Back to Conqueso Canyon
Sunday, January 08, 2012
I'm back this week to using just one book as source for my library poems. I used the book, Poetry International IV for a couple of poems last post and saw a bunch of poems I would have liked to use but had no room for. So I decided this week to go back to the book and use them.
For my own stuff I alternate between poems from my first book Seven Beats a Second and my current series of "Sonyador" mini-stories. By the end of this post, I will be a little past half way through the series I had planned, seventeen stories out of the planned thirty.
And more than ready to return to writing my little (easy)poems.
For pictures this week I went back to Conqueso Canyon (not its real name, by the way, in case San Antonio people read this and start looking for it) and took another series of winter pictures. I am looking forward to going back in the spring for the blooming of wild flowers and prickly-pear cactus.
Also, for my San Antonio readers, I have a few of my black and white prints up at my daily coffeehouse hang-out, The Foundry, on the corner of McCullough and Huisache.
Although I didn't necessarily put the picture up to sale, stranger things have happened. A portion of anything sold (40%) will go to The Foundry for their various charities. The prints are signed and will not be reprinted if sold.
If you stop by to take a look and I'm around (I usually am), I'll buy your coffee.
This is what I have for the week, from the gang who always shoots straight:
Double Feature (Sonyador series)
Song of Jerusalem
our place in the story of space and time
Flying Above Thirty Thousand Feet
Horse With No Name (Sonyador series)
red planet rebirth
Papua New Guinea
Onward Christian Soldier (Sonyador series)
the man in the moon
Jorge Luis Borges
Browning resolves to be a poet
On the Road with Uncle Otto (Sanyador series)
what God don’t like
Things Change (Sonyador series)
Poem for the End of the Millennium
how it all comes about
Gali Dana Singer
First Letter to Ona
The news came, as it seems it always does, late in the night (Sonyador series)
Conversations Started at a Rest Stop
git along little dogie
My first poet from Poetry International IV is Eamon Grennan.
Born in Dublin, Eamon Grennan attended boarding school at a Cistercian monastery. He attended University College in Dublin as an undergraduate, spent a year in Rome, and then came to the United States to earn his PhD at Harvard. He began writing poetry in 1977 and published his first collection, Wildly for Days, in 1983. He lives in the United States but returns frequently to western Ireland.
The author of more than 10 collections of poetry, Grennan has also wrote a book of essays, Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century in 1999. He won the PEN Award for poetry in translation in 1997, and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 2002. He has also won several Pushcart Prizes. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Grennan was the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English at Vassar College until his retirement in 2004.
Behold the mole
who has clawed himself
into a world of centimeters
and stays there -
blind eyes on nothing, star-nose full of grit,
earth-smells he knows in his bones,
flashy pink hands hard at it,
the big world goes about its business
which he's worked his way from
and won't look back,
that light is a sword
in the hand of uncertainty,
that his hot-wired nerves
glow in the dark,
that his hear is.
Back to Sonyador. (The name is Spanish, by the way, meaning "dreamer," and spelled in Spanish "Sonador" with an ennye over the "n" producing the "ya" sound.
Delfina was a pretty little girl, a year behind Sonny in school, small, alabaster complexion with tiny freckles across her nose, and long, blond hair with curls that gathered up around her shoulders.
(Sexy, too, for a seventh grader, with appropriate curves and protuberances in appropriate places, accoutrements new to her and the appreciation of which only recently new to Sonny.)
Sonny liked her because, in addition to being pretty, she laughed a lot and Sonny liked girls that laughed. So he called her up Wednesday night to ask her to go to the movie with him on Saturday afternoon. The Pertts had closed their store for a week for a trip Midland to see their son, Winslow, so Sonny had a whole Saturday afternoon off.
And Delfina said, sure, she’d like to go to the movie, so Saturday right after lunch he walked to her house and then together they walked to the movie.
It was a double feature (it was always a double feature at this little theater in Sonny’s little town), and the first movie went great. It was not a good movie, but Sonny was so caught up in sitting so close in the dark with a girl, especially a pretty girl like Delfina, that it could have been 65 minutes of ducks quacking and he would have thought it was great.
The second movie was about a giant monster octopus that slithers up out of the ocean and starts squeezing people with its long arms until they looked like a pile of mashed potatoes, sucks them up with a kind of long nozzle thing. It may have been alien giant monster octopus or maybe a regular octopus that had been caught in an undersea radiation storm from nuclear testing, which seemed more reasonable, but Sonny didn’t know and that was why he was looking forward to seeing the movie since he had heard about the previews and been wondering ever since about what kind of giant monster octopus it was going to turn out to be.
But during the intermission between the two movies, Belmont showed up, and when the monster octopus movie finally got started it turned out that Belmont was sitting next to Delfina and Sonny was sitting next to Belmont.
The octopus movie was ruined because Sonny was concentrating on what the other two were doing - because the first time the giant monster octopus leaped from the sea Delfina grabbed Belmont’s arm and, so far as Sonny could tell, never let go and then toward the end of the movie it looked like Delfina had her head resting on Belmont’s shoulder.
And Sonny completely missed the part of the movie when alien monster octopus/irradiated monster octopus question was answered so he ended up not knowing anymore about that than he did before the movie started.
And then, after the movie, as they were walking home, the two of them, Delfina and Belmont, were walking together and Sonny was kind of walking behind and it was clear that there was a couple walking down the street and Sonny wasn’t part of it.
Sonny didn’t know what to do - such treachery being new to him; he didn’t know how to respond.
He was thinking he ought to punch Belmont or something, but Belmont was a friend and besides he was a lot bigger than Sonny and besides Sonny was embarrassed and figured he would be more embarrassed if the two of them knew how much he was embarrassed and how bad he felt.
So, Sonny slowed his own walking down so that, without them ever noticing, Delfina and Belmont moved further and further away, until, finally, they turned on the street to her house and he walked the other way, straight on home.
Admiel Kosman was born in Israel in 1957. The author of four books of poetry, and the editor of an anthology of religious poetry,he teaches Talmud at Bar Ilan University and writes a newspaper column interpreting traditional Jewish sources in a postmodern light.
His poem was translated by Lisa Katz.
Song of Jerusalem
Question: Where is my sexual energy rolling?
My sexual energy is an old truck.
It climbs up hills, descends valleys, climbs up hills,
that is, an old truck. My sexual
energy, thin and fragile,
a carton of breakable eggs sent from the farms,
in the hills, the high ones, standing, thrusting
guarding! Around the capital!!
Oh God, where is my sexual energy rolling?
My sexual energy powers an old truck, pfffffff,
blowing warm and pleasant air around its wheels now.
My truck once married
a rented car (in a story). And copulated for a few days
in the clean spiritual air above the hilltops, in
the blue, and wore a crown and recited poetry, and ran around like a crazy person
on the purple road.
In the hills, that is to say, the high hills aroundthe capital.
This poem is from my book, Seven Beats a Second, published in 2005 by Homemade Creatives. (A mostly-fictional enterprise, much like the book.)
This poem is possibly my first expression of idea that appears frequently in my later work, the oneness of all and the allness of one.
our place in the story of space and time
we are of the same stuff as stars,
made in the spasm of creation
that began all space and time,
static of an expanding universe,
positive and negative influences
that for a thing we call matter
arranged in a manner we call me
not the arrival of something new,
rearrangement of the elements present
since the first day, sparks
thrown off by that day's conception
our death not the end,
but another reformation,
a recycling of the stuff that made us
so that we might become again
a star or a tree or another babe in arms
or just a speck of universal element
drifting for as long as there is time
until it will finally come
that all the pieces come to rest
and slowly fade away in darkness
of never-light, never time, never-space
never was and never will be again
from nothing came all
and to nothing it will all return
Sandor Csoori, born in 1930, is a Hungarian poet, essayist, writer and politician.
In 1950, he graduated from the Reformed Pontifical College (Pápai Református Kollégiumban), and then studied at ELTE Institute, but dropped his studies because of illness. He worked in various journals. He was the MAFILM dramaturg from 1968 until 1988.
His first poems appeared in 1953, leading the authorities to quickly notice that Csoóri was not one of their supporters. He was under surveillance sometimes for years, and was shunned by his country's literary establishment.
His poem was translated by Len Roberts and Maria Szende.
Flying Above Thirty Thousand Feet
&bnsp;&bsp; Repules tizezer meter folott
Only sky, sky,only dispiriting
sunshine all around, and the reflecting lights
of Greenland on your traveling face. And
clouds,clouds everywhere on God's abandoned
playground. Not one stirring
tatter of clothes, branch, stalk of straw,, cross,
not one madly rolling train wheel
in the air, if not solely in this poem,
which has been traveling with me for seven hours.
Don't your hear it? Buzzing like a bug in the vineyard.
Like a wasp in a stone church. A minute ago
it was still teetering on the tip
of the plane wing and now it imitates a river's
gurgle, high up, here. Even if I shoo it away,
it flies back and cuddles up on your lap.
in a chestnut-leaf mask as if it were fall in Esztergom,
early fall, an afternoon dropping leaves,
where, even poemless, I am your
unmockable poet among the hills,
the knight of the slowly yellowing trees,
and that of the lights, too - and it's not me
who has himself transported to see the world in slender planes;
not me who's reminded of the last journey
by every journey he takes.
Do you know where we are? No? Neither do I.
Perhaps in the heart of a swan drifting to the South
Sonyador has a new friend, at least for a little while.
Horse With No Name
Sonny has a horse.
It’s a horse with no name, none that Sonny knows, anyway, and it’s not actually his. It’s belongs to a friend that needed a place to keep it so Sonny offered his back yard and now that's where it is,out back, munching grass and scaring the chickens.
It’s an old sway-back thing, ugly, mud-brown, and not too smart, or maybe just too old to care about showing off such brains as it has.
An beat-up saddle came with the horse and Sonny takes a ride every day, a slow ride and not too far, down the road behind the house and up on the canal bank for about a mile and a half.
This horse with no name has a mind of its own, with a well-defined quota of steps to be taken away from its home grass every day. When it reaches that quota, it stops and it turns around and goes home. And there’s nothing Sonny can do to change its mind.
Not exactly one of those mighty rip-roaring stallions in the movies, but it’s still there in the backyard every day when Sonny gets home from school and though it does operate on a very short string, it’s still willing to give Sonny his little ride every day.
Sonny used to have a little terrier dog, Bitsy, that he’d had since she was a pup. He and Bitsy were very close, sleeping together, playing together, roaming together down country roads and through the woods and along canal banks since Sonny was eight years old.
Bitsy had been run over a month before he started keeping his friends horse, run over by the school superintendent in his black Cadillac who never stopped, never payed a moment of heed to the small life he had snuffed out, never faced-up to killing Sonny’s best and longest friend.
Another reason to hate school and teachers.
Sonny had been having trouble fitting in, at school and everywhere else. Bitsy was a very smart dog and had been his confident, his personal listener, sitting out on the canal bank, telling her all about the worst parts of his day. It made him feel better to tell someone about it.
Now he tells the horse, even though it gives no evidence of any interest in Sonny’s adjustment issues. And, though it doesn’t walk long, it does walk slow, leaving plenty of time to tell it all.
And, Sonny discovers, telling it to any blood and bone creature, even a sad old horse that seems to pay no attention, is enough.
My next poet from Poetry International IV is Gunter Kunert.
Born in Berlin on March 6th, 1929, Kunert has written in nearly every literary genre, including literary criticism, short stories, television plays, and poetry. But it is as a poet that he is best known today. Kunert’s work of the 1950s grew out of his experiences with war and facism, and in his early writings his poems often served almost as “warning poems” about the dangers of repeating war and military dictatorship. In the 1960s his work changed from warning of the dangers to a sense of general disillusionment, influenced particularly by his disgust with the East German dictatorship. From 1963 on he began to receive criticism from the GDR, and he 1966 his poetry was attacked from displaying un-Marxist qualities, which led to his expulsion from the Communist party in 1977. In 1979 he left East Germany to live in the West.
Kunert has received numerous literary awards, including the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1962 and the Becher Prize in 1973.
The following five short poems, from his book, late Show, were translated by Gerald Chapple.
behind your fold-up seat
the Princess of Darkness is
at your service.
Her promises sparkle
truthfully on the screen.
Fool's gold glitter, I know.
There's no escape. In ninety minutes
the years and the decades roll by.
Until she lets you go
bled dry and turned into a stranger
for the price of your feelings
home to what was once familiar.
All the mysteries of mankind
are encrypted in the newspaper.
What was it, Gaia, that gave birth to you?
Fruitful myths. Pregnant
Standing in the sweat of my singular brow
and on your fragile shell
I'm burning with desire for the heat of
your interior. For significance.
For sense. Until its
into burned-out vocabulary.
Or into the watermarks
in the paper
of a legend still unwritten.
Today our Aphrodites squat and dream
in unapproachable chambers. Presumably
chiseled in stone.As if
formed of clay. Snapshots made by
bring them closer to our desire.
Archaic creatures, virtually faceless
as the sit across from me.
In the streetcar or wherever. One leg
over the other, but it's not
mine to have.
In Ephesus I met a
phantom from every male fantasy:
lots of tits and a buttoned-up
But then this Windkelmann guy
got in the way by anesthetizing us
with his boring esthetics.
Time blots out names in
the brain. What's his name,
the last Byzantine emperor? And
the first secretary-general?
Mnemosyne, my faithless woman,
you've up and left me. And
taken your dowry with you.
Who do I ask for help if I
don't know a soul?
Nicholas, Wendelin, Blasius -
docking of receptors unsuccessful,
cellular protein junk.
Allow me to introduce
myself to you? I am
who I was and already
Chaotic still life
around the metal sarcophagi
of our civilized culture. the rotten smell
from the box of clothes. Battered tin cans
exude a maximum compositum of
indeterminate nature. And
an unmatched rubber boot goes walking
through the world alone. The chips off the
toilet bowl remind
us of the way of all flesh.
Broken glass. Relics of packaging.
Tattered carpets, counterfeit Orient.
Bottle tops, mindlessly scattered
I stand and can do nothing else -
What do I do with the discarded result of
Out from behind the dumpsters
an old man appears zipping
up his fly. Muttering
I rue the day
that I created man.
And steals away, stooped over,
shouldering the invisible burden.
and has never since been sighted.
Here's another piece from my first book, Seven Beats a Second. It was inspired by the Mars rovers and many years lost in the worlds of science fiction.
red planet rebirth
oxidized remains of cathedrals and commerce
brought to dust by the savage rub of time
red dust so fine it spreads like a cloud
across the plains and hills all around
virgin bride again
ready for life after millennia
alone in the cold, black crypt of space
Poetry International IV has a section of Israeli poets. Agi Mishol is one of the poets included in this section.
Born in Transylvania to Hungarian-speaking parents, Mishol was brought to Israel as a young child. Her parents ran a grocery store in Gedera and spoke mainly Hungarian at home. Mishol holds BA and MA degrees in Hebrew literature from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She lives on a farm in Kfar Mordechai.
Her poem was translated by Lisa Katz.
Papua New Guinea
I love to say Papua New Guinea.
Otherwise I wouldn't have come here.
My husband Antonio hugs me from behind, and whispers
before he falls asleep:
love me more than I love you.
I stroke his face and love him more
than he loves me.
I couldn't care less if for a week
I love him more, after all
the Portuguese ambassador haas a hard life:
the superpowers threaten
and his restless sleep wanders toward
the golden age of colonialism;
words like Angola, Macau,Cochin, and Nampula
sail past like ancient wooden boats in his blood,
turn his snores into a lament and more than once
he chokes, anxious, beaten;
he deserves more love.
I am generous and fill
the new arms holding me
while a strange heart pleads at my back
because the birds in Papua New Guinea are colorful
their voices sweet and seductive behind the curtain
where the moon sheds light on my former life too.
What a talented chameleon I am.
When I crawl over Papua New Guinea
I change my colors to its colors,
when I crawl over Antonio's body
I change my colors to his because you have to
take from life everything it gives
and I take.
That is I give.
My husband is extremely neat.
Even the pope hung on our bedroom wall
smiles in satisfaction at such ideal order:
shoes lined up,
shirt and pants folded,
wristwatch on the dresser.
My husband hates when I sleep with a watch.
But at night I love the orchestrated pulse
of heartbeats and the digital tick tock,
and the ironic space stretched between them.
Now I snuggle against his nice body,
The gold Jesus hanging from his neck
tickling me faintly.
I'm a Jewish woman and we are naked.
What does Pope John, robed
and wearing a turban, a sceptre in his hand, think about us.
One, two, three, four,
I'm the wife of the ambassador.
Sonyador has a spiritual awakening.
Onward Christian Soldier
Sonny found Jesus at the Baptist mid-summer tent revival, the lost him just about as fast when it turned out that the Jesus he found was very closely associated with the revival preacher, Billy Wayne Claxon, short and a tad tubby, with a $500 platinum-blond pompadour, and who conclude his mid-summer soul-saving by running off with the First Methodist preacher’s wife. When the tent folded and left town, it went east. Billy Wayne and the preacher's wife Mildred Fitz-Hooley went west, taking all the love offerings with them (about $2,000 worth of soul-saving, as it turned out).
Sonny had gone to the revival with a friend, Eddie Rassmuson, who got saved at every revival, then lost the faith a couple of weeks later, until it was revived again at the next tent show. He testified hard and often, but it never seemed to stick.
It was a whole new experience for Sonny, who grew up in a conservative, Missouri Snyod Lutheran church, no jumping, no stomping, no shouting, no testifying, and definitely no amening after every third sentence of the sermon. Amening was the exclusive prerogative of the preacher, best, it was thought, that congregation leave him to it.
The business of earning God’s grace was a very serious business to these Lutherans, more Old Testament by their somber nature than New. They were serious people, those old German farmers, and they were pretty damn sure religion wasn’t in any way about or conducive to having fun. They did sing during their worship services, with organ accompaniment, but only if voices were kept low, even for soul-stirrers like "A Mighty Fortress is our God' or “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war,” and the organist activity was confined to a fumble-fingered old woman who couldn’t keep time with a bass drum or recognize a melody when she stepped on it.
When it came right down to it, whichever way it might be, Sonny had some doubts about the whole God business, not seeing that it made a whole lot of difference in the way most people lived, as even those who amened the loudest, jumped the highest, or testified with tears streaming down their face on Sunday morning were just as likely to be out on Saturday night with the biggest sinners in town (and there was never any doubt who they were), doing the same thing as the biggest sinners, treating other people on Monday morning even worse than the sinners did. (they, the sinners, being not yet clued into the cleansing power of confession and therefore more cautious in their moral dealings with others)
Sonny was pretty much ready to set aside the whole thing, belief being not particularly comforting or reassuring to him. He had tried, but revelations that came to him were mostly on the negative, Doubting Thomas side and he, being by this time relatively comfortable with trusting the clearness of his mind, began to see the whole thing as mainly about people who didn’t share his comfort and clarity when it came to their own mental self.
But, of course, he didn’t share any of this with anyone, that not being, in his time and place, a smart thing to do. He was much too young to leave this town and strike out on his own, so best it was to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself.
“Someday,” he’d say to himself, “I’ll find someone talk to about this.”
Of course, he had no way of knowing that there were a lot people in his little town who, if induced somehow into honesty, thought exactly as he did, but who, like him, were smart enough not to talk about it.
It’s the way of very small towns. Everyone has secrets they are sure are theirs alone.
Galit Hasan-Rokem is another of the Israeli poets from Poetry International IV.
Hasan-Rokem, born in 1945, is a full professor in the Hebrew Literature department in the Hebrew University.
She completed her doctorate at Hebrew University under and is a specialist in the proverb genre. She is currently the incumbent of the Max and Margarethe Grunwald chair in folklore at Hebrew University, the first endowed chair in folklore in the world She Memorial Foundation doctoral scholarships in 1975 and 1976, and fellowship in 1979. She is Associate Editor of Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship.
Her poem was translated by Lisa Katz.
Where love of flesh ends love of bone begins
hardness against hardness,
secondary sex characteristics fall away, we are in
an inorganic phase of existence, two dancing skeletons.
A taste of honey and rot.
I try to know your flesh
its flavor before this birth and the flavor
after this death.
We didn't become one flesh in one moment. Not by magic.
Instead, under the weight of time running out.
As the days and nights passed
fear of darkness and the desire for light passed too.
It was enough to touch the end
glue bone on bone
before each of us
returns to dust.
Here's another poem from my first book, Seven Beats a Second. The moon appears in many of my poems, there being something about it, hanging in the night sky, so clear and so unreachable.
the man in the moon
the moon hangs bright
in the late September sky,
casting a pale glow
over these rock hills
as it has since the nights
they were submerged
beneath a paleozoic sea
older than the hills, we say,
a human term cut to human scale,
while by other lights the limestone
hills are mere pups, newcomers
in a span of time that began
when nothing, exploding, created
the elements of everything that is
Our own place in this dim flash
on the face of eternity
we call our life
is less than a blink in time,
such a short time
to live, to learn, to grow and die,
enough time, though,
to stoke our arrogance
and presume to know creation,
to claim for ourselves rocky hills
rising from the sea
to see the moon overhead
and imagine on it an ancient face of man
Next, I have a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, imagining himself as Robert Browning in the process of becoming the Robert Browning.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1899, he produced eight books of poetry in addition to his prolific output as a writer of fiction and literary criticism. He died in 1986, never receiving the Nobel Prize he so deserved.
His poem was translated by Gilbert Wesley Purdy.
Browning resolves to be a poet
Through these red labyrinths of London
I discover that I have elected
the most curious of human professions,
save that all, in their own way, are of it.
Like the alchemist
that sought the philosopher's stone
in the fugitive mercury,
I will make common swords
- the gambler's marked deck, currency of the mob -
take back the magic they possessed
when Thor was the numen and the crash,
the thunder and the prayer.
In the dialect of today
I will tell the age eternal thing;
will try not to be unworthy
of the grand echo of Byron.
This dust that I am will be invulnerable.
If a woman shares love with me
my song will move the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens;
if a woman disdains my love
I will make my sadness a music,
a high river that may follow resounding through the times.
I will live to forget myself.
I will be the face that I glimpse and then forget,
I will be the Judas who accepts
the divine mission to be the traitor,
I will be Caliban in the bog,
I will be a mercenary soldier who murders
without fear and without faith,
I will be Policrates who views with fear
the annihilation appointed by destiny,
I will be the friend who I hate,
The Persian will give me the nightingale and the Roman the sword.
will unravel and ravel my fortune
and some day I will be Robert Browning.
Sonyador visits strange and exotic lands.
On the Road with Uncle Otto
Uncle Otto made a lot of money in his work, did a lot traveling on the job, always drove a new car, usually a Ford.
Sometimes he took Sonyador along in the summer, especially when he was going out west because the boy, a child of flat and dreary landscapes, loved the mountains and the deserts. The big open sky of West Texas, all the little towns, Presidio, Candelaria, Van Horn, Liscano, Lozano, White Mountain, Study Butte, Agua Dulce, Ozona, Belmora, Las Rancheras, and all the tortillarias where Uncle Otto took his bulk orders for corn shucks from round little meskin women in dusty aprons, it was all a new and exotic life for the little boy from the lowlands.
Sonyador thought it a great treat to travel with Uncle Otto, the long road miles and the sights and hotel nights and highway cafes, and Uncle Otto liked having Sonyador along to talk to.
Uncle Otto was a great storyteller, possessor of a thousand stories - Sonyador’s favorite, the story of Little Orphan Annie, a story, as Uncle Otto told it with his deep voice and great waving of hands, that would go on for hours, the road unwinding behind them.
Uncle Otto was not exactly an man without prejudice, but was just the man who grew up when and where he grew up, and, knowing that, you might notice he wasn’t nearly as mean about nigger people and meskin people as most of the folks that grew up with him. He just had some assumptions that came with the territory of his life and times and, like most people, never considered that the ways he grew up with might not seem proper to people from elsewheres.
Still he did have a good supply of Little Black Sambo and Uncle Remus stories. It was hard during those days for a boy like Sonyador not to hear a lot of those stories. And though Sonyador preferred Little Orphan Annie, especially the idea he played with in his head of someday some Daddy Warbucks might drive up in his big black Chrysler and recognize him as the son he thought he had lost forever, he did admit to learning a lot from Uncle Remus, like the Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch story, which seemed to him the kind of practical lesson they never got around to in school. Ever after, when he got into trouble, Sonyador looked for the briar patch he might fool people into tossing him into.
It was from Uncle Otto at the many roadside diners where they ate that the boy found out a lot about good road food. It was on these trips, for example, that Sonyador learned how good fried eggs were with a little catsup on top. Of course, they wouldn’t let him put catsup on his eggs at home, but he did it all the time when he was on a trip with Uncle Otto. It tasted good and it was colorful how it turned the eggs and the fries and everything else on his plate red.
Of course it wasn’t a surprise to Sonyador that catsup turned everything red. Everybody knew that catsup turned everything red.
The big surprise was that grape jelly turned eggs green.
Knowing that was worth a couple of trips all by itself.
I had intended this to be an all international issue from Poetry International IV, but it turns out I'm running low on international poets from the journal, so I'm going to use some of the American poets in the issue.
This first of these is David Mura, born in 1952, a third-generation Japanese American author, poet, novelist, playwright, critic and performance artist. He grew up in Chicago, son of parents interned during World War II. He earned his B.A. from Grinnell College and his M.F.A. in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has taught at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College, The Loft Literary Center, and the University of Oregon. His honors include two NEA fellowships, the 1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers Award and a US/Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, two Bush Foundation Fellowships, four Loft-McKnight Awards, several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, and a Discovery/The Nation Award.
Sometimes, in a time of emptiness, say you've woken in the middle of the
night for a child crying or
simply to relieve yourself, and you hear the snarling of squirrels or a raccoon
and a dog next door,
and even as the night quiets again, stretching its black blanket over you, your
house, your neighbors,
you can't get back to sleep, but lie there going over and over some failing or slight,
some failed relationship,
a deep and ingrained sin you've carried all your life, the ache and regret of it,
the wound still festering,
and you see the face of some family member, mother, father, brother, sister,
perhaps an old friend
or foe, it doesn't matter, they're lining up in your consciousness, witnesses for
invited one by one to testify against you, and even as you try to scramble amid
the papers of your mind,
for some plausible defense, you know there's none, since you're the one
arguing against you,
laying question after question which leads to this proof and that, saying, schmuck,
Thus the words your prosecution pile up: You know you'll never be restored
to that sweet sleep
you owned just minutes before, with your unconscious in your dark, in
ignorance and peace.
This is another poem from my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second. It occurs to me it might be a good piece to read at the next Republican debate.
what God don't like
I was seeing this preacher fella on TV the other day
and he was saying that God don't like men fucking men
I don't know how in the world he would know that,
except maybe he was talking to God
and just straight out asked him, like, hey, God,
what do you think about this men fucking men thing
I'd be afraid to do that, but maybe it's okay for preachers,
especially this particular preacher fella
since it seems like he's pretty close to God and
like he must talk to him about all sorts of things
because he's all the time on TV
talking about what God likes and don't like
(mostly about what he don't like, from what I've seen),
not just about fucking, but about all sorts of things
God don't like, you know, treehuggers and feminazies
and Democrats and evolutionists and poor people
and those wussy-pussy perverts who think
we ought not be killing raghead foreigners
without some kind of pretty good reason
but, mostly what I get from listening to the TV fella
is that mainly what God most often don't like
are people who aren't exactly like that same TV fella
so I'm thinking maybe I ought to study that fella real good
and try real hard to be as much like him as I can
then, maybe God won't don't like me too
Here are two poems by Sarah Maclay, another American poet from Poetry International IV.
Maclay serves as book review editor for Poetry International. Here poems,, reviews and essays have been published widely.
Her debut collection, Whore, received the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry and was released in 2004. She was also a winner of the Center for the Arts Poetry Prize, a finalist for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry and a semi-finalist for the Kenyon Review Poetry Prize, the Cleveland State University Poetry Prize and the Tupelo Press First Book Prize, and she recently received a Pushcart nomination.
She received degrees from Oberlin College and Vermont College, worked in the film and software industries, and has most recently been teaching writing in Los Angeles at USC and FIDM.
In clear, unsparing air, hill lights
glitter, not with warmth
but as though they are hiding something
behind them: cold.
The lights seem to move a little
the way things swim on the road.
Tree branches get cut to stubs
as though it's best
to face the cold denuded
without hands or leaves. Clubbed
like Brueghel's beggars' legs,
it's amazing they breathe.
Tooth laid flat on the night
reflecting just a slice of shine:
the moon is slung like a fang.
My breasts could burst
from the weight of sap.
I lift the lid of the mail slot,
hoping for some kind of sign.
He is standing with his fists on the sink,
glancing down, and then into the mirror
where I'm standing in the corner
near the door, there is light
coming in from the window
of his room, cold as March.
He sees me with my coat on.
Sonyador reaches that time in early life when the world he's familiar with begins to change.
Brother Tug moved out after about a year and a half, so it was back to just Sonyador and little brother, Conch, in the bedroom.
Tug and Dad always had a contentious relationship. Tug, being always something of a wilder even from when he was a little kid, bucking all authority, even Dad’s. And, even now there was lots of things Tug was doing that Dad didn’t approve of, the hanging out at honkytonks until early morning, chasing around with his rowdy friends and easy women, dying his ducktails jet black (like Elvis), spending every dime he made on the late night running around and the women.
Until Tug, fed up with the nagging, just moved out. It was only a little while later that he reconnected with an old high school girlfriend, then settled down and married her. He got himself a good job running a Piggly Wiggly supermarket, even though he knew nothing about the grocery business and never managed anything but the tank he drove in the army.
But Tug was like that, underestimated often by people who assumed from his wild and easy going ways that he wasn’t too smart and lacked ambition, when the truth was when he stuck his mind on something he wanted he would figure it out before most people, then do it better than they could. And now with a wife and a baby on the way, Tug turned his mind to the future, all the ambition that he kept stored up behind the ducktail and carefree living, was brought out in the open and pushed to the limit.
Dad got along with Tug a lot better when they weren’t trying to live under the same roof and you could see that he was proud of the way Tug had taken hold of himself and his life.
Sonyador missed having Tug around all the time, but saw him every weekend when Mom and Dad and Conch and him visited Tug’s house or Tug and Melanie Dee visited their house. It wasn’t the same as being able to horse around with him every day, but it was okay.
And the boy was looking forward to being an uncle like Uncle Otto.
He was thinking it would be a lot of fun and was determined to be just as good an uncle as Uncle Otto was.
Mainly, he was seeing how his life was changing - going from being a kid to being an uncle, just like that.
And he was seeing how things might work out all right, just like Uncle Otto always said they would.
For my next poet, Rami Saari, I go back to the section of the journal dedicated to Israeli poets.
Saari was born in 1963 in Petah Tikva, Israel, and spent his childhood in Argentina and in Israel. He is a poet, translator, linguist and literary critic. He studied and has taught Linguistics and Semitic and Uralic Languages at the Universities of Helsinki, Budapest and Jerusalem, receiving his PhD degree in Linguistics in 2003.
Saari has published six volumes of poetry. He has also translated more than thirty-five books into Hebrew, both prose and poetry, from Albanian, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Portuguese and Spanish. Since 2002, Saari has been the national editor of the Israeli pages at PIW. In 1996 and 2003, he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature and in 2006 the Tchernikhovsky Prize for his translations.
His poems were translated by Lisa Katz.
Last night, too, I suddenly dreamt about you,
my teacher of Hebrew and literature.
You were surrounded on all sides
by an audience thirsty for the Comedy Store,
people greedy for entertainment and ratings,
windows on the twenty-first century.
You were stuck there like a strange bird,
planted, like me, in the world.
Poem for the End of the Millennium
Suddenly I remembered Kozo Okamoto.
He committed some act of terror
at the Tel Aviv airport sometime
in the nineteen-seventies.
Later I heard
he circumcised himself with a scissors in jail,
heartbroken and stricken by regret
for what he'd done.
How much agony
in the last thousand years.
How many poems
still to come
in the next thousand.
I'm not asking questions;
anyway, what good would it do.
I write hard words
that hardly manager to bring the millennium to a close,
an d try in vain to remember
the name of some poet
who in his day
ended the first.
It's all that science fiction at an impressionable age that does it. As in this poem from Seven Beats a Second.
how it all comes about
out there sometime
is the mother of all,
defying all vocabularies
of science and faith,
in some indefinable dimension
of simultaneous is and is not,
spewing from her womb
all that is that is not her,
creating a cosmos
of time and space and energy
and matter such as you and I,
multiplied a million billionfold,
always creating, brewing elements
for new-born stars,
gains of sand in a desert ever-growing,
from the essences of nothing
Here's a last poem from the anthology's Israeli section. The poem is by Gali Dana Singer and was translated, as were all the Israeli poems, by Lisa Katz who selected them for the book. The author also participated in the translation.
Singer lives in Jerusalem with her husband, artist and writer,Nekota Singer. They have lived there since 1988, when they emigrated from Russia, where both were born. Two books of her poetry have appeared in Hebrew and three in Russian.
First Letter to Ona
You don't even know what it is: to remember a river,
approach, force yourself to think: River
What did you see?
A Greek from a creek in a children's song and many names of bridges,
your hand in perpetual motion
streams like chaos or unconscious fear,
strains to fill the fingers of a glove
while touching the railing.
And you in a puddle of course in a skirt shrunk by time,
you and Petya trapped in embroidery, in satin stitch, in a crooked frame,
like a faded sampler of Lenin with children.
I try to mend as I am told, like an obedient wife,,
but the misprints and your endless cold
one way or another will make you sad. So
leave the gloves alone,
stop rubbing them, and I'll leave
the river, the air and our loves in peace. Don't touch the air with your hand
and I'll stop being didactic. then
force yourself to think: River. Don't think: Water
Don't think of streams of ink or rescue boats
You don't even know what it is: to remember a river
that's not an extended scream
that can't be rolled up like a rug.
You can't say: look how it twists and turns,
look how duck crumbs spill from trouser pockets
and signals of longing are caught by short waves -
remember the river that doesn't stop, not for granite dust,
for gray hairs, for the petty battle
between lathered check and razor,
not read aloud syllable by syllable
like an item about war in the newspaper,
not lined in brocade like a coffin,
not decorated with silver like the soldiers' uniforms, not eyes
widening, not in magnifying glasses, not in waves
of boulders and flounces, not in voil, not in lace,
which is really silly,
to remember a river that's not typed in italics, not scattered in composition.
Give my regards to Boris the turtle, if you see him.
In andy case you don't know what it means
to look out of Titus' city past the hills of Moab,
trying to remember, not the islands of dung piling up by the river,
carrying it toward the bay,
not the olive trees or the weeds, not the river banks
at the same time, left and right,
not creased, not pleated, -
to remember the river not with a shiny oil spill
around the meatball sailing from the direction of Kirov's factory.
Approach the river, force yourself to think: River,
when you splash in the puddle without noticing the old man
fishing with the pair of silver arms
from his eyeglasses. Note bene: Love old men for they are out future,
old women too. A pair of silver arms - that's all I have left
to remind me of your husband, while trying to remember the river
as I look at the hills of Moab from the city of Titus
and of many others, left and righteous,
and mine, among them for the first time.
An Arab on a donkey passes below and I try
to remember not the donkey's ass and not the olive trees
but rather the river:
not stopping, not long,
not dependent on words.
The Arab riding the donkey
moves through the scorched valley.
My last Sonyador piece for this post.
The News Came, As It Always Seems to Come
The news came, as it seems it always comes, late in the night.
Uncle Otto coming home from business in Del Rio, driving too fast on a dark, narrow highway.
Near Carrizo Springs a gate left open, cattle straying onto highway, Uncle Otto cresting a small hill, suddenly in the middle of them, losing control of his car, leaving the road, ploughing up another hill and into a grove of Live Oak trees.
It was not the first death for Senyador, but the first that seems real. His grandpas and grandmas all died when he was very young, leaving him with only hazy memories of them, a few moments here, a few moments there, like people in a book he hadn’t read in a while, like people imagined from stories he was told. But not real like Uncle Otto was real.
He tried to imagine how life would be without Uncle Otto and his stories and the way he looked after Sonyador and listened to him when no one else would. And all he could see was a big empty hole in his life, a well gone dry, gone, as all that used to be is gone.
He couldn’t imagine how death could come to people like Uncle Otto, people still all the way alive, not old and worn out and due for an end to long life.
He couldn’t imagine death, a big hole that could never be filled. Where a mountain that once always was, high in the distance, like the mountains he saw when he traveled with Uncle Otto, reaching into the sky, pushing into the clouds, mountains, once all that, always, then, one day, leveled and gone as if it never was.
And he wondered, if Uncle Otto could die, how about Mom and Dad? How about Tug and Conch?
How about himself, Sonyador, if Uncle Otto could die, how about Sonyador?
He cried for Uncle Otto, cried when they lowered him into the ground, cried for Mom and Dad and Tug and Conch, all who would die like Uncle Otto. Cried for himself.
Cried for death, the new shadow at his shoulder.
The last poem from the anthology and my library is by Bonnie Minick.
Minick was raised in New Jersey and has lived also in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Michigan. She completed a master's degree in fine arts at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. She is a High School English teacher and has published poems in a number of journals well-known journals.
Conversations Started at a Rest Stop
There's a reason why you love alcoholics.
You can't be held responsible
for getting bored with so much sky,
too many boundaries, trees, fence posts, even the outstretched shadows of stars.
You can outgrow dirt roads, small town, and the humid laughter. But no one
can honestly say they'd believe you would ever leave,
want to leave
the sky, static
They are in your family.
Have the weathered face of an uncle or cousin.
Somewhere in Boston you stopped looking
in crowds for familiarity.
He kisses you every time you meet him,
even in the middle of a dark living room.
It's been months.
Storms. You love the way the sky empties
itself out of emptiness.
You know the grocery store aisles in this town by memory.
You can remember his breath, whiskey and warm tongue.
You know the woman behind the counter at the gas station
the way she knows you, by cigarettes and coffee.
You want to get a dog. One that runs
into fields to disappear, black tail wagging.
One that comes back to the sound of your voice.
Its mouth slit open, the wide panting,
dripping white saliva that clings to its dark hair.
One that keeps running.
They stumble outside, even when the sun is bright, they want to drink.
It is March. Those endless rows of dead
corn are only crooked stumps, broken,
like a field after a destruction of fire.
Dirt thin as ash. Nothing remains
intact but the sky, wide and full
like the dog's mouth as it chases birds
off of the ground,their black pointed feathers
rising deep into the afternoon.
Remember Boston. The days spent in bed.
As his body strained with yours
the voice of the radio seemed to be saying,
this is who you were.
This will be you life.
Think of swimming in your neighbor's pool.
Holding your breath as your body broke
the glass surface of water.
A year can change a lot in a person.
The reason is because they can forget you.
And here's my last piece for the week, a poem from my first book, Seven Beats a Second.
git along little dogie
soft and blond
as sun-bleached tassels
of summer corn,
hanging all the way down
to a sassy little ass
snuggled in blue denim
tight enough to send Mr. Rogers
through the neighborhood
heidee ho heidee hee
that was Lily Dee, best thing
about a little shitkicker bar
on the south side of San Angelo
where me and Toby shot pool
when we ran short of cash
my oh my
what a treat was Lily Dee
gave the cowboys
something to think about
on those hot July nights,
in their bunkhouse beds
git along little dogie...
That's it. Everything belongs to those who created it. My stuff is free, if your properly credit me and "Here and Now."
I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog.
And this is what else I've been up to:
Available for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Appple ibookstore -
"Always to the Light"
"Goes Around, Comes Around"
"Pushing Clouds Against the Wind"
And For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon
"Seven Beats a Second"