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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