, this scrub
and the dwindling pines
with their little white shelves,
one hill sliced flat,
and after that to the north
stubble, the parceled land, Los Alamos
on which the snow swirls
soft and elegiac.








Here's a short piece I wrote in 2009.



spiders dancing

the tree,
its bare
wind-dancer limbs
black
against the new-day sun,
like a spider
on its back
waving spindly legs
at the rush
of warming light

it’s that kind of day,
so fine
spiders lie
on their backs
to bask

today
I,
too,
will do
unexpected things








The last poems from my library this week are by James Hoggard, Texas poet, short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist and translator. The poems are from his book Breaking an Indelicate Statue , published by Latitudes Press in 1986. This book, at $1.98, is one of those second-hand book store prizes I look for with ever visit.

Hoggard, former poet laureate of TExas and past president of the Texas Institute of Letter was, at the time the book was published Perkins-Prothro Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Author of fifteen books and seven produced plays,he has won numerous awards for his work.



Conception

There was a man once upon a time there was
this man sitting at a smoking hearth and he
was silently shaking in his buttoned-up sweater
and his fingers coiled a pipebowl for warmth
then into the room came a woman wearing
a brassiere and halfslip and she stood
behind him calmly warmly still and he
this was once upon a time said nothing to her
kept shaking till the coals flew into fire


Getting Groceries

Passing by the produce
I notice how terribly soft
the avocados are

          Once in a car

The cart's wheels sigh
along the linoleum floor

          we lay beneath
          a stardrunk sky
          Clouds came, and rain

The frost on the orange juice cans
glues my hands
to iceburned tin

          Your eyes and arms
          have sometimes been
          a flood upon me

Marking my load
the register snickers at me
then gobbles my check

          and my fingers
          have disappeared in your hair

I should've gone ahead
and bought the damn avocados


By the Riverside Down

A woman remembered was
my babysitter at twelve is the one
who scratched her blue percale ass

and sang me Down
By the Riverside and told me while brushing
her unbunned gray frazzle-hair

that I was like a boy she knew
when she was young who--stopped,
asked me to check her singing heart

when my brother was asleep,
but it was soft and dry until
she took me singing with her down

by her riverside
where the waves were weak
and the feather-reeds long

and the air was full of powderspice
when I ws twelve and saved from dream-need
by her river-rolling heart.








I finish this week with a, what else, holiday poem.

Best wishes for the holidays to all who visited here.



thanks a bunch

will prepare
today
for my trip tomorrow,
300 miles
to South Padre Island,
where my brother-in-law
and sister-in-law
will be providing the traditional
holiday feast of roast beast
and all the requisite turkey goblish
fixin’s at their beach-side
condominium

although,
as it happens, I am not
a big lover of holidays
or of roast beast
(unless it’s pig or bovine beast)
nor am I a lover of beaches
or sand or salt or waves
kathumping
on sandy, salty, beaches,
especially when it’s winter
and the chances of espying
beach-clad honey-bunnies in tiny
tops and tiny bottoms,
is minimal,
I am still pleased to have
the opportunity
to be thankful to my
brother-in-law and sister-
in-law for their fine feast
and for the company of
others at the fine feast and many
other things not associated
with the feast at all
such as the fine Friday
morning
which will follow the holiday
feast and upon the arrival of which,
immediately post-breakfast
waffle at Katie’s Waffle Deluxe,
I will be hot on the highway
hying home to my regular life, for
which I am, above all else,
thankful








And that's the whole deal for this week. As usual, all work included in this post remains the property of its creators. My stuff is free for the asking, and proper credit.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and, by the way, let's not forget the following.


Available for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Appple ibookstore -


"Always to the Light"




"Goes Around, Comes Around"




"Pushing Clouds Against the Wind"




And
For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon


"Seven Beats a Second"



The copies on Amazon are being sold, through prior agreement, by my publisher. Copies are available directly from me at my website, www.7beats.com. I can't compete with the Amazon price, but if purchased from me, I will include a copy of the CD chimeras, ideals, errors by the

Ray-Guhn Show Choir



I haven't done any maintenance on that website in a couple of years but you used to be able to hear a cut from the CD. Maybe you still can.

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