Chisos Basin   Friday, April 29, 2011


VI.5.1.




Nothing new in the poem department this week, just me and my library poet pals.

The photos are special to me though, old photos, used in bits and pieces here before, of one of my favorite places on the planet.

The photos were taken around, but mostly in, the Big Bend National Park, and, of those in the park, mostly in the Chisos Basin high in the Chisos Mountains.

Founded in 1944, Big Bend National Park is mostly a backcountry park. It contains more than 150 miles of desert and mountain hiking trails, with overnight accommodations ranging from primitive camping to RV parks to the lodge and cabins in the basin. Being someone who sees making my own bed as pushing the envelope in "roughing it," I have no experience with the primitive camping, though my son does and the park is one of his preferred places for doing it.The Rio Grande River (118 miles of it) marks the boundary between the park and Mexico. (The Rio Grande can be seen at the bottom of a canyon in one of the pictures below.)

Covering approximately 700,000 acres, the park is located in one of the most remote and uninhabited areas of the United States.

The pictures in this post were taken by me over course of a number of visits, in different years and seasons and with different cameras. We haven't been in a couple of years and I miss it. No phone, no TV, no internet and, I have to admit, as much as I love it, three days and two nights is about the most I can take before lusting for my normal diet of electronics.

That's the pictures; these are the poets.


Me
Chisos Basin

Joanna M. Weston
Trees
Loss
Studio Portrait, 1942
Soft Answers
Like Other Peoples’ Fathers


Me
paying for the pick-up

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Populist Manifesto

Me
dreams

Peggy Zuleika Lynch
Aunt Nettie, a true pioneer
living
Aunt Oma’s way for earning her pay
Della


Me
the dead rise, and prevail

Simon J. Ortiz
A Barroom Fragment
Four Years Ago
Horizons and Rains
Leaving America
Washyuma Motor Hotel
Passing Through Little Rock


Me
fire brigade

Frederick Seidel
Years Have Passed
The Girl in the Mirror
November 24, 1963


Me
on the death of Audrey Hepburn
clarification
omen
the master
the shortest poem
when the gate finally opens
while walking in the neighborhood, late


From The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry
Lin Huiyin
Sitting in Quietude
Dia Wangshu
Written on a Prison Wall

Me
where does justice draws the line

Susan Griffin
Tiredness
Chile


Me
china silk

Pablo Neruda
From “The Heights of Macchu Picchu - Part XII Arise to Birth with me, my brother

Me
time’s up

Leroy V. Quintana
Poem for Marilyn Monroe
Poem for Toby Lee
Poem for Pancho Gonzales
Poem for Grandpa


Me
champions fall, heroes fade

Siegfried Sassoon
Glory of Women
Autumn
Remorse


Me
the woman with the interesting hair

Wendy Barker
On the Subject of Jackets

Me
rubbing elbows

Robert Pinsky
Inman Square Incantation

Me
chaos management

Me
if I could walk on water











Beginning this week with an appreciation of a place.



Chisos Basin

Chisos Basin,
lush haven high in the Chisos Mountains,
the mountains lapped by
the Chihuahua Desert to the south and east
where, after a damp winter,
colors carpet the gravel desert floor

and in the mountains, high trees,
bear, cougar, families of javelinas who walk
the same trails up and around the mountain
all of their lives and birds
of every persuasion

and in the basin,
peace in the mountain shadow
of the rising sun; peace
in the evening as the sun sets
through the westward facing notch
between mountain peaks,
a high, clear eye
to the purple desert below








I begin this week with several poems from my friend and frequent "Here and Now" contributor, Joanna M. Weston.

Joanna grew up in North Downs of Kent, under one of the main bombing runs to London. She left England at age 18 for Canada where she has lived every since, becoming a Canadian citizen on February 15, 1965, the same day the maple leaf flag was adopted. She is a full-time writer of poetry, short stories, children's books and poetry reviews. She has published internationally in journals and anthologies and has two middle-readers in print, The Willow-Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes.

Her latest book, from where I borrow these poems, is A Summer Father, published in 2006 by Frontenac House.

Joanna dedicates her book to father, Major John William Fletcher Jarmain, who died on June 26, 1944 in Normandy, France.



Trees

did he remember
the apple trees
and the willow
at the end of our garden?

did he remember
how his children
ran to touch and touch
silver-grey bark?

he is recorded
in one photo
with his son
framed by leaves
and fruit


Loss

Mother lost
the green glass brooch
Father gave me

dropped it
between apple tree and lavender
somewhere on the path
to becoming an emerald

I clipped grass with scissors
turned soft earth
found a knife patterned with fish
and a spoon engraved with leaves

she sketched patterns of bark
details of miniature:
    an ant on a grass stem
    a speed of red spiders
while I wept
the emptiness of green


Studio Portrait, 1942

two children
caught in a black and white
photograph

my brother in shorts
and Fair Isle sweater
and me in smocked dress

frozen eyes
and tight mouths

dare not smile

we might break
spill onto the carpet

turn it red


Soft Answers

between all the mornings
and "good nights"
lie questions
a child would ask
and a father answer


Like Other People's Fathers
    Had he been hiding in all my childhood moods....?

would he open
the curtains
for his daughter
and let starlight in?

break the blackout?

catch bombs
before the fell?








The last, harder than usual, winter killed just about everything in my back yard, and the last lack of rain since makes it equally hard to get anything new started. So, I've been spending a lot of time out there, trying to develop something growing that will bring in some color than brown. I sat about 20 minutes last week, watching the struggle against futility as it occurred.



paying for the pick-up

the squirrel
is determined and persistent

as he tries
again and again

to jump onto the birdbath -
because, I suppose, he thinks there’s something there

he wants -
poor, misguided rodent,

there’s nothing there but water,
hot-from-the-sun, grainy, blackbird

feathers floating and stolen dog food crumbs,
not nearly so refreshing

as right on the other side of the fence where
the creek flows clear and cool

~~

but who am I to judge a creature’s
intentions, could be

it is not the water he seeks, but the
ceramic figure in the center, little Eeyore

dancing,
splashing in the water,

a friend-seeking adventure, maybe,
a new kind of friend the squirrel seeks,

like in Christopher Robin’s woods
where all creatures furred and feathered

play together in the light
of a child’s innocence…

~~~

but, I speculate -

the main fact is whatever the squirrel wants
on top of the birdbath, he is bound,

he is sure,
to get it, jumping over and over again,

some times from directly under the rim, sometimes
with a running start, and always with the same

result - he can reach the top,
head and shoulders over the rim,

but, sharp-fingered little paws scratching at the concrete,
he finds no hold, slipping, like a man slipping

from a precarious perch into deep, unforgiving
waters, panicked eyes and flailing tail

as he falls backward,
rolls, stands again, upright, paws

folded across his gray stomach,
as he considers the challenge anew,

gathers the muscles in his powerful legs,
preparing for another jump…

~~~

is there a moral to this, I don’t know,
but there was always a moral in the 100-acre-wood

so maybe here as well, maybe something like
the old saw,

“a man’s reach often exceeds his grasp”
or “if at first you don’t succeed….etcetera, blah, blah”

or, in a more south Texas lingo -
any fool cowboy can jump on a bull,

it’s the riding him
that pays for the pick-up








Next I have a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the few survivors of the beats. The poem is from his book Wild Dreams of a New Beginning, a collection of poems of the 1970's published in 1988 by New Directions.

Ferlinghetti says many things in this poem, some clearly foolish, hard to read this far from the Nixon era he wrote in. But what I read to be the heart of the poem it rings all the bells for me, a call, relevant even today, to rescue poetry from academia, a call for poets who have done something in their life beyond just studying poetry, writing poetry and teaching other people how to spend their lives studying and writing poetry.

People like me, in plainer words, who, whatever the quality of our product, write from a full life in a world that cares little for poetry and less for poets, writing for those people in that world. That's a connection, if it can be done, worth the making.

A little long, this poem, but what a great reassurance for my shy and retiring poet friends.



Populist Manifesto

Poets, come out of our closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up to long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses
down from your foothills and mountains,
our of your tepees and domes.
The trees are still falling
and we'll to the woods no more.
No time now for sitting in them
As a man burns down his own house
to roast his pig.
No more changing Hare Krishna
while Rome burns.
San Francisco's burning,
Mayakovsky's Moscow's burning
the fossil -fuels of life.
Night & the Horse approaches
eating light, heat & power,
and the clouds have trousers.
No time now for the artist to hide
above, beyond, behind the scenes,
indifferent, paring his fingernails,
refining himself out of existence.
No time now for our little literary games,
no time now for our paranoias & hypochondrias,
no time now for fear & loathing,
time now only for light & love.
We have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.
Poetry isn't a secret society,
It isn't a temple either.
Secret words & chants won't do any longer.
The hour of oming is over,
the time for keening come,
time for keening & rejoicing
over the coming end
of industrial civilization
which is bad for earth & Man.
Time not to face outward
in the full lotus position
with eyes wide open,
Time not to open your mouths
with a new open speech,
time now to communicate with all sentient beings,
All you "Poets of the Cities"
hung in museums, including myself,
All you poet's poets writing poetry
about poetry,
All you poetry workshop poets
in the boondock heart of America,
All you house-broken Ezra Pounds,
All you far-out freaked-out cut-up poets
All you pre-stressed Concrete poets,
All you cunnilingual poets,
All you pay-toilet poets groaning with graffiti,
All you A-train swingers who never swing on birches,
All you masters of the sawmill haiku
in the Siberias of America,
All you eyeless unrealists,
All you self-occulting supersurrealists,
All you bedroom visionaries
and closet agitpropagators,
All you Groucho Marxist poets
and leisure-class Comrades
who lie around all day
and talk about the workingclass proletariat,
All you Catholic anarchists of poetry,
All you Black Mountaineers of poetry,
All you Boston Brahmins and Bolinas bucolics,
All you den mothers of poetry,
All you zen brothers of poetry,
All you poetry reviewers
drinking the blood of poets,
All you Poetry Police -
Where are Whitman's wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings it
and our relation to it -
Poets, descend
to the street of the world once more
and open your minds & eyes
with the old visual delight,
Clear your throat and speak up,
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
with terrible eyes and buffalo strength.
Don't wait for the Revolution
or it'll happen without you,
Stop mumbling and speak out
with a new wide-open poetry
with a new commonsensual "public surface"
with other subjective levels
or other subversive levels,
a tuning fork in the inner ear
to strike below the surface.
Of you own sweet Self still sing
yet utter "the word enmasse" -
Poetry the common carrier
for the transplantation of the public
to higher places
than other wheels can carry it.
Poetry still falls from the skies
into our streets still open.
They haven't put up the barricades, yet,
the streets are still alive with faces,
lovely men & women still walking there,
still lovely creatures everywhere,
in the eyes of all the secret of all
still buried there,
Whitman's wild children still sleeping there,
Awake and walk in the open air.








This is something I wrote in January, 2008.

It's true, I almost never remember my dreams, but when I do, it's almost always about some very specific places I'm sure I've never been.

This is one of those places.



dreams

i say
i never remember
my dreams
and mostly I don't,
even though I know
some of the ones
i remember best
are dreams
about a house, complete
in every detail,
where no house
has ever been,
a house of many rooms,
a maze of rooms
that take me, always,
to where i began,
with wood,
lots of wood,
floors of polished
hardwood
that gleams
in a kind of yellow light,
one wooden chair
in a corner,
high-backed
and arms,
old fashioned lamps
in an old fashioned house
with high ceilings
and polished wooden beams
and everything is brown,
a house, i have been inside,
walked on its polished floors
through every room that
all lead back
back to the first room,
a room always one door
away from every other room,
i know this place
even though
i know
it does not exist








Next I have a poet, Peggy Zuleika Lynch from the Feeding the Crow, a collection of eight Austin, Texas, poets published in 1988 by Plain View Press.

Frequently published in journals and anthologies, as well as author a number of books, Lynch is a three time Pushcart Prize nominee.



Aunt Nettie: a true pioneer

tall, thin
graced by wind
a bonnet tied under her chin
arms flying
back and forth
up and down
happily hoeing
her garden
apron and skirt
unfurled, billowing
a gaunt figure
windswept image
returns to my memory


living

Grandfather sits
her on his knee
she being only three
merely accepts
this kindly step
of where to sit
while he chatters
on various matters:
   kitty cats, bears,
   dogs with long hair
she being feisty
twists and squirms
turns
as kids usually do
trying all the while
to slide through
to the floor
and play some


Aunt Oma's way for earning her pay

pedal pushing
needle flying
up and down
in and out
bent over
concentrating
making miracles of design
for the wealthy ladies
with fabric, lace and tape
moment after moment
day after day
year after year


Della

her life was a teapot
constantly pouring out
an essence of warmth
until her whole being
emptied, leaving
flecks of unread tea leaves
patterning her end








This is a follow-up to the basketball poem I posted last week, this poem written before the final story is told.



the dead rise, and prevail

a miracle shot
with only half a second
left on the clock
and the battle is won

but not the war -

the war will not be
won
in seconds, but through
96 long minutes on a
hardwood court -

two more battles,
and neither can be lost
and the odds
are not good for our heroes

but last night,
hope was reborn

last night was an ascension,
like Christ
rolling back the rock,
his wounds still fresh from the cross,

it was a night for the dead
to arise
and prevail

and I could not sleep
after
so rapid
did beat my heart








I've lived most of my life straddling a cultural and linguistic and geographic line between the American South and the American Southwest. I find, in the way I think, some congruence with the cultures of the south, particularly when it comes to the foods, but it is the ethos of the Southwest where I feel the greatest kinship. It is in the poetry of many Native Americans that seems to best incorporate that ethos and no Native American poet more than Simon J. Ortiz.

I have four of his short poems from his book, Woven Stone, a very large collection of his work published in 1992 by the University of Arizona Press.

Born Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1941, Ortiz is a Native American writer of the Acoma Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the second wave of what has been called the Native American Renaissance. He is one of the most respected and widely read Native American poets.

So many of his poems seem to start in or near a bus or a bus station, it almost convinces me to take a long bus ride. But I don't think it would work for me like it works for him. He's a talker and a listener; I'm a watcher and only ever see half the story.



A Barroom Fragment

He was talking,
"I invited her to Las Vegas,
and when we got to the hotel
she asked for a separate room."
I told her, "Shit, if you
want a room to yourself, why baby
that's alright, have it"
I had brought her up there
on a four-million dollar airplane,
and I told her, "You can
go across the street
and take a thirty-thousand-dollar bus
back to Burbank."
That was Coyote talking.


Four Years Ago

Four years ago
I was in Wisconsin
somewhere,
making for the stateline,
crossing,
heading homewards.
I wondered
in what period of history
I was then.

I wonder that now.

Yesterday
I told my wife
"You must see me
in the perspective
of my whole life."

It all adds
ups and downs.


Horizons and Rains

Interstate 40 from Albuquerque
to Gallup -
witness to the brown people
stumbling Sunday afternoon
northwards -

    "Where's the rain that feels so good?"

and to Tsaile, the mountains, dark buttes -

"Maybe if the Hopis and Navajos
quiet messing around," Ackley says.

    "Where it has always been."

The brown people losing trails
and finding trails and losing them
and finding again -

the horizons
and rains
in the far distance


Leaving America

That time in Kansas City bus depot,
met Roy.


"Yaahteh, shikis."
"Where you from?"
"Arizona."
"Where you coming from?"
"Moline."

Jus' got paid,
laid off by the Rock Island Line.

Going home.
It's got red and brown land,
sage and when it rains
it smells like pinon
and pretty girls at a Squaw Dance.

I know.


Washyuma Motor Hotel

Beneath the cement foundations
of the motel, the ancient spirits
of the people conspire sacred tricks.
They tell stories and jokes and laugh
and laugh.

The American passersby
get out of their hot, stuffy cars
at evening, pay their money wordlessly
and fall asleep without benefit of dreams.

The next morning they get up,
dress automatically, brush their teeth,
get in their cars and drive away.
They haven't noticed that the cement
foundations of the motor hotel
are crumbling, bit by bit.

The ancient spirits tell stories
and jokes and laugh and laugh.


Passing Through Little Rock

The old Indian ghosts -

            "Auapaw"
"Waccamaw" -
        are just bill board words
in this crummy town.

"You know I'm worrying a lot lately,"
he says in the old hotel bar.

"You're getting golder and scared ain't you?"

I just want to cross the next hill
go through that clump of trees
and come out the other side

and see a clean river,
the whole earth new
and hear the noise it makes
at birth.








This piece is from early 2007, brought to mind by the weather today, which is strangely weird, being the first of May, cooler even than the early January day this poem was written.



fire brigade

fire brigade

fifty degrees
today
and a little damp,
perfect
for sitting around
a fire
outside
and contemplating
the larger questions
of life
and the universe

so i got me
some of the wood
i keep for such
contemplating
sessions,
just enough
to fill the
chiminea,
and carefully
built
my fire base

a big problem
right off

i only have about
a half a squirt
of lighter fluid
and i knew that
wasn't enough
so i set out
to apply my
boy scout
experience
only then
remembering
i wasn't ever
a boy scout
causing a quick
transition to plan
“b”
which involved
picking my backyard
clean of small twigs
and branches
and that pile
of natural fuel
combined with
the entire sunday
edition of the
newspaper of the
7th largest city
in the united states
(smaller than phoenix
by just two thousand
parched
and dehydrated
souls)
and i had a fire
not a roaring fire
by any means
but a fire at last

a smoky fire

a very smoky fire
in fact
such that my
entire backyard
was smothered
in clouds of gray
and black smoke
leading me to worry
that one of my neighbors
might panic at all the
smoke
and call the fire department
but that turned out not
to be a problem
when it started to rain
putting out the fire
and eliminating
its smoky
output

my hot chocolate
had gone cold
while I had been
attending
to the fire so
i took it inside
and popped it
into the micro
wave until it
was steamy hot
again
then sat down
at the kitchen table
and watched it
rain
all the while
contemplating
the larger questions
of life and the
universe








I have several poems by Frederick Seidel, from his collection, Poems, 1959-1979, Knopf in 1989.

Born in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, Seidel is author of many books and recipient of numerous literary prizes and honors.



Years Have Passed

Seeing you again.
Your glide, your gaze.
Your very quiet voice.
Your terror. Your quiet eyes.


The Girl in the Mirror

Oh never to be yourself,
Never to let be
And simply be there.

The same
Morning ink blot in the mirror
Making a face up,

Making up a face. You need
All your strength
Never to be yourself.

Skirt, boots and sweater
Green as a stem.
I'll wear them.

Take me down from the shelf.
Oh never to be yourself
And always to be the same.

Like the air and the wind,
The wind and the air.
I hear a very quiet voice,

Emphatic like a flower,
Saying
It is I.


Before the next poem, a memory from me.

Everyone over the age of 4 on that day remembers it, either as a child's dream or in the sharp, slicing light of black and white TV. Twenty years old on that day, near to twenty-one, for me, like for many, it was the day innocence died and today was born. I wasn't a believer in the Camelot myth, and later learned much to justify that disbelief, but it made no difference then and makes no difference now.



November 24, 1963

The trees breathe in like show dogs, stiffening
Under the silver leases of light rain
To spines. A Cyclone fence that guards the moire
Embankment of the shrunken reservoir
Bristles with rain barbs, each a milk tooth, sting
Of stings, where fall began. The park's a stain,
The black paths shimmer under cellophane.

It is so real. Shy ghosts of taxis sniff
And worry in the empty park streets, lost
And misted lights, and down Fifth Avenue:
The flags soak at half-staff, bloodshed and blue;
Bloodletting stripes repeating their mute riff;
Gray stars, wet union sky of stars, crisscrossed
With petrifying folds and sparks of frost.

The rain points prick th lake and touch the drought,
The dusk blue of a sterile needletip.
The brightness and the light has been struck down.








I was on a roll early in 2008, writing some pretty good short poems.



on the death of Audrey Hepburn

lord
she was
beautiful

but we were
adolescent boys
in a time of
mammillary
obsession
and
never
noticed


clarification

young girl
maybe twenty
not much more
fiery
in speech
and manner
says

there ain’t no
country
called Hispanica
so how can I be
Hispanic

and there ain’t
never been no
country
called Latin
and if they was
they been dead
a couple of thousand
years
anyway

so no way
I’m
Latin

but there is a
Mexico
and that’s where
my blood roots lie
so that makes me
Mexican -

you got a problem
with that?


omen

been here
before

vision blurry
equals
sugar
high

i look to the
future
and hope
to
see


the master

i just let
the cat out
to do her morning
duty

it’s 35 degrees
and raining

she was back
at the door
again
wanting in
before
I could leave
the room

she is a master
in the winter
flash
poop-n-cover
competition


the shortest poem

the shortest
poem
is

the
sigh
in a lover's
farewell


when the gate finally opens

the hardest part
is the sitting
still
and waiting -
watching
for the moment
the image
the word
the stray
thought
that opens the gate
to the poem,
lurking
like a riled bull
waiting to be rode,
to dance
to your command...

if you’re poet
enough


while walking in the neighborhood, late

the few leaves
still clinging to the trees
rustle in the breeze
like water over rocks

the cold north wind
bracing -
like drinking
from a mountain stream








Next, I have two poets from the anthology The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, subtitled "From Ancient to Contemporary, the Full 3,000 year Tradition." published in 2005 by Anchor Books.

This week I have chosen to stick to a couple of contemporary, or near contemporary, poets from the book.



The first poet is Lin Huiyin who was born in 1904 and died in 1955. She was the daughter of a powerful governor and traveled with him to Europe and the United States. She and her husband studied together at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was forced to study art instead of architecture because the School of Architecture was not open to women. Nevertheless, she became an important designer and architect in China and both she and her husband taught architecture at Qinghua University, where her husband founded the architecture program. The both also worked together as architectural historians, attempting to preserve China's heritage. She was involved with the Crescent Moon Society and wrote fiction, drama, and essays in addition to poetry.

In the Communist era she and her husband helped to design the national flag, the national emblem and the Monument ot the People's Hero in Tianamen Square.

This poem was translated by Michelle Yeh.


Sitting in Quietude

Winter has a message of its own
When the cold is like a flower -
Flowers have their fragrance, winter has its handful of memories.
The shadow of a withered branch, like lean blue smoke,
Paints a stroke across th4e afternoon window.
In the cold the sunlight grows pale and slanted.
It is just like this.
I sip the tea quietly
As if waiting for a guest to speak.


Next, I have a poem by Dai Wangshu. Born in the Zhejiang province in 1905, he and a friend founded the Blue Society and published a literary magazine called Friends of the Blue Society. Studying the Chinese language and Literature at Shanghai University and then French at Zhendan University beginning in 1923, he and friends began publishing another literary journal, Jade Stone in 1926. He had joined the Communist Youth Corps in 1925, then the Left-Wing Writers League in 1930 and was arrested for revolutionary activities. He published his second book in 1933 and returned to China in 1935 as editor in chief of Modern Literature. After the Sino-Japanese war, he returned to Hong Kong and continued to work as an editor. After the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1941, he was sent to prison briefly and it was while in prison that he wrote the poem below. He died in 1950.

The poem was translated by Gregory B. Lee.


Written on a Prison Wall

If I die here,
Friends, do not be sad,
I shall always exist in your hearts.

One of you died,
In a cell in Japanese-occupied territory,
He harbored deep hatred,
You should always remember.

When you come back,
Dig up his mutilated body from the mud,
Hoist his soul up high
With your victory cheers.

And then place his bones on a mountain peak,
To bask in the sun, and bathe in the wind:
In that dark damp dirt cell,
This was his sole beautiful dream.








I had a rant here on the necessity for us to get past our 9-11 obsessions, irrelevant today as this is the day we killed bin Laden (Justice, at last!).

I decide to delete that poem and use the following instead, another rant about another kind of justice and another kind of atrocity.

Some years ago, in another city, I was appointed by the county judge to fill an unexpired term on the County Welfare Board. After a year or so, the term was up and I was asked to accept reappointment.

The plight of so many children suffering from vicious abuse by their parents, sometime unto death, made the task of serving on that board the most heartbreaking and impossible task I had ever undertaken. I had taken many such community service appointments in the past and had never faced anything as hopeless as this one.

Basically, I cut and ran, declining reappointment. I was not accustomed to futility and had, in that position, taken on more than I could accept.

That story is background to this poem, another rant, written a couple of years ago after a particularly bloody two weeks for children in San Antonio.



where does justice draw the line?

i want to write
about the four
children
murdered
by their parents
in this city
in the last two weeks,
to memorialize them
somehow,
but cannot

i don’t have the language
to say what i want to say
and my mind drifts
to other things
to evil,
for example

i don’t believe
in god
but i do believe
in evil,
the diabolic
evil
of mass murders
and the casual
evil of parents
who kill
their children -
the mother who
smothered her baby
because it would not
stop crying,
the father,
angered to madness
by his wife,
who shoots their
two daughters,
age 10 and 5,
in the head,
then kills
himself,
the woman
who swings her
baby like a baseball bat
to strike her lover -
what do we do
with these people?

i’m a believer
in capital punishment,
i believe humanity
has the right and obligation
to protect itself against
the most evil among us,
some born that way,
i am convinced, evil
from the moment
they leave their mothers’
womb, others who learn
their evil from the circumstances
of their life,
born or made, i don’t care,
it is the consequence
of their act
not the consequences
of their lives that matter,
as a consequence
of their act
they do not deserve
our solicitude,
maintaining the life of
Charles Manson
for a year
costs as much as or more
than sending a needy
student through a year
of college -
I say kill the bloody
son of a bitch
and send the money
to the kid

but that’s an easy case

it’s the drawing of the line
that makes these questions hard

three parents killed four children
in this city in the last two weeks

where do we draw the line
for them?

where does justice
draw the line
for these four
children?








Now I have two poems by Susan Griffin, from her book, Like the Iris of an Eye, published by Harper & Row in 1975.

Griffin is a poet, essayist, playwright and screenwriter. She was born in Los Angeles California in 1943



Tiredness

Tiredness licks
at my heels
an old
dog
walking across
the patio;
the belly is gone,
the hair
faded.
I have traveled
from
patio to patio, pool to pool
dipping my feet
in various seas
(Aegean, Atlantic, Pacific)
waking each
time as if
now I would
stay awake
and my feet
would not
doggedly shuffle
in the same circle
looking at
each point
for the sunlight
on the water.
Tiredness,
I give it to you.
I am making a
house for you.
I will love you
like an old dress
become worn and soft.
I will smile on you
with your hair
turning dull and old.
I will welcome your aching and
your half-open eyes
because tiredness at least
you
have always been
faithful


Chile

My daughter pleads with me
for the life of our goldfish
souring in a tank
of ancient water,
"I want them
to
live," she
says.      Late at night
I pass the green tank
still full of guilt.
I have chosen
in the hierarchy of my life
to go to work,
to shop,to cook, to
write these words
before saving fish;
choices surround me.
Nothing is ever right.
Every breathing space
asks for help;dust multiplies in the
      hallway;
lecture notes fly away
through windows which
need glass and paint
and in the back of my mind
somewhere
is a woman
who weeps
for Chile
and shudders at the
executions.
All along she
has been
pondering the social order
and her
worried thoughts
slow
my
every movement.








One reason hy I like those Chinese samurai movies.



china silk

everything
I know about
Mandarin Chinese
I learned
by listening
to Chinese movies

there is a soft sound
in that language
that holds for me
a little piece
of the mysteries
of the orient

it’s a musical sound,
something like

sssha

that purses
the lips in a way
to me
most delightful

the Cyrillic alphabet
has a similar sound

ssscha

but it’s harsher
and harder
with something
of the Russian winter
in it,

while the Mandarin

sssha

seems soft and intimate
as china silk








Next I have work by Pablo Neruda, the twelfth and concluding section of his epic poem The Heights of Macchu Picchu. My copy of the book is a twentieth printing by Noonday Press in 1994.

In this section, Neruda speaks, as described by Robert Pring-Mill of St. Catherine's College, Oxford, to "all the men who died building the city so that they might rise again to birth - with him and through him as his brothers."

This is a bilingual edition, Spanish and English, translated by Nathaniel Tarn, on facing pages.



XII

Arise To Birth, with me, my brother.

Give me your hand out of the depths
sown by your sorrows.
You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
You will not emerge from subterranean time.
Your rasping voice will not come back,
nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

Look at me from the depths of the earth,
tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays -
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.
Show me your blood and your furrow;
say to me: here I was scourged
because a gem was dull or because the earth
failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
the wood they used to crucify your body.
Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps,light up the whips
glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
and light the axes gleaming with your blood.

I come to speak for your dead mouths.

Throughout the earth
let dead lips congregate,
out of the depths spin this long night to me
as if I rode at anchor here with you.

And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link and step by step;
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me cry: hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.

And give me silence, give me water, hope.

Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.

Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.

Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.

Speak through my speech, and through my blood.








Caution, personal pet peeve ahead.



time’s up

I’m never without
my timepiece,
but, if, on some dark day,
the universe
goes into a skid
on icy rails
and I
am without my watch
and ask the time
of some imperturbable soul,
I don’t want to hear
“about three”
or “a little past six”
or “almost noon,”
I want to know what
time it is,
exactly

or when Dee calls
and wants me to meet her
downtown for dinner
and I ask when
I don’t want her to say
“oh, sevenish, “
which is not a time at all
but an anti-time,
I want to know
is that seven, seven-fifteen,
six-forty eight or quarter to eight,
cause I don’t want to be late
and I hate to wait when I’m early

but i am
time
compulsive
and Dee
is more attuned
to ancient spirits
who understood time, if at all,
only in terms of dark times
and light, moons, seasons,
events, heroic feats that mark
a particular memorable period
as in - oh, yes that was when
Uncle Hawk-Flies-Straight
killed the grizzly bear
which was before
Leaping-Fish
stole fourteen horses
from the Kikapoos,
but after
Eyes-of-Gray-Wolf
married
that hussy
Little-Green-Meadow
in the snow
up to their
knees

you have to ask
yourself
how did those guys
ever
get to dinner
on time?








So here's another of my favorite poets. (Amazing how the number of my favorite poets have multiplied since I started this blog six years ago.)

In this instance, the favorite poet is Leroy V. Quintana, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1944 and presently Professor of English at San Diego Mesa College. Quintana served in Vietnam in 1967-68, where he kept a journal that became the source of many of his poems.

The poems I have selected for this week come from his book, The Great Whirl of Exile , published by Curbstone Press in 1999.



Poem for Marilyn Monroe

Proof is what mathematicians' wives contend with,
the more proof you require the better the whiskey.


Therefore, if there is a storm, or say
your minimum wage pays for three weeks and a couple of days
out of the month and electricity turns its back on you,
you need only to pull three socks out of five
from your dresser drawer to find a match.

The owner agrees; he posed the question,
but no matter what brand of truth you offer,
the chap next in line for the best fish an chips
in Albuquerque, or New Mexico, in other words, the world,
is harder to convince than an enraged tax collector.

It's an easy world; all that needs to be done to be considered
an adult is to lift the plastic sheet over that picture
of hers on the calendar, and her clothes come off Easy.
Nobody has to worry about what thirteen-year-olds
have to say or what miracles they pray for.


Poem for Toby Lee

Today, water is not worth all the blood
that has been spilled over it.

Fish have learned to weep.

The Rio Grande swallows its tears.

Mermaids look to the heaven sand proclaim "Fraud!"

A new law should be enacted: a lifetime must
last longer than eighteen months.

I drink from her lips,
her first love.

The ambulence arrives; the driver wraps her
in The Las Cruces Sun-News


Poem for Pancho Gonzales

this was th world of white lines, a game
unlike any other, where the object was to win,
only you used words like "please"
if your aim ended up improperly
in the next court, "Thank you" when
the ball was returned and "Love"
after you scored first.

Yours was the name that survived
the hatred only California can inspire,
strong enough to be etched in fire
on tennis rackets redeemed
by thrifty mothers who built a life
on S&H Green Stamps a dish,
a dish, a lamp, and ashtray at a time.


Poem for Grandpa

Grandpa had a furious temper; when angered
cursed fiercely. Even though he knew
only a few words of English
started out by taking the Lord's name in vain
which was followed by what was clearly Spanish,
and then with what would have been fluent English
had he been born in Brooklyn and not New Mexico.








The answer to the early question is in. The Spurs lost, an almost perfect season lost to the 8th seed team.



champions fall, heroes fade

champions fall
heroes
fade -

memories
of the quest sustain us -
the years when brave
were our hearts
and valor our shield…

still, there is pain
in acceptance,
and pain in the knowing
that
in the end
we all grow old
and tire
and learn the gunslinger’s
creed -

for every fast hand
there is a faster hand coming,
the dark truth
lingering
at Black Rock Junction,
waiting for the train to our extinction..

arriving soon
in the falling hours
of our dim afternoon

~~~

broken champions
sad heroes
falling……fading








Siegfried Sassoon became a poet in the bloody, muddy trenches of World War I. He was one of the lucky ones, coming out of those trenches alive in the end, part of a generation of truth-telling poets who did not survive the bloood, finding their glory in their poems instead.

Here are three short poems from the collection of his work then, The War Poems, published by faber & faber, first in 1983, with my edition published in 1988.



Glory of Women

You love us when we're heroes, home of leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe
That chivalry redeems the war's disgrace.
You make us shells. You listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.
You crown our distant adours while we fight
And mourn our laurelled memories when we're killed.
You can't believer that British troops "retire"
When hell's last horror breaks them, and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses - blind with blood.
   O German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

Craiglockhart, 1917


Autumn

October's bellowing anger breaks and cleaves
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves
For battle's fruitless harvest, and the feud
Of outraged men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown
Along the westering furnace flaring red.
O martyred outh and manhood overthrown,
The burden of your wrongs is on my head.

Craiglockhart, 1917


Remorse

Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash, - each instant lit
When gloom reveals the steaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
"could anything be worse than this?" he wonders,
Remembering how he saw the Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees...
Our chaps were sticking 'em like pigs..."O hell!"
He thought - "there's things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds."

Limerick, 4 February 1918








Sunday morning at breakfast, look around the room who might have a poem behind their over-easy eggs and bacon.

Look, there she is.



the woman with the interesting hair

she’s older than middle-age
but not yet old,
with retro-hair, at first glance,
war-bride hair,
tightly-permed bun up front
and one more on each side
and my first thought
was Betty Davis in one of those
40’s movies where she’s a haughty bitch
who gets brought down to earth
by a strong man’s good kissing and other stuff
unmentioned
at the time

and though this look
is what I always think of first
when I think of Betty Davis, I do the Google-dance
and can’t find a single picture of her
with that hair style

so I think to myself, goodness sakes,
if it’s not Betty Davis who am I thinking of, then it hits me,
Little Orphan Annie,
but I Google-dance again
and see that it’s not the triple-bun look she has
but a kind of red/orange afro, a helmet thing,
like the motorcycle guys wear, thick, covering forehead
to the nape of her neck, with bumper guards on each side
sticking forward almost to her chin

so, wrong again

then, all of a sudden,
(sudden, being this not a poem where things happen slowly)
suddenly, way back in the most dusty corners of my brain,
where the oatmeal
has turned to redi-mix concrete plugs of
almost forgotten memory,
(like the pretty yellow-haired girl who played with me
on the sidewalk in front of a house
I don’t even remember)
way-back stuff, in other words,
concrete shifts, cracks,
and breaks through it all my to my first
fictional
girlfriend, Lil’ LuLu,
except instead of one brillo-pad bun
centered up front
she has two, along with the two sticking out
behind her ears,
not exactly right, but hell
I’ve already spend 30 minutes thinking
about this, and the woman with the interesting
finished her breakfast and left
long ago, so I don’t even have anymore the real model
to compare my memories to, so anything more
falls into the dead horse beating category,
which I would never do, beat a dead horse or any other animal
alive or dead,
and to avoid beating such dead horse, or any other animal,
dead or alive,
I am satisfied to label this the “Lil’ Lulu” simile,
or metaphor, I never can keep those too straight,
which one is which one, which one is “like”
and which one is “is”
and you could
probably
help
here by taking over
while I finish my
coffee
and flapjacks,
except I didn’t really have flapjacks

I just like the word,
has a kind of Rocky Mountain
Bunyon and Babe
flannel shirt
feel to
it
that jump starts my testosterone flow
and pumps up my masculine
imagination
of tall trees and soft grasses








Next, I have a poem by Wendy Barker, from her book, The Way of Whiteness, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2000.

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.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. Barker also taught high school English in Scottsdale, Arizona, between 1966–68 and in Berkeley, between 1968-72.

She has published five books of poetry and three chapbooks as well as a selection of poems with accompanying drafts and essays about the writing process. Her translations (with Saranindranath Tagore) of Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore received the Sourette Diehl Fraser Award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Another one of my favorite poets, simple words, a deep, but simple, story.



On the Subject of Jackets

Toward the last, my father asked for his tweed
jacket, described the tie, the striped shirt
he wanted to wear to the hospital, not knowing

he would be strapped to a gurney, dressed
only in a short cotton gown for the winding
ambulance ride on New Hampshire roads

across the river. I followed in the car with
my mother, snug behind the wheel, sun through
the windshield. A thermos of tea beside us.

He asked for his jacket in the voice he had used
to a secretary on the other side of his polished desk.
People signed their names to his words.

Today you tell me your grandfather, seventy years
ranching in the Texas hills, is dying. Matter of fact,
you say when it happens you won't know who you are.

Clean blue of a New England September sky
as my mother and I pushed through the glass
entrance from the shop-lined street where

I decided to buy a jacket. Soft, same blue
as the skirt I wore that he had touched,
saying, "Pretty, this is pretty."

Every morning I pressed that skirt,
stroked the iron over the blue
cloth of the jacket, color of his eyes.

Wore it when I walked into his room
unable to talk because he couldn't.
For weeks the jacket covered me

as I met my classes. And then one afternoon,
I left it in the room where I met you
that fall my father died. You blue eyes, like his.

You talk now of the way your grandfather
wielded a knife for castrating calves.
The jacket's cloth was smooth from all that ironing.

I never got it back. I have nothing left to prepare you
for the cold, except what I cannot give. Stroking
of skin on skin. the clothes we can never wear.








Once, with nothing to do (not a rarity in my life) I decided to make a list of famous people with whom I had had an encounter.

Not many, but here they are.



rubbing elbows

I bumped into,
literally,
Chet Huntley
in the Indiana University
library and David Brinkley
about twenty-five years later
at a chamber of commerce dinner;
I saw Dwight Eisenhower
and Charles de Gaulle
as they passed in a motorcade,
Ike in Texas and de Gaulle
in Paris; I sneaked into
a lecture by LBJ at Texas
State University and had
several close interactions
with George Bush while
he was governor; I was
on the University of Texas
campus when the crazy guy
started shooting people
from the UT Tower, but
I was on the north side
while he was mostly shooting
south, all the way downtown,
and didn’t know anything
was going on until it was
almost over; I saw Freddy
Fender once when he was
visiting a friend of his who
was a coworker of mine; I’ve seen
David Robinson at the bowling
alley and at a bookstore, and
I saw Popovich once at the same
bookstore looking at wine magazines

that’s pretty much all the famous people
I’ve had any kind of contact with

I’ve seen a bunch of unfamous
people, too, but I don’t
remember their
names








My last poem from my library this week is by Robert Pinsky and it's from his book Gulf Music. The book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2007.



Inman Square Incantation

Forgive us, we don't exactly believe or disbelieve
What the President tells us regarding the great issues
Of peace, justice and war - skeptical, but distracted

By the swarm of things. The young Romanian poet in L.A:
She said, "In Romania, bums are just bums, but here
In America the bum pushes a cart loaded with his things."

With a mean elfin look one of the homeless carters
in Alfred Vellucci Park sometimes bets using
A stuffed dog, bear or bunny as a prop: the paper cup

Panhandled toward us passing marks puppetwise -
Can you spare a little for Teddy? Or The Doggie's hungry -
Crooning maternal parody, a wheedling mock-innocence.

The noseringed leather kids who haunt the T station seem
The reverse - feigned menace.But one bashed some black girls
On the train, using the kind of metal rod called an "asp."

Some money to feed the bunny? his little poetry reading.
And the plush animal a street sign among signs, his ad
For something more personal and abounding than just need.

His smirk knows a thing sharper than pity to block my way by
The brazen ten-fot tenor saxophone that markes Ryles,
To Top Cleaners, the bank machine and Patel Quick Food Mart.

Thedictionary says that a thing is first of all an assembly.
Forgive the word "bums." Forgive "homeless," our sheepish
Euphemism. "Derelict" is better for these forsaken.

Across the street from Cherveija e Vinhos and Boston Improv,
The Romanesque firehouse's arches from bas-reliefs
Of horse-drawn ladder & hose. Amid thee signs of civic

Rescue and cleansing, diversion and provender, let's
Remember, you rat-faced beggar: I dislike you. Forgive me.
And if as I pass again from where I've been I choose to take

A dead president from my breast pocket where I stowed the thing
To put it in your cup, it isn't Charity, but superstition - a provisional
Wishful conspiring with the artist in you, son of a bitch, bastard.








I wrote this last week after reading the quote that leads the poem and on the same day that, as mentioned earlier, the weather seemed to be surrendering to the forces of chaos. It's my last poem for the week.



chaos management

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life. What I don’t like is mismanagement of chaos”
&nbssp;  - Franketienne, Haitian author, poet, playwright, painter


there are patterns to the
universe,
from the orbits of galaxies
to the circling
of the tiniest electron
around it’s mother-neutron
anchor
to the greening and falling
of leaves
to the daily commute
of bankers and painters
and donut makers
to the soft sleep of babes and the long
dry nights
of old and time-worn men
all circling

all circling
each circle a world within itself
inter-acting with its fellows in shadows
of confusion,
like looking at the color patterns
of gumballs
encased in glass,
patterns seen only through a one-eyed
squint from some great distance, the further away
the clearer becomes the organization
red upon green next to blue under yellow,
each placed in a structured chaos,
like the universe
in all it chaotic glory, structured truth
we can never get distance enough
to see, an incubator spewing chaos,
indestructible unalterable manageable
only through the indirection
of unseen hands
that must never fumble
or chaos will solidify and all the circles
will stop their spinning
and fall to the lethargy of inertia stilled
and all that is will, like Lot’s wife,
turn to salt crumbling on a silent plain
in a steady wind of never-
again








I know I said the above poem was my last for the week, but here's one more, in celebration of a very good week.



if I could walk on water

he’s dead
shot in the head
dead
by Fred
the stalking
Seal

(really big deals
those Seals
who made him
dead
with a shot to the
head)

and
if
I could walk
on water I’d dance
on
his grave








dat's it.

Not sure why I do this every week, but I'm told it may protect me from being sued and having all my vast profits from "Here and Now" seized by indignant poets. (How much is 100% nothing?)

Anyway, I am appreciative to all the poets whose work I borrow and it certainly should clear that they are just borrowed and never claimed as my own. All others should respect that as well, recognizing that all the material in the blog remains the property of its creators. My stuff, as I've said before, is available to anyone who wants it merely for the courtesy of proper credit for me and "Here and Now."

And the me in this case is, me, allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and frequent visitor to my fellow poets' well of goodwill and encouragement.

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Los Tres Hermanos   Friday, April 22, 2011


My younger brother, my older brother, & me, Corpus Christi, Texas, Circa 1985
Photo by Dora Ramirez
VI.4.5.




No featured poet this week, but I do have some pictures by long-time friend, Bob Anderson. There'll be more on Bob when you get to his photos.

My photos this week are some black and whites I picked because I like them. I also have included some personal-history pictures. I don't usually caption pictures, but I did caption these because it's my blog and I get to do what I want to.

Here's the line-up for you reading pleasure.


Stephen Berg
His versions of:
Bankei Yotaku
First Song
Manuel Blas de Otero
Enough
Man

Arthur Rimbaud
Defilements

Me
Pope G and the cowboys

Deborah Garrison
The Kiss

Me
the cootie conundrum

Steve Healey
best bond ever

Me
up at 4:30

Norman Stock
Thank You for Your Helpful Comments

Me
the Spurs lost the first game of the finals

Ralph Angel
Breathing Out

Me
nights are cool and breezy

Rikki Ducornet
She is a Robber
The Lunatic Algebra


Me
happy birthday to me

Sonia Sanchez
Blues Haiku

Bob Anderson
Photos from Turkey (mostly)

Me
the woman who reminds me of Gertrude Stein
Sunday breakfast at IHOP
blind date


Sappho
Fragments from Book V - The Taut Tongue

Me
puddles in the parking lot

Wendell Berry
Let Us Pledge
The Vacation
The Widower
The Storm


Me
this…that…whatever

Julie B. Levine
Rain at Night

Me
I blame it on something I ate

Ishle Y Park
New Year’s Eve

Me
ever after

Yusef Komunyakaa
Bedazzled
King of the Hill


Me
fat lady with a parasol passing









First off, I have several poems by Stephen Berg, some his own work and some "versions" of poems by other poets that have been translated by someone else into English. (I like this "versions" word in that it clearly describes what's going on. I'm quite dissatisfied with well-known poets who present and claim credit for "translations" from languages they have no knowledge of.)

The poems are from Berg'sbook The Steel Cricket, Versions 1958-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press in 1997.



Berg's first poem in the book is taken from a work by Bankei Yotaku, a well-known Rinzai Zen Buddhist master, and the abbot of the Ryomon-ji and Nyoho-ji who was born in 1622 and died in 1693.


First Song

never was     always will be
mind before mind
earth water fire wind
sleep there tonight

you you on fire
burning yourself
attached
to this burning house

search
all the way back
to the womb
can't remember a thing

good bad
ideas
self self
which?

winter's wonderful
bonfire's
ridiculous
in summer

summer breezes
irritate
even before autumn's
over

rich now
you hate the poor
and forget when you
had nothing
you saved every dollar
a friend
watched by the famished
wraiths of your self

your whole life
making money
could not pay off
death

clinging wanting
nothing on my mind
that's why I can say
it's all mine

you want someone you love
now
only because
you never knew her

you can't forget
not to remember
someone you never forgot
who?

looking back
you see it one brief evening
realize     see
everything's a lie

bitter? does this
incredible world of grief
hurt? why wound yourself
brooding on dreams?

no hands     no eyes
nothing exists
touch see
that's it

all this
is unreal
instead of clutching your head
go and sing

you mind
yours
torments you
because you need it

hating hell
loving heaven
torture yourself
in this joyous world

the hating mind
itself is not bad
not not hating
what's bad

good     bad
crumple into a ball
of trash
for the gutter

ideas about
what you should do
never existed
I      I     I

finished
with Buddhism
nothing's
new

enlightenment really?
"mine"
keep wrestling with yourself
idiot

these days enlightenment
means nothing to me
so I wake up
feeling fine

tired of praying
for salvation     look
at those poor beautiful flowers
withering

saunter
along the river
breath
in     out

die     live
day and night here
listen     the world's
your hand

Buddhas
are pitiful
all dressed up     dazzled
by brocade robes

enemies
come from you mind
right wrong right wrong
never were

call it this     that
it doesn't exist
except this page
except these wavering phrases

praised abused
like a block of wood straight through
my head's the universe
can't hide my ugliness my clumsiness

so I just go along
with what is
without anger
without happiness

nothing to see     nothing to know
before after now
call and you'll hear
in heartbreaking silence


Next, two short poems Berg made from poems of Manuel Blas de Otero.

de Otero, who was born in 1916 and died in 1979, was a Spanish poet born in Basque country and one of the most influential anti-government poets of the Spanish Civil Way.



Enough

Imagine for a minute how miserable I felt
when I though that God, the only living thing, doesn't exist,
or if He does is made of nothing except
earth, water, shadow, and wind,

and that death - Oh I'm shaking like crazy -
is and emptiness without even the light from staircase,
a colossal hole that sinks endlessly
into a noting of moist silence.

Then why live, sons
of mothers, at what window be, crucified ones
and all you others? Enough death.

Enough. God, stop killing us wrong like this
or if you can't, just let us dangle way up
above you - howling river that overflows -.


Man

One body after another until death,
on the edge of nothingness, I cry out
to God, and his silence bounces back and chokes me.

God, if I have to die, at least
be awake. Night after night I still don't
know if my voice is going to be heard. I talk to myself.

I lift my hands, you cut off the fingertips.
I open my eyes to you, they catch fire.
I'm thirsty, salt flows out of sand.

Here's what being a man is: his hands are full -
horrible! He exists, he doesn't exist - eternal, criminal
angel whose giant wings are chains.


And last, Berg provides his own vision of a well-titled piece by Arthur Rimbaud.


Defilements

ancient animals fucked running
glans filmed with excremental blood
our fathers showed their cocks
unsheathed them pulling the scrotum out to display it
you needed a huge one to fuck women or pigs
don't envy a rhino's we're big enough

but sadly we've given up wielding our shlongs in public
showing off like children frolicking in the woods
often I've watched men
shitting behind hedges
learned what the ass is for
white screened by hair

woman have a tuft of right there
focused like a dark flame
everything to be naked studying it
I also dreamt of eating the deep pink lips that pout
after fucking wet with my sperm
dreamt my mouth was often
open on it
as if proof of a soul depended on that act
as if that were my soul
kneeling sucking on it weeping








I wrote this last Friday, some calendar considerations interrupted by some cowpokes riding in from the range.



Pope G and the cowboys

Good Friday,
so designated by those
who believe the stories, which
I do not, so for me it’s just another Friday,
this one April 22 in the year of our Lord, 2011,
as so designated by
Pope Gregory, back in the day
when popes were pretty much
the boss of everyone except in places like
China and Mexico and Peru and
Oklahoma and India and certain islands
where giant heads were carved from stone
and set to serve as sentinels to the sea, but in all places
not overrun by going-to-hell pagans, like Italy
and France, Popes were big deals,
the big enchiladas,
so to speak,
running the show, setting the rules
and the boundaries of fact and fiction
and old Greg was especially
that way
and liked to make up stuff
like calling houseflies dragons
so everyone with a fly-swatter could
be a dragon-slayer
to the glory of Christ…

but wait
four cowboys just walked in,
real cowboys
with jeans and boots and
knife scabbards and cell phones
stuck on their wide embossed belts
and great big hats, like mobile tents for your head,
real, by gosh, cowboys , like I used to see when we lived
further south and don’t see to much here
except during rodeo weeks

and they’re having a real interesting conversation
about hummingbirds flying thousands of miles
and whooping cranes
flying back and forth to the Texas and where ever they spend summers,
and how the upcoming drought
which limits the flow of fresh water into the bays
along the Texas coast kills the food
they eat when they’re here in the winter, it’s like knowing
how to get home and nowhere else, one cowboy says, and when
you finally get home, the fridge is empty
and you have nothing to eat
until summer comes and you go back to your other home
in Canada or wherever,
and what a lousy fucking deal it is for the birds
that are screwed when there’s not enough rain
and equally screwed when there’s too much rain
and too much fresh water flow into the salt water bays,
instead of too little,
which also kills the blue crabs and whatnot,
leaving the fridge
is just as empty for the cranes

and you have to wonder how these creatures
have survived
as long as they have,
a living planet we used to call it,
but the truth is there’s always been as much dying
as living going on and somehow,
being optimistic creatures ourselves
who make a big deal
about the first baby born at the beginning
of each new year
but never talk about the first person dying,
and so, all this dying going on and
we just haven’t
noticed

and old Pope G
died
just like the birds and the crabs
and, prospectively,
you and me
and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it,
one of the things that makes
the cowboys
a whole lot more interesting
than him
in all his papal glory
and intrigue
and heretic burning
and calendar making, fortunately for him,
the only thing he's remembered
in these latter days








The next poem is by Deborah Garrison, from her book A Working Girl Can't Win, published in 2000 by The Modern Library.

Garrison, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1965, worked on the editorial staff of the New Yorker for fifteen years and is now the poetry editor of Alfred A. Knopf and a senior editor at Pantheon Books.



A Kiss

It was not like everyone said.
Not like being needed,
or needing; not desperate;
it did not whisper
that I'd come to harm. I didn't lose

my head. No, I was not
going to leap from a great
height and flap
my wings.
It was in fact

the opposite of flying;
it contained the wish
to be toppled, to be on the floor,
the ground, anywhere I might
lie down....

On my back, and you on me.
Do you mind?
Not like having a conversation, exactly;
though not unlike telling
and being told -

What?
That I was like a woman admitting
there was a part of herself she didn't know?
There was a part of myself.
I didn't know.

An introduction
then, to the woman I was like,
at least as long as you kissed me.
Now that's a long time,
at least a couple of women ago.








Another dog and cat story - it's true, I got a million of 'em.



the cootie conundrum

From The New Times Book of Timely Definitions:
Cooties - The aura and essences of all living things; That which follows behind all creatures large and small,
as well immobile creatures such as trees and bushes and
rutabagas and carrots; The air breathed in and out, thoughts
left hanging incomplete; an insubstantial substance like the ghosts
of muddy footprints on a kitchen floor after scrupulous
mopping; a conceit of the dictionarily challenged


so here’s
the dilemma:

Kitty
the blind cat
loves dog cooties

while Reba
the deaf dog hates
cat cooties - so

the dog-cootie
loving
cat

likes to sleep
on the dog’s bed
because of all the readily available

dog cooties,
leaving behind
a surfeit of cat cooties

in the process, making
the dog’s bed
entirely unacceptable

to the cat-cootie-hating
dog,
so the dog makes herself a bed

elsewhere,
which, in the course of a week or so,
accumulates a full helping

of
dog cooties,
which draws the cat to the new bed

having, in due course,
depleted
the original supply of dog cooties

in the old bed,
leaving Reba the dog
once again out on a search

for a new cat-cootie-free
bed,
and, both of these animals

being highly intelligence, old, and
and good-natured
homebodies,

I am concerned
that this constant shifting,
living like Gypsies

from tent to tent,
might harm them, being,
like I said, old,

well past the age
where they have any illusions
about change being their friend,

believing, as I do, that that kind of
change-is-your friend baloney
is what we tell people

as we begin
to repossess their home of fifty years
and nothing more





My father in 1978, two years before he died, when he could still get out and about




The next poem is by Steve Healey. It is from his book, earthling, published in 2004 by The Coffee House Press.

Healey is a critic, essayist and poet who divides his time between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and East Lansing, Michigan, where he teaches creative writing and literature at Michigan State University.



best bond ever

Everyone says Sean Connery
because he has those sleepy eyes

that say even God can't remember
all these secrets. Imagine trying to love
equally every grass blade on Earth,

then lying on the best lawn ever
to feel more like God. While sleeping

I let the green fingers grown through me,
then try to salvage a full--length dream:

waking is where all the best roads
meet the water on my face, and lying there
feels so new it's not possible to talk.

Later, okay, I'll confess aloud:
my father was a covert agent,
and he would've had sex with Sean Connery

any day of the week. Even if they never did it
and this confession goes wrong,
a song may still emerge from it.

A voice is a very naked thing, and even
the best country music is wobbly enough
to say I've had some intercourse,

I've seen some weather, I can't see
where I'm going. Yesterday, for example,

it's summery, kind of nineteenth century:
modern grammar wants to be born,
it wants to exit my mouth.

My best face is where sunny fingers
frequently probe for signs of pain,
and last night I watch lightning
from the broken porch . It's raining
minus signs, my genes mumble
to their briny, obsolete messiah.

Which of my faces grazes
at what flash necropolis

I don't know, nor am I certain where
Shelley is now, or Descartes for that matter,

but I think about how far away you are
to have an ocean at your feet,

and what you said about the dog
washing up on the beach,
reminding everyone of something.

I'll speak for myself:
the hardest part is receiving the loss

and being very quiet for a while,
touching a certain hole, and believing

these words do more than just lie
on a lot of processed wood bound by
what? The desire to catch a spy?

My face is the place where
my boat and the water are one,
embarrassment cradles me to sleep,

and yes, my father is the best-kept secret,
he is actually dead.








I'm an early riser, though usually not this early.



up at 4:30

sunsets
are a spectacle here,
vivid, ranging from lemon yellow
to searing red,
but I still prefer the sun
as it rises,
less like a movie special
effect,
more sedate, a gradual lighting
of the sky
before the sun
slips up over the east horizon…

appropriate
I think
that as each day ends in a blaze
of glory
it begins as a
tiptoe through the dark night
like my own start in the morning,
quietly
down the hallway
to the bathroom, careful
not to step
on the blind cat
who sometimes gets lost at night
and ends
on the throw rug
right outside my bedroom door…

I enjoy the day’s beginning,
the sights and sounds
as seen and heard from my patio,
alone in the dark,
then not alone as first light
filters through the trees
waking birds
who begin their morning calls,
then the first pink
of the sun
finally showing itself
over my neighbor’s fence,
then full light, the dogs stretch
and bark
at the train passing
several miles away, so quiet the morning
until then that the clatter of their wheels
and the wail of their whistle
sounds so close, just across the creek
and down the street,
right past the house
where the policeman lives
with loud family fights
and parties
every Saturday night
ka-thunka, ka-thunka, ka-thunka,
conjunto bass
shimmering the air,
slipping through dancing squeezebox squeals,
sometimes wondering if I should call
the police on the police,
remembering they all carry guns
all the time,
ka-thunka, ka-thunka…

but this morning,
none of that, up at 4:30,
just me and the gathering sun
and the birds
and dogs
and a train like right next door








Here's a poem by Norman Stock, borrowed from his book, Buying Breakfast for my Kamikaze
Pilot
. The book was published by Gibbs-Smith in 1994.

Stock won the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest for this, his first book of poetry. His poems have also appeared in many magazine's, as well as in anthologies and textbooks. His awards include the National Arts Club Scholarship and the Alan Collins Fellowship at Bread Loaf, the Tennessee Williams Scholarship at Sewanee, P &W's Writers Exchange Award, the Bennington Writers Workshop Poetry Prize, the Writers Voice New Voice Award, and a Tanne Foundation Fellowship. He has twice been a finalist for Poet Laureate of Queens.

Who would not admit they have had the exact same feeling, well-hidden by most of us, but there all the same. It's the problem with exposing oneself to the world - you have to pretend you don't care what someone thinks.



Thank You for the Helpful Comments

I sit quietly listening
as they tear my poem to shreds in the poetry workshop
as each one says they have a "problem" with this line
    and they have a "problem" with that line
and I am not allowed to speak because that is the
    etiquette of the workshop
so I sit listening and writhing while they tear the guts out
    my poem and leave it lying bleeding and dead
and when they're finally finished having kicked the
    stuffing out of it
having trimmed it down from twenty lines to about four
    words that nobody objects to
then they turn to me politely and they say Norman
    do you have any response
response I say picking myself up from the floor and brushing
    away the dirt while holding on for dear life to what I
    thought was my immortal poem now dwindled to nothing
and though what I really want to say is can I get my money
    for this stupid workshop what I say instead is...
    uh...thank you for our helpfulcomments...
    while mumble under my breath motherfuckers
    wait till I get to your poems








The Spurs lost the first game, but won the second, leaving it one each in the first finals series. Early money was saying it was going to be the tightest one-eight series in a long long time, with Memphis' skill set unusually strong in areas of the Spurs greatest weaknesses. Anticipating that, I had picked the Spurs to win the series in six games. We'll see how it turns out. I'm not nearly as confident as I was before the series started. Lots of fans in San Antonio going to be very disappointed if the Spurs don't win the championship after one of their best regular seasons ever. We'll know, by the time this is posted, how the best of seven series turned out.

Late update: Down 3 to 1 in the 7-game series, tying last night's game with a 3-pointer in the last 1.5 seconds of regular play, pushing the game into overtime, which the Spurs won, 110-103. Two games remain in the series and the Spurs must win both. If they lose either, they're done for the season.

A long shot, but not impossible.

Here's the poen.



the Spurs lost the first game of the finals

the Spurs
lost their first game
in the finals
so I’m not reading
any
sports news this week

because
I’m a true-blue American patriot
and like all true-blue American
patriots
I am certain that, if I just
close my eyes tight enough,
I mean really really
squeeze
them shut really really tight
bad news will go poof
and disappear
and the Spurs will win
the first game of the finals
and retreating glaciers
will freeze and advance again
through the rocky canyons of ages
and petunias
will bloom again in the desert

and if that doesn’t work
and it turns out
that nothing goes poof
and the glaciers don't freeze
and the petunias don't bloom
and the Spurs
still
lost the first game
of the finals,
I will, as a true-blue American
wingnut,
blame it on Jewish bankers
and their minions, socialist, community-organizing
Kenyans
and democratic party bosses
in smoke-filled rooms where freedom
is dissected and put in alcohol jars
like frogs in 10th grade biology labs

and that will certainly
make bad-stuff go poof
and disappear,
including the unfair, un-American
loss by the Spurs
of the first game in the finals

and
if that doesn’t work
I will moan and groan
and cry and go to church
and pray
for deliverance
and tell God to wake up
and smell the roses
and eradicate
from the universal accounting
of time
those 48 minutes
when Satan overran the basketball courts
and caused the unthinkable
loss by the Spurs
of the first game of the NBA finals

and if that
doesn't work
and it turns out the Spurs
still
lost the first game of the finals
I’ll denounce God,
declare him dead, and join a Devil-worshiping
coven
of witches and disenchanted Presbyterians
and kill a goat
and drink its blood
and perform incantations
and chants
while naked, circling
a pentagram
until
in a frenzy
I will howl and pluck
the flower of her virginity
from a near-sided librarian
and
if that doesn’t work
I’ll do it again
or at least the near-sided librarian
part
and, if that doesn’t work…

I’ll blame it on the refs
and have a silent, somber beer
(or two)
with others also in the depths
of our co-misery

wait
till next game,
we’ll say to each other,
just wait, just
wait…

and
then
we’ll have
another beer
and blow smoke rings
from smelly
cigars…

wait
till next time -
works on almost
anything








Next, I have this domestically quiet love poem by Ralph Angel. It's from his book Twice Removed, published by Sarabande Books in 2001.

Angel was born in Seattle in 1951. He is the author of several books of poetry, including this one and Neither World, which I have drawn from here a number of times. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He is the Edith R. White Distinguished Professor at the University of Redlands, in California, and a member of the MFA in Writing faculty at Vermont College.

I especially like the every-day tranquility of this poem.



Breathing Out

Now you are crossing a wide street at night
anxious in the traffic and rushing
to get to the bakery
before closing. What could be more breathtaking
than your beauty if not in my arms
at least on that side
of peril. That's why I'm yelling at the driver of the pickup truck
I just slammed into so much did I
want to park there and
wait for you.

May I never with love
by surviving love and loving blocks and days away
the most ancient of the dead desire earthly
our getting born again
alone without
choice

children fill the air
the spices and the rugs of the bazaar.

I buy you tulips.
They are yellow and bright.
The port is dark and glittering blue airplanes
hover there. Like clarity
itself. Like
faintly wailing sirens attacher to absolutely
nothing.
Like socks and sweaters and
the blanket that slipped somehow
from your legs while I
tidied up the falconer so lost in your book
are you tonight.





Animas River, Durango, Colorado,circa 1986-87




It's like going up and down stairs, season to season, and the last couple of weeks like being stuck half way through the step between spring and summer with warm days and cool windy nights.



nights are cool and breezy

nights
are cool and breezy,
not yet the moon shrouded summer furnaces
they will become
in June to September, a different kind
of summer night
than what I grew up with
on the coast, where
there were always fresh winds blowing at night,
cooled by their passage across
the wide gulf,
and wet,
like clothes put through a cold water rinse
and not completely dried,
but those winds,
however cool and the clammy,
were welcome relief from the hot bright days,
working under a sun that burned
like tattoo needles
on any exposed flesh,
sitting in classrooms before air conditioning,
sweat
like a salty river
pouring from beneath your arms, dripping
from your nose
onto your Texas history book,
wondering why, in that heat, anyone
ever stayed around in Texas long enough
to make a history








Next I have a couple of short poems by Rikki Ducornet from her book The Cult of Seizure, published by The Porcupine's Quill,Inc. in 1989. This is probably the last time I'll use this book, not because I don't like the poems, but because each poem is part of the overall narrative of the book, a postmodernist fantasy, and don't make much sense in isolation. But I do admire the fire of the writing.

Ducornet, born Erica DeGre in 1949, grew up on the campus of Bard College in New York, earning a B.A. in Fine Arts from the same institution in 1964. In 1972 she moved to the Loire Valley in France and in 1988 she won a Bunting Institute fellowship at Radcliffe. In 1989 she moved back to North America after accepting a teaching position in the English Department at The University of Denver. In 2007, she became Writer in Residence at the The University of Louisiana. In 2008, The American Academy of Arts and Letters conferred upon her one of the eight annual Academy Awards presented to writers. (Wikipedia doesn't say what she wrote to win the award.)

In an article titled "Back To Annandale" in the March 24, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly, it was revealed that Ducornet was the apparent inspiration for the 1974 Steely Dan hit "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."



She is a Robber

Erzsebet straddles my dreams -
I swear, her thighs are tigers.
She comes silent, a cold spell a variable star.

And the night is an arsonist.
She scorches towards Christmas.
Past my nebula of crabs,
My riverbed of shards.

Where is the Sandman?
His stylet? His silk noose?
Blindfolded in my familiar pit
I hug a sack of skulls.

And the night is a robber.
She hurls her way to Black Mass
Past my bridal chamber,
Star Chamber.


The Lunatic Albebra

The lunatic algebra
of Love.
The frenzied orbits
of Mood.
The malarial temperatures
of Wound.
Symbols of the Cult
of Seizure:
The flesh, this amulet
incised.
This hot spoor
of predators.
This zodiac savaged
in the sky.








I wrote this three years ago on my 64th birthday. Now, at 67, I don't find anything in it that I'd want to argue with.



happy birthday to me

one year, now,
from the internationally
recognized
date of coothood
rising,
i look for a reason
to be sad or
afraid
and find none

***

regrets
are like missed meals

the tastes unsavored
grow
in imagination
but offer
no nutrition

while
the plain grub
of reality
sustains you

***

hearing a story
on the radio about
a hard death,
we talk

she,
a Christian
with a promise
of eternal life,
seems more afraid
than me

dying seems the easiest part

it’s getting there
from here
that can break a heart

***

i’ve reached the age
when
most of the people
closest to me
in my life
are dead and gone

making
the ones who remain
even more
precious

***

when Paul sang
about it
it seemed impossibly
remote

turned
my back
and here it is

catching me by
surprise

****

what can i tell
my son
about this
as he
40 years junior
comes near
some of
the greatest changes
and decisions
of an adult
life

keep the faith
i’d say

in yourself
and the choices
you make

this day
that has surprised me
will
someday
surprise you, too

live
so that when it
does
you can look around
and find no
reason for
sadness
or fear








Here are a series of haiku by Sonia Sanchez, from her book Like the Spring Coming off the Drums, published in 1998 by Beacon Press.

Sanchez, born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama in 1934, is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. She has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books. She was a 1993 Pew Fellowships in the Arts.

In 1955, she received a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, where she had also taken several creative writing courses. Later, she completed postgraduate work at New York University where she studied poetry. In 1972, she joined the Nation of Islam, but left the organization after three years in 1975 because her views on women's rights conflicted with theirs. She has taught as a professor at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses across the US.



From Blues Haiku

i am who i am.
nothing hidden just black silk
above two knees.

~~~

I ain't your momma
but i am this lil mama
who knows how to burn.

~~~

this is not a fire
sale but i am in heat
each time i see ya.

~~~

these waves boisterous like
Che's mountains smell of mania
howling in my veins.

~~~

legs wrapped around you
camera action. tightshot
this is not a rerun

~~~

is there for rent
sign on my butt? you got no
territorial rights here.

~~~

my face is a scarred
reminder of your easy
comings and goings.

~~~

derelict with eyes
i settle in a quiet
carnival of waves.

~~~

i taste your sweet salt come
your face a revelation
of bedtime fairy tales.

~~~

his face like chiseled
china his eyes clotting
around rubber asses

~~~

it was nothing big
just no one to put suntan
lotion on my back





Rejected Armed Forces recruiting poster - Airman 2nd Class Itz, Indiana University, 1966.




Next, I have several pictures sent to me by long time friend, Bob Anderson.

Bob and I met 45 years ago in 1966 while in Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB here in San Antonio. Both of us were several years older than the recruits we trained with, both being refugees who joined the Air Force to escape imminent draft. (I don't know about Bob, but I had actually received my draft notice and completed my pre-induction physical with just two weeks to find the alternative I settled on.)

After basic training, we were both sent to Indian University where we spent nearly a year studying Russian. After completing the language courses, we were both stationed at the same post in Germany. After a year there, we were sent in different directions, Bob to Turkey and me to Pakistan. We reconnected after our military service and have stayed in touch, off and on, since, me back in Texas and Bob in New Mexico.

The pictures, all but the last one, are from Turkey, historical Turkey, I guess you could say, since they were taken in 1968-69, during Bob's service there. The last picture is very rare and possibly valuable, being a picture of me studying Russian in our dorm in 1966, a true rarity since I don't remember ever studying in the dorm. All the studying I remember, hazily, was done at a bar downtown, in the back, behind a great long horseshoe bar. We usually made it through the first pitcher of beer, trying to adhere to our compact to converse only in Russian, before saying to hell with it and switching to English for the next and subsequent pitchers.




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson




Photo by Bob Anderson



During the same period Bob was taking these pictures, I was in Peshawa, on the West Pakistan frontier, and took almost no pictures. There were political troubles in Pakistan at the time and we were only allowed off the base once during the eleven months I was there.

The result of the troubles was that the government was overthrown and we were kicked out of the country. (We weren't ever officially there in the first place).

And the result of that was I got out of the service six months early.





My mother and father, circa 1940-1942, pre-me by a couple of years. The baby-boom began with the return of horny soldiers when the war ended. My father, who lost an eye playing minor league baseball before the war, was ineligible to serve, giving me
a head start and making me part of the pre-boomer baby-bust generation.




Still saving 2008 poems in a more permanent file, running across these short sketches that I like. Early in that year, it seems I was on a roll.



the woman who reminds me of Gertrude Stein

the woman who reminds me
of Gertrude Stein
sits across from me
several tables away,
feet heavy on the floor,
wide bottom
planted in her chair
like a bull
in its own private pasture

she’s a large woman
with a sharp beak of a nose
centered
with an occasional sniff
of dissatisfaction
on a fleshy face
that hints at sensuality
behind a domineering facade,
a look of secrets
behind
small,
quick
eyes


Sunday breakfast at IHOP

from the booth
behind me
a voice
with youthful lilt
and a full and jolly
laugh
that turns heads,
including mine,

to see
an old man
sharp-nosed
with trembling fingers,
and liver spots
on his bald
shining
head,
wearing a porky pig tie
that matches his laugh,
holding
the pale, still hand
a dead-faced woman
in a wheel chair
beside him


blind date

a lovely couple
out on the evening
it seems

“I’ll be right back,”
he says and turns
and leaves
humming
a happy little tune
under his breath

by herself,
she slumps
in the chair
and her smile
falls
like a weight
dropped
from some great height,
rebounding
again
when he returns








Here are a few fragments from early Greek poet Sappho. The poems are from the Signet Classic paperback The Love Songs of Sappho.

Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her. The only contemporary source which refers to Sappho's life is her own body of poetry, and scholars are sceptical of biographical readings of it.

The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments. The following fragments are from Book V, The Taut Tongue.



Live Your Own Life

As for the critic -
let brainstorms and maledictions sweep him away!


My Fine Gorgo

Many happy returns of the day
to the daughter of a great many kings!


Between You and Me

We've had quite enough of Gorgo


Though

I'm not the spiteful sort at all
but have the spirit of a little child


And Now

Love, the limb-loosener,stirs me:
Irresistible, bitter-sweet imp.
But, Atthis, you've come to abhor me
(Even the hint of me)
And flit to Andromeda


Andromeda!

She's fred your fancy?
That clod of a woman
who hasn't even the knack
of pulling her skirts up
over her ankles


I Saw Love

Come down from heaven
and fling off his purple cloak


But I Won't be Stung, So

keep your honey-bee
and keep your honey


Then Aphrodite Said

All was not lost
when she forgot you
And fled to Andromeda.
O Sappho, of little faith!
I too have a right to scold you:
For you should have remembered
That wherever I was I loved you
And could have come from afar as before:
From Paphos, Panormus or Cyprus -
Where I am Queen and a mighty
Force for mankind and for you:
A poem like the blaze of the sun
Who lights up the world with his glory.
So remember that even in Acheron
I the love-enraveler
Can unravel the gloom...
Yes, I can be with you.


I Am Glad to Say

Andromeda has been prettily paid back









I wrote this piece two droughts ago.



puddles in the parking lot

some time
this morning,
while I was eating
my queso and crispy taco
at Casasol,
rain
slipped in
then passed on by,
enough rain
to leave puddles
all across the parking lot -
the first puddles
in a couple of months

leaving no such opportunity
unanswered,
I splashed through
every puddle between
me and my car

my feet
are all wet now,
but, wiggling
my wet toes
in my wet socks
in my very wet shoes,
I see no problem in it





The home run king after his first of many




The next several short poems are by Wendell Berry. They are from his book Entries that was published in 1997 by Counterpoint.

Berry, born 1934, Henry County, Kentucky, is a true "man of letters", having to his credit, novels, short stories, poems and essays. He is also an academic, cultural and economic critic, environmental and political activist, and farmer. He is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a recipient of The National Humanities Medal as well.



Let Us Pledge

Let us pledge allegiance to the flag
and to the national sacrifice areas
for which it stands, garbage dumps
and empty holes, sold our for a higher
spire on the rich church, the safety
of voyagers in golf carts, the better mood
of the stock market. Let us feast
today, though tomorrow we starve. Let us
gorge upon the body of the Lord, consuming
the earth for our greater joy in Heaven,
that fair Vacationland. Let us wander forever
in the labyrinths of our self-esteem.
Let us evolve forever toward the higher
consciousness of the machine.
The spool of our engine-driven fate
unwinds, our history now outspeeding
thought, and the heart is a beatable tool.


The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.


The Widower

After she died there came a day
In which he walked from room to room
And found in the house no trace
Of her perfume. And then nothing
Reflected anything there, not mirror
By day, nor window after dark.


The Storm

We lay in our bed as in a tomb
awakened by thunder to the dark
in which our house was one with night,
and then light came as if the black
roof of the world had cracked open,
as if the night of all time had broken,
and out our window we glimpsed the world
birthwet and shining, as even
the sun at noon had never made it shine.








No worries, it's all for fun.



this…that…whatever

let’s be clear
about this -
i’m just
a casual poet
with no illusions
about the head scratching
I put to paper

there’s nothing
all that deep,
no great message,
no plumbing the depths
of this, that....whatever,
just a casual poet,
a journal
poet
trying to account
for the days
of my life
in ways
that please me

i welcome you
as my reader,
but if you have
something
more important
to do -

well,
i’ll understand





"I'm almost a writer," he says, "I'm a reader."




Next, I have a poem by Julia B. Levine from her book Ditch-tender, published by the University of Tampa Press in 2007.

Levine's poems have been published in many publications and she has received numerous prizes and grants. She received her Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley in clinical psychology and currently lives and works in Davis, California.



Rain at Night

The child's silence wakes you.

And how long has she slept here
her dream like milk cooling?

Now you stand at the window shivering.
Rain grinds air into sugary phonemes.

Under the streetlight, inside the boundless halo
of light's crumby grain.
your neighbor bends stiffly, lifts his newspaper.

Three a.m., long past what is legible,

he wears his dead wife's sweater,
to tight to button, sleeves midway up his arms.








I wrote this piece this week, a Monday poem that recovers.



I blame it on something I ate

I blame it
on something I ate -
this queasy stomach and watery eyes,
like looking through
a water-streaked shower curtain

disassociation,
that’s the word for the way I feel right now,
what it’s going to feel like
when I die, assuming
I’m not going to die in some screaming,
crushing, meat-grinder of a car accident, which
I'm thinking would be association with pain and the world
at its most extreme, the opposite of
disassociation…

instead
I’m thinking of how it might be
to die in my sleep,
one moment dreaming, the next moment
becoming the dream
as self separates
from it’s carrier, like stockings
slipped smoothly from a shapely woman’s legs

a fading,
then transition
to the next form, a new pebble
dropped into an old lake, rising and falling
with a slow and steady tide

and,
strangely,
thinking of that end
makes me feel better today





Desperately seeking coffeeshop




My next piece is by young Korean-American poet Ishle Yi Park. It is from her book, The Temperature of This Water , published in 2004 by Kaya Press.

Park was born in New York in 1977. A recipient of a fiction grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, her work has appeared in many journals and magazines and in various anthologies. She has performed in the United States, Cuba, and Korea and was a featured poet on HBO's Def Poetry Jam.

I like her work very much, but most of it is too long for "Here and Now."



New Year's Eve

Because of snow, one of the five
cab companies - Phoenix, Bushwick,
Four-Twos, Arecibo, or Priscilla -
answers the phone, Street empty.
Three wine coolers, and I hit the roof.

Nelson, curled into covers,
restrings his boots and lugs two chairs
upstairs. He unlatches the top door
jeweled with ladders, paint rolls, and brushes,
pushes into snow so thick - bluewhite - it seems a sin,
and just that pleasurable, to insult it with steps
decisive as Hollywood handprints.

Before us, a city connecting cold rooftops.
St. Barbara's shadowed bell strung with light,
skyline through a skein of thin branches.

Corona tilted in a cave of snow.
We can't see the digits on his beeper
signalling the next millennium, but we hear it,
announced in the music of fireworks,
sirens rattling down Linden.

Through our ice-matted boots, I hear it,
the brrakka brrakka so close we both duck, bullets so close
their echo resounds like a caveblast. Unromantic, now,
the silhouette of a man two blocks away
plugging his .44 upwards, each shot
marked by a small cloud rising.

I want to leave, but feel the heat skimming through my organs
and like it. Nelson wants to call Nicky to check if he owns
a spare. We remain standing, necks craned, alert as gazelles,
witness to the shot poem - dangerous,
seething with the fury of stark canvas,
blank paper.

On a cold rooftop
against the scaffolding of January,
we stare up at the sky
for what furious gifts await us.









Easter not one of my holidays, but important enough to many that it seems worth thinking about.



ever after

Christmas
to Easter, for Christians
the cycle of birth and re-birth
that is the heart of their religion

for others, too, for thousands of years
the same cycle of cold winter death
to spring revival was the spool around which
they spun their lives, proof in the natural world
that existance was not a temporary thing, coming once
then not again, but ever-regenerating, the rondo
of life and rebirth, proof in even most primitive times
of what science tells us now that there is no
end to things, just beginnings and re-beginnings,
everything in its decay
becoming a part of something different,
that there is nothing truly new in this universe
just old things re-configured
to become part of the ever evolving nature
of the universal forces
that circle, the forever circle, creating life and non-life,
each in its smallest elements becoming the other,
cycle after cycle

it is a wonderful thing to consider, a comforting thing
for those like me who do not believe
in creeds and religions and the recognized truth
of statist arbiters of belief, a comforting thing to know
that no one need die
for me to enjoy a place in eternity

for I am in that eternal stream already,
a part of that community
where all is forever and my present state
just a bus stop on the never-ending expanse
to time and rebirth








The next poem,the last this week from my library, is by Yusef Komunyakaa, from his book Talking Dirty to the Gods. The book was published in 2000by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1947. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star.

He began writing poetry in 1973, and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Springs in 1975. His first book of poems, Dedications & Other Darkhorses, was published in 1977, followed by Lost in the Bonewheel Factory in 1979. During this time, he earned his MA and MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University and the University of California, Irvine, respectively.

Frequently published in journals, anthologies and his own books, he has been Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and winner of the 2001 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He is a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing program at Princeton University.



Bedazzled

A jeweled wasp stuns
A cockroach & plants an egg
Inside. In no time, easy
As fear eats into someone,

The translucent larva grows
Beneath its host's burnished
Shell. The premature stinger
Waits like a bad idea, almost

Hidden. Summertime
Breathes on a thorny leaf.
Before the new wasp breaks
Free, they are one. No longer

Fat on death's fugacity,
By tomorrow afternoon
It will cling to a window screen
Bright as Satan's lost tiepin.


King of the Hill

After we count the fractured
Bones like notches on a gun butt,
We measure his cranium. A big brain
Doesn't mean a big heart. To heal

These wounds & balance this
Neanderthal's shattered eye socket
With an icy blue horizon, it took
More than faith to embrace

Medicinal herbs months away from flowers.
On his left side, Shanidar
Was blind as the paleoanthropoligist
Who struts the homeless vet

On the corner. Like in Tombstone,
Arizona, where skulls are shot with holes
Of light, if you hold this one up
You can see a new consolation's.








Last poem for the week, I think. I wrote it earlier this week. This is a kind of a risky poem, in that if you never heard the the line about the fat lady singing (coined here in San Antonio by a by an old-time sports writer) the poem won't mean anything to you and you won't get the joke.



fat lady with the parasol passing

ambulance
then firetruck
then another ambulance

morning rush
becomes morning parking lot
four lanes across

crash on the interstate
going west

fat lady
with a parasol
passes
on a bicycle
fat feet pumping
on the pedals

singing

so I guess it’s over
for someone





In the 6th grade, growing into my tuba. In a small town, in a small school with a large band, high school band began in the 7the grade. I was a pretty lousy tuba player, but, since I was never given a lot to do, I had a great time listening to good music, learning in the process a lifetime love of classical music and 1930-40s big band swing.

And you'll recall I warned you about this last week.




And that's it for another week. As usual, everything belongs to the people who produced it. My stuff available if you credit me and "Here and Now." If it's appearing somewhere else, it'd be nice to know where. Every time I Google myself I find my stuff in all sorts of places I never heard of.

But that's okay because i'm allen itz, owner and producer of "Here and Now" and proud tubaista, hear me blatt.

1 Comments:
at 9:02 AM Anonymous Pam said...

Loved the pics of the brothers and Uncle Raymond and Aunt Nina.

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