Wishing Like Fishing
Friday, January 20, 2012
Another random collection of black and white photos this week, some straight, some with a little process thrown in. Actually, I'm looking for the JPEGS for the photos I have hanging at The Foundry in response to an inquiry about them. It seems I have them in onesies and twosies scatter throughout my image files. I decided to use that search to pick up some pictures for this post.
Also, I complete my "Sonyador series" of 30 very short stories, which began two posts ago, with this post. I began the process because I felt I needed a challenge, in this case writing a story a day for 30 days. I found it to be much more difficult than the poem a day I had been doing.
I had no idea where the series would go when I wrote the first one. In fact, at that point I hadn't made the decision to make it a series rather than just 30 unrelated stories. But I liked the little boy character I created in the first story and decided to do a series centered around him. I named the boy "Sonyador" - Spanish for "dreamer." By about the third story, it came to me that "dreamer" is not just something one is, it also describes something one does. From that it came to me that the narrative would make more sense if its driven by the dreamer's dreams. With that in mind, I wrote the last story while working on the fourth, figuring out along the way each story as a movement to the end.
Anyway, it was an interesting challenge and I am very please, perhaps inordinately, but then I wasn't convinced when I started that I could write a story a day for 30 days. And they even turned out Okay.
In addition to the stories, I also have some poems from my second eBook, Goes Around,Comes Around.
And, of course, my regular posse of fine poets from my library
Here's all I have this week
I Love the Black Cat
Bitterroot Valley Nocturne
Thinking of Kierkegaard
it’s a fine day today
Spider Bite (Sonyador series)
Eva Mae’s Daughter
Lyrics for a Woman’s Voice
admiring the dark
The Light of the Moon
A Taste of Irony
The Birds (Sonyador series)
B. H. Fairchild
Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest
Hearing Parker for the First Time
The Passing of Jesus Freaks from the College Classroom
A Starlit Night
day 24,387 and counting
Wishing Like Fishing (Sonyador series)
habits of mercy
Rainer Maria Rilke
From The Sonnets to Orpheus
sonnets “XXI” “XXIII” “XIII” and “IX”
Slip-Sliding Away (Sonyador series)
Classic Bar Scenes
somewhere out there
Moy Sand and Gravel
An Old Pit Pony
Flying (Sonyador series)
the Hawaiian shirt plan
Sasha (Sonyador series)
the liberal godless socialist media will never tell you this…
Even Dreams Must Someday End (Sonyador series)
I start the week with poems by Deborah Slicer. The poems are from her book The White Calf Kicks, published in 2003 by Autumn House Press.
Slicer earned a PhD and an MFA at the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. She taught at the University of Montana and the Hawthorne School, and currently lives near Missoula where she has been involved with the Missoula Writing Collaborative.
I Loved the Black Cat
Who stayed in the woodshed with me
During sudden summer thunderstorms late at night.
I miss the man who stayed in our house
Afraid, but I think I did not love him
So much as I loved that cat.
Darkness came undone at seams of lightning.
Black cat sat. Still.
You know how wind leaps on top of a bull pine's back, rides it nearly to the ground?
Well, cat just flared his leather nose a little,
When thunder cracked it's thirty knuckles,helved its three ffree fists, when rain spat
at us -
Cat snuffed - Pfsss -
Some storms were so sudden and spectacularly
Terrible,I'd run half-dressed to the woodshed from our house,
Where I'd find my black cat
Staring down my terrible,
When the man inside the house could not.
Bitterroot Valley Nocturne
Late this afternoon Lasko's old white watchdog,neglected
for centuries, walked away from the sheep she'd been keeping.
While their muzzles were deep in hay drifts
she pressed her head against the barbed wire, as I whispered:
puppy, puppy, unmatting the frozen hair over her blue eyes,
so she could finally
And under my feet I felt the taut skin of the earth
In early winter these brittle brown foothills of the Sapphire Mountains
remind me off the little sleep scabs
I wanted to brush, gently with my middle finger,
from a friend's eyelashes as he talked about how he'd follow his estranged wife
anywhere to hold his just nursed daughter at bedtime,
the weight of her like a sack of loose pearls.
For him she is the nearest neighbor's light I look for over at Laughing,
three miles east across these blueing late-day fields,
and in white-outs when the west wind throws whole horse pastures of snow
wishing it were young again.
At five it's nearly dark in the direction of the Sapphire Mountains.
Someone bends over our hemisphere to see that we're all right,
blocking the light,
who could it be?
Thinking of Kierkegaard
I've never told you that you talk in your sleep,
how I steal poetry from you
as you dream.
I never told you about the woman who calls each evening,
how strained her soft voice is,
that I'm writing a story
imagining your infidelity.
Your shoes are two dark holes
I would never step into,
though I might whisper into that abyss
now and then.
Trust is a very high trestle.
You walk it on a dare
in front of an audience,
and it's the idiot who does not tremble, even though
the sky is the most innocent blue,
and there is just wind, your hair, a brid calling into the gorge.
Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz
I decided this week I would use some of the poems from my second eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around, published last year.
This is my first selection.
it's a fine day today
it's a fine day
the sun shines
on all of us, children
of the bright...
it's a fine day,
of dead people in the paper -
only five younger than me
and one of those
a fine day
three pages of dead people
in the paper
and none of them was
(My father and mother, a couple of years before I was born, photographer unknown)
My next poem is from a new (to me) book I bought at the half-priced bookstore this week. The book is Ismaelillo by 19th century revolutionary JOse Marti. My copy of the book, written by Marti for his three year son, was published in 2007 by Wings Press of San Antonio. The original edition of the book was published in Spanish in 1882 in New York. My book is a bilingual edition, with Spanish and English text on facing pages, translated by Tyler Fisher.
Marti was born in 1853 and was killed in battle in 1895. He continues to be a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. He was also a part of the Cuban Freemasons. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence." He also fought against the threat of United States expansionism into Cuba. From adolescence, he dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, political independence for Cuba and intellectual independence for all Spanish Americans; his death was used as a cry for Cuban independence from Spain by both the Cuban revolutionaries and those Cubans previously reluctant to start a revolt.
In search of you
I cross the seas:
My son, the good waves
Take me to you.
Cleanse my flesh
From the cities;
But I am sad,
for I can shed
My blood for none
Upon the seas.
Then what to me
Are waves unvaried,
Like flying jewels,
The gentle antics
Of the air,
The wrathful voice
The mind was made
To master these!
to tame the wanton,
Of pleasant, little breezes -
My bloodless cheeks
An endless kiss!
And who is sought
With eager panting
By the angel
Pale and white,
That spreads his wings
Upon my chest
And feeds and shelters
And who is wrapped
Within his wings,
My errant love's soft,
The skies and seas
Are free of slaves,
And I can shed
My blood for none.
Thus weeps the angel
Pale and white:
He weeps for envy
Of the sky
That covers all
With mottled clouds!
He gathers up
His snowy wings
To shield his anguished
Face within: -
And in the fragrant,
That opens in
The deepest shade,
In solemn silence
And on the backs
Of giant birds
Smiling and alive.
Here's the first Sonyador story for the week, number 24 in the series.
Dad died when Sonny was 15 years old.
Out chopping cedar for fence posts, a spider bite, a big, black, spot of dead flesh on his leg in three hours, and dead himself in two days.
Dad had a lot of friends, packing the funeral parlor then the church’s gathering room for food after the burying.
Mom and Conch and Sonny were by themselves. Tug had quit his job and left his wife and baby six months ago, went off to Nashville to try to be a country singer. Said he'd be back, but so far, the family hadn’t heard from him, nothing at all to his wife, to Sonny or Conch or even Mom. No one knew where he was; had no way to contact him and tell him about Dad.
So it was up to Sonny.
And he did his best, helping Mom through the service and after. Greeting all Dads’ friends, accepting their condolences; those friends a great help to him. Dad was friends with a lot of people and was admired most who knew him. They all came to pay their respects, tell stories about the times they had with Dad, about the times Dad helped them when were down and need of a couple of dollars or a favor or a sympathetic ear. They wanted to make sure Mom knew they were there to help if help was needed.
“Just a call,” they all said, each in their own way. “Just call us for anything and we’ll be here before you can put down the phone.”
Dad had life insurance with the company where he worked, so even though money would be tight for the family, it wouldn’t be desperate. And Sonny and Conch could both help out. Conch had Sonny’s old job at the Pretts’ grocery store and Sonny had two grocery store jobs, a job every afternoon as a cashier at a bigger grocery store on Main Street and a Saturday job as a bag boy at a supermarket in the town next over. And he also had his own business doing yard work for folks around town.
The family never had really good times, and the times from then on weren't going to be that much worse than they had been before.
It was hard for everyone, special hard for Sonny, not just because he missed his Dad, but also because, even with the three jobs, he was determined to stay in school.
And he did, worked his jobs and worked his school, good enough, at least to make it to the end. And he figured at fifteen that if he could do that at his little high school, he could do it in college as well.
And no one bet against him, cause everyone knew, Sonny had a knack for work and a knack for finishing what he started.
I have two poems now by Richard Sale from another book I picked up at the half-price book store. The book, The Tortilla of Heaven, was published by the University of North Texas Press in 1990. A dedication to the initial purchaser of the book by the poet suggests the two might have been close, which would account for the almost "fresh off the press" condition of the book more than 20 years after publication.
I can find no current information on the poet, but, at the time of publication of this book (his third), he was Professor of English at the University of North Texas, where he had taught since since 1965. After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, he was a Fulbright Lecturer in American Civilization and Literature in Morocco in 1963-64. He was the first Director of UNT's Creative Writing Program (1989-1990 edited the journal Texas Books in Review. He was the founding editor-publisher of the Trilobite Press and wrote text for musical compositions in addition to his poetry.
Eva Mae's Daughter
After she had braved the cold hardwood floors,
had perked the coffee and done her exercises,
while I lay in guilty half-sleep, so slowly unswelling,
wanting the cigarette a short arm's length away,
lying in bed again,
Eva Mae's daughter said,
Who do all children hate hot cereal?
Well, I tell you, my heart leaped up at that.
She said, I ask those kids at the art school
if they like hot cereal and they always say no.
My heart leaped up some more.
She said, But they never take it from there,
they don't want to know why.
Now more than awake and hugging the hot coffee mug
like a bowl os steaming porridge,
I said, I am well pleased.
And you should be well pleased, too,
just for digging up that universal.
And then I said, to hide my heart leaping up,
Please, ma'am, can I have some more coffee?
She knew that it was good again and said,
Say: Earth Mother, may I?
Lyrics for a Woman's Voice
1. Wishes Pour Across the Water
Wishes pour across the water
As sequins of the sun.
the green bay flashes jumping fish.
The clear sky stretches past tomorrow.
You might think it beautiful:
It is the loneliest sight in the world.
2. Flesh Trap
My body aches with body,
This heaviness pulls me down,
Pulls me down past the lower angels,
Down past the heart and spirit,
Pulls me down to the bottom circle,
Down to body, down to heavy flesh.
3. The Other Side of Absurdity
In the rain and this barren country,
It is all right today.
Everything is exactly right.
I've already finished my dinner of truth,
and everything is exactly right
On this false, this perfect, happy day.
4. Circe's Song
Easy, take it easy, manny,
Got the wine, got the sun.
What's the work that's calling, manny?
Got the wine, got the sun.
Early morning's shining fancy
(Morning's not the only one).
Easy, take it easy, manny,
Got the wine, got the sun.
My father was a pretty man,
My mother kind and brave.
My father's in another land,
My mother's in the grave.
My lover's like a turtle-dove;
My lover's brave and kind.
My lover's found another love,
And I read my mother's mind.
Here's a second poem from my book, Goes Around, Comes Around.
admiring the dark
the dark is
longer every night
heads for the back door
taps its fiery little feet
our front, waiting...
the dark in the morning,
by the big window,
looking out to the dark
of night waning,
the new day gathering
in the east
just a hint
a bare little shadow of light
almost lost in the ambient glow
of clouds softly-lit
by the city's night
clouds always glowing
in a city of a million and a half people
fearful of the dark -
lit all night, motion lights
with every rustle of leaves
by the wind,
every twitter of a bird -
security lights, night lights
that let us sleep
in semi-dark, certain
that whatever evil lurks
outside the luminance we wrap
around our sleeping body
will be as frightened
by the light as we are by the dark
maintained the flames
that kept us safe at night
from the earliest history
of our kind...
sitting in my well-lit cafe,
typing in the glow of computer electrons,
I admire the beauty of the night
while looking past the dark
to each pool of light around me
calculating the distance between pools, clocking
how quickly I could race in the dark from
one bright pool to the next
if I had
Here's a poem by Mairym Cruz-Bernal, from her book,Oh He Face the Light of La Luna, published by Provincetown Arts Press in 1997.
A Puerto Rican poet, translator, and essayist, Cruz-Bernal was born in 1963. She has a BA in Psychology from Loyola University and an MFA from the writing program at Vermont college. Since this book she has published other books, all them translated in numerous languages.
Though she normally writes in both Spanish and English, this was her first book where all the poems (except two) were written originally in English. The other two were written in Spanish and translated to English by the poet.
I begin with the book's title poem.
The Light of the Moon
The little girl crawls to the glass.
She sees and image and laughs and says titi.
That primitive language communicates her wholly.
She looks at the portrait of the baby
hanging on the wall across from the mirror
and laughs and says titti.
She doesn't know that both are her,
that she is someone.
What is reflected in the mirror
is enough for her to laugh and play,
but she knows that the one in the mirror
is the same as the one in the portrait.
She feels I am important to her.
Whenever a stranger comes she hugs my legs,
hiding, until she gets used to the image
of a new human or animal. Everything that moves is the same.
The other night I showed her la luna,
unmoving, round, among all the little lights.
She learned what la luna is.
She goes outside, when it's night,
and with her finger pointing up
she looks at me and smiles and stays still.
On her face the light of la luna.
Now when I want to calm here,even in daytime,
I say la luna and she looks at me. I tell her,
yes, it's there, but the very light of the sun
keeps it from us, but yes it's there,
look, somewhere in the sky.
A Taste of Irony
Since this morning I have a feeling you could taste,
a bitterness on the sides of your mouth.
I woke up from a dream I can't remember.
I have had my hair cut short and a perm to curl it.
I had a striped short dress with no bra on. I hated bras.
I still do. That sensation of feeling the clothes
pressed to my fourteen-year-old nude breasts felt good
and satisfying. Standing in the kitchen, preparing lunch,
he came in and saw me with my new look,
you are so ugly I doubt very much you will ever marry.
I don't think anyone will fall in love with you
Suffering alone, I felt stripped by invisible hands,
defense after defense, garment after garment,
until I was stark naked.
I had to put my lunch inside the refrigerator.
This scene was lived again a month after I met the man
who was to be my husband. I was still in that trance
of hypnotic stare, in love, where things turn blurry.
He came into the house, That man, such an important person,
what would he want from you, you have nothing to offer him,
not a woman enough to be with a man like that.
But I knew the taste of that instant.
I am left alone
to clean the dishes,
to fix the bed
and take the dirt out of this place.
Left on this rainy morning of September,
to think out loud of my whereabouts
and drink some coffee with my soul.
I am alone with this black sun
in a solo piece of music with the rain.
Entirely for myself, to play with my old dolls.
I empty my face of all human reminders
to learn to be a part of the larger farce.
More Sonyador, number 25 of 30.
Sonyador, seven last month, sits in the grass in front of his house as the sun begins to fall, in front of the old barrack his dad rebuilt, drinking chocolate milk, his before bed treat for the night, and watches the grackles gather in the tree by the street. Hundreds of the birds, flying in, finding a place on a branch, cackling and shrilling and crawing in disharmony. Then, all at once, as one, flying up from the tree, a black cloud of birds, cackling, rising up, then all together, swarming left, swarming right, then alighting again, all as one, the tree covered in a black feather blanket of birds.
And Sonyador looks at this and wonders, how is it possible for all of them to do all this at once, rise up, turn like a black wave left, then right, then down again.
There must be a boss bird, he thinks, a leader bird that tells all the other birds what to do, when to do it, so they’re always all as one, the one of all the hundreds, the leader who takes them where, somewhere he knows in his brain like he knows when to rise, knowing when, some second clicking clock in black head knowing when to rise, when to turn, and passes it on to all the other birds who do as he says, do as he thinks.
Sonyador thinks it might be good to be the boss bird.
Next, I have three poems by B.H.Fairchild, from his book Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest, published in 2003 by W.W. Norton.
Fairchild was born in Houston and grew up in small towns in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, later working through high school and college for his father, a lathe machinist. He taught English and Creative Writing at California State University, San Bernardino and Claremont Graduate University.
As of 2011, it has been announced that Fairchild will teach at The University of North Texas.
I start with the book's title poem.
Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest
In his fifth year the son, deep in the backseat
of his father's Ford and the mysterium
of time, holds time in memory with words,
night, this night, on the way to a stalled rig south
of Kiowa Creek where the plains wind stacks
the skeletons of weeds on barbed-wire fences
and rattles the battered DeKalb sign to make
the child think of time in its passing, of death.
Cattle stare at flat-bed haulers gunning clumps
of black smoke and lugging damaged drill pipe
up the gullied, mud-hollowed road. Road,
this road. Roustabouts shouting form the crow's nest
float like Ascension angels on a ring of lights.
Chokecherries gouge the purpled sky,cloud-
swags running the moon under, and starlight
rains across the Ford's blue hood. Blue, this blue.
Later, where black flies haunt the mud tank,
the boy walks along the pipe rack dragging
a stick across the hollow ends to make a kind
of music, and the creek throbs with frog songs,
locusts, the rasp of tree limbs blown and scattered.
The great horse people, his father, these sounds,
these shapes saved from time's dark creek as the car
moves across the moving earth: world, this world.
Hearing Parker the First Time
The blue notes spiraling up from the transistor radio
tuned to WNOE, New Orleans, lifted me out of bed
in Seward County, Kansas, where the plains wind riffed
telephone wires in tones less strange than the bird songs
of Charlie Parker. I played high school tenor sax the way,
I thought, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young might have
if they were like me, untalented and white, but Ornithology
came winding up from the dark delta of blues and dixieland
into my room on the treeless and hymn-ridden high plains
like a dust devil spinning me into the Eleusinian mysteries
of the jazz gods though later I would learn that his long
apprenticeship in Kansas City and an eremite's devotion
to the hard rule of craft gave him the hands that held
the reins of the white horse that carried him to New York
and 52nd street, farther form wheat fields and dry creek beds
than I would ever travel, and then carried him away.
On the Passing of Jesus Freaks from the College Classroom
They seemed to come in armies, whole platoons
uniformed in headbands, cut-off jeans,
butt-long hair that fell down in festoons,
and their grins were the ends that justified the means.
But one was different. And alone. His wrist tattoo
cried FATHER on a severed heart that bled.
His arms hung limp as vines, his nails were blue,
his silence was the chorus of the dead.
"Are you saved?" they asked. "Saved from what," I said.
"The flames of hell, your rotten sinful past,
your thing for Desdemona," for we had read
the tragedies, and Othello was the last.
"What's Iago's motive? Was he just sinful?
They thought they knew but waited for a hint.
He raised his hands and wept, "Evil, fucking Evil."
And he meant it. And he knew what he meant.
This fella's voice makes me feel like home. I'm going to do another poem, even though I had only planned to do three.
A Starlit Night
All over America at this hour men are standing
by and open closet door, slacks slung over one arm,
staring at wire hangers, thinking of taxes
or a broken faucet or their first sex: the smell
of back-seat Naugahyde, the hush of a maize field
like breathing, the stars rushing, rushing away.
And a woman lies in an unmade bed watching
the man she has known twenty-one, no,
could it be? twenty-two years, and she is listening
to the polonaise climbing up through radio static
from the kitchen were dishes are piled
and the linoleum floor is a great, gray sea.
It's an A-flat polonaise she practiced endlessly,
never quite getting it right, though her father,
calling from the darkened TV room, always said,
"Beautiful, kiddo!" and the moon would slid across
the lacquered piano top as if it were something
that lived underwater, something from far below.
they both came from houses with photographs,
the smell of camphor in closets, board games
with missing pieces, sunburst clocks in the kitchen
that made them, each morning, a little sad.
they didn't know what they wanted, every night,
every starlit night of their lives, and now they have it.
(My father before his death in 1980, photographer unknown)
One must always look to the sunnyside. This, another poem from my eBook published last year, Goes Around, Comes Around.
day 24,387 and counting
that's what the fella
down at the Happy Valley Home
on your capacity for
long term planning,
that view can be very
even coming from the
Happy Valley Home cohort
who, if you choose,
can be seen as
not out of touch with reality
but living instead
in a greater reality
closed to the more prosaic
of us -
as for me
I'm a believer in reality,
but only in romantic affairs -
when it comes to money,
for no less than the
which is why
I am sure
I'm on the road to riches
and while I may not get
the days I need
to get there all the way,
being on the road
to something good
than being stuck
in the weeds
like a back-roads vagabond
with a flat tire
and no spare in the trunk
I'm a human being
of the American
after all -
and, like my kind,
want to get
everything there is to et...
and expect, by god,
to get it! -
Made another trip to the used bookstore this afternoon, found six good poetry books for under $4 a piece.
The next couple of poems are from one of them, Flamingo Watching,published in 1994 by Copper Beech Press.
The poet is Kay Ryan and American poet and educator.
Ryan was born in San Jose, California, and was raised in several areas of the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. After attending Antelope Valley College, she received bachelor's and master's degrees in English from University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1971, she has lived in Marin County, California, and has taught English part-time at the College of Marin in Kentfield.
She has published seven volumes of poetry and was the sixteenth United States Poet Laureate, from 2008 to 2010. In 2011, she was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Again, I start with the book's title poem.
Wherever the flamingo goes,
she brings a city's worth
of furbelows. She seems
unnatural by nature -
too vivid and peculiar
a structure to be pretty,
and flexible to the point
of oddity. Perched on
those legs,anything she does
seems like an act. Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back,she's
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she's serious. The natural elect,
they think,would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.
they privately expect that it's some
poorly jointed bland grey animal
with mitts for hands
whom God protects.
It would be pleasant to walk
in Stonehenge or other places
that have rocks arranged on the
basis of a plan, or plans,
inscrutable to modern man;
to wander among grinders
sunk deep in sheep pastures
or simply set on top Peruvian grit;
to gaze up at incisors
no conceivable jaw could fit;
to stretch to be ignorant enough,
scoured to a clean vessel
as pure as the puzzle,vestal
to a mystery involving people,
but without the heat of people.
(My son,after his first over-the-fence home run, photographer unknown)
Sonyador series, poem 26.
Wishing Like Fishing
A year after his dad died, it seemed to Sonny that he was on a hard road with nothing he could see in the future to make it smoother and easier.
His mother was still working at the school cafeteria, full time now, where it had only been a couple of hours a day before Dad died. Tug’s whereabouts still a mystery, nothing heard from him now in nearly two years. His wife and daughter, Sonny’s sister-in-law and his niece gone, moved to California, to San Diego. The word had it that she found another man as was just waiting for her divorce to come through so she could marry him. And Conch, though only twelve, was beginning to show the same kind of wildness defiance that always got Tug in trouble.
And Sonny’s best friend, pretty much his only friend, Bangie had moved back East with his mother after his parents got divorced.
Sonny was sad sometimes, thinking of fishing with Dad, going on trips with Uncle Otto (Oh, how he still missed Uncle Otto and, oh, how he wished he was here to talk to.
But Sony remembered what Uncle Otto told him once, wishing was like fishing without bait, just a waste of time for people who didn’t want to do what needed to be done.
(My younger brother, my older brother, and me, a long time ago, photographer unknown)
It's a conincidence, but after my last library poet, Kay Ryan, with a poem about the mysterious heads on Easter Island, I have poems from a book of photographs and poems devoted entirely to Easter Island and those great rock sculptures.
The book is Their Backs to the Sea, published by Wings Press of San Antonio in 2009, by poet and photographer Margaret Randall.
Randall is a feminist poet, writer, photographer and social activist. Born in New York City in 1936, she has lived for extended periods in Albuquerque, New York, Seville, Mexico City, Havana, and Managua. Her travels included shorter stays in Peru and North Vietnam. In the 1960s she co-founded and co-edited El Corno Emplumaado/The Plumed Horn, a bilingual literary journal for eight years'. From 1984 through 1994 she taught at a number of U.S. universities.
She lived among New York’s abstract expressionists in the 1950s and early ’60s, participate in the Mexican student movement of 1968, observed first had the Cuban revolution and Cuban culture from 1969-1980, the first four years of Nicaragua’s Sandinista project 1980-1984, and visit North Vietnam during the last months of the war in that country, publishing more than 80 books in the meantime.
In 1984, Randall came home to the United States, only to be ordered deported when the government invoked the 1952 McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act, judging opinions expressed in some of her books to be "against the good order and happiness of the United States." The Center for Constitutional Rights defended her and many writers and others joined in an almost five-year battle for reinstatement of citizenship. She won her case in 1989.
As I watch you, stone-carver ghosts,chipping away
at your mammoth blocks of basalt or tuff,
coaxing prominent noses, pursed lips,
etching decorated ears
and smoothing hollows
where eyes will store and shoot their mana
to a hungry populace,
as I watch you chisel the line of an arm, dropped
to the side, bent slightly forward
to faint shadow of loincloth
fingers reaching for mirrored fingers,
when I observe you,
hammers and polishing-stones in hand,
kneeling in the narrow troughs
whose rock still clings to rock and the giant figure
has yet to free itself,
begin its journey out of the quarry
down rocky slope to the platform
waiting by a vulnerable shore,
the ahu that will be its home
its back to the ferocious sea,
when I dream your rhythms, the focus of your eyes,
weeks or months to a single statue's birth
- long sheets of rain,
heightening the echo of your song,
hundreds working together
or ten or twelve -
I always wonder
if you left hand, like another's left foot
in a distant land
and years into future, or the words
that spill too soon from a troubled mouth
knew what had to be done
and how. Were you left-handed
is my question, one of many.
Right hemisphere walks out
across a field of volcanic rock
spewed and settled
before the rising of time.
Bare feet resist daggers
of hardened obsidian,
blood tangles with dry earth
as rhythm dulls pain.
Which side of the brain
designs your palm frond hat,
places a flower
behind your listening ear?
(My niece, recent recipient, the proud uncle must say, of a major league scholarship to a major league university)
This is another poem from my eBook Goes Around, Comes Around.
Habits of Mercy
I was thinking this
about what I want to do
with the rest of my
it's the same thing
I want to do
with the rest of my
my wife at least once or twice
some good food
some good poems
a nice nap
with my better nature
& forgive myself
for all recent sins, known, as well as
secret, even to me
easier for some
with no true love
to kiss -
no food to
no bed to sleep
in their soul -
with no key
to unlock the door to self, their
true self as unknown to them as
a stranger passing dark
on the street -
and most difficult of all for
those who can't find within
forgiveness of themselves
ego-obsessed creatures that we are,
sinners almost from out first thoughts,
if we cannot forgive ourselves
how will we ever learn to forgive
and if we cannot forgive others,
how can we ever live
in this world
that needs cleansed hearts
as much as it needs clean air and water
habits of mercy
are what will save this world;
by human sinners
Next, I have three pieces selected from The Sonnets to Orpheus, the full cycle of 55 poems written by Ranier Maria Rilke "as a grave-monument for Vera Ouckama Knoop," a young woman whose premature death greatly affected Rilke.
This collection was published in 1985 by Simon and Schuster, in the original German with English translation by Stephen Mitchell on the facing page.
Spring has returned. The earth resembles
a little girl who has memorized
many poems... For all the trouble
of her long learning, she wins the prize.
Her teacher was strict. We loved the white
in the old man's beard and shaggy eyebrows.
Now, whatever we ask about
the blue and the green, she knows, she knows!
Earth, overjoyed to be out on vacation,
play with children. We long to catch up,
jubilant Earth. The happiest will win.
What her teacher taught her, the numberless Things,
and what lies hidden in stem and in deep
difficult root, she sings, she sings!
Not till the when flight
no longer for its own sake ascends
into the silent heavens
propelled by its self conceit,
so that, in luminous outlines,
as the tool that has come to power,
it can float, caressed by the wings,
streamlined, agile, and sure -
not till a pure destination
outweighs the boyish boast
of how much machines caan do
will, overwhelmed with gain,
one to whom distance is close
be what alone he flew.
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it will your heart survive.
Be forever dead n Eurydice - more gladly arise
into the seamless life proclaimed in your song.
Here, in the realm of decline, among momentary days,
be the crystal cup that shattered even as it rang.
Be - and yet know the great void where all things begin,
the infinite source of yur own most intense vibration,
so that, this once, you may give it your perfect assent.
To all that is used-up, and all the muffled and dumb
creatures in the world's full reserve, the unsayable sums,
joyfully add yourself and cancel the count.
Once again, in wonderment, I do one more poem than I had intended.
Only he whos bright lyre
has sounded in shadows
may, looking onward, restore
his infinite praise.
Only he who has eaten
poppies with the dead
will not lose ever again
the gentlest chord.
Though the image upon the pool
often grows dim;
Know and be still.
Inside the Double World
all voices become
Story 27 in the Sonyador series of stories.
Sonny watches a young mother cuddle her baby, kiss its forehead, whisper, “love you, love you, love you,” blow softly on its belly.
He thinks of how warm and whole the baby must feel in its world of love and care and attention, and was jealous, wishes he could remember a time when he could remember such feelings. He knows his mother loved him, and his father had too, in his way, and thought they must have cuddled and kissed him the way the young mother enfolds her baby in unconditional love. He knows there must have been such times for him, thinking there might not have been was too terrible to think of. But he wishes he could remember.
But there was no cuddling, no loving now, a hot summer, a fourth job, working as a busboy and dishwasher at a hotel in the next town, three nights a week, 11 to 7. Then a couple of hours sleep, then summer school, then work until 7 at the grocery store downtown, except for Saturday when he worked all day at the supermarket down the street from the hotel where he worked on week nights, plus whatever time he could find to take care of his customers’ yardwork.
His algebra teacher told him he needed to learn how to work with a slide rule and though he doubted that was true (sliding sticks back and forth - what a stupid way to do math problems, he thought, like some kind of African tribe, the middle of the twentieth century, for crying out loud, Sputnik circling over head where you could see it on a clear night, talk of going to the moon - somebody was sure to come up with some better way to do calculations that sliding sticks back and forth).
So there it is two hours a day four days a week, sliding sticks back and forth in summer school, even though he’s sure it’s a waste of time learning how to do something that was probably going to be obsolete before he finished high school, or , at least before he finished college, doing it, wearing his slide rule on his belt like all the math nerds did whenever he was in Mrs. Fastenbinder ‘s class because she told him he ought to and he thought it was his responsibility to do what he ought to, even when he thinks it’s a waste of time.
Spending a lot of time in slide rule class wishing he had a girlfriend he could be with instead.
Next I have poems by James Richardson, from his book, a National Book Award Finalist, By the Numbers. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2010.
Richardson has published a number of books and received many poetry honors. He has taught at the University of Virginia, Harvard, Princton and Columbia. For the past 30 years he has lived in New Jersey.
That faint line in the dark
might be the shore
of some heretofore unknown
The fir-scent on the wind
must be the forests
of the unheard of month
between July and August.
Classic Bar Scenes
1. Apollo at Happy Hour
Shoulders and faint sheen
of lotion, torsion,
loose dress sliding
over flanks of glass,
silks so utterly watery
splashing, as you click along the shine,
on left shin right shin, but alas
the chase is a tired
and tiring metaphor:
let's sit. It is
your Beauty that is omnipotent,
and I the god its constant
as the keyboard you reach over
accidently typing with a breast
as the copies you press
with a page and another page
that lights again and again your face.
Hear my song:
I will walk out of the 14th floor
and into your ear like a wireless call.
II. Ovidian Deposition
The bull or swan,
face rippling as it changes,
speaks,and for a long, long moment,
you can't tell luck from disaster.
He recited his exploits and cutting-edge features,
all the arts and countries he was lord of.
He was wasted, I think. He walked on the table.
He said his voltage was so out off control.
He said, Relax,what you're feeling is
the great experiences are genetic:
when they happen to you they do not happen to you.
To take the god was to lose the man.
To take the man was to die of the god.
Either might turn me into stone.
I got up For a refill
from the Heliconian well,
and texted from the parking structure
Pygmalion among the Young
He could tell from their piston shots of laughter,
their bucking and surging
like someone leaning to drive stick,
their pretense and collapse,
their talking on two cells at once,
how they down strange solvents,
their voices sax-raw or helium-high,
how they take each other harshly,
grinding together like stones,
grinding alone like stones, that the young
have statues in them, tall white statues
they must dance out, drink to sleep, outspeed.
Like a finger under a line of type -
O god, slower than that -
their future comes, the party they're late for
where people are saying incredible shit about them
that they have to go to, and say, and say
like how it really is, so they pile in and floor it
till their backs stiffen and their faces change in the wind.
IV. Twilight of a God
That girl who drank from her hands
huge waters of wine,
and his awe,
was it? So that he surfaced,
his head in a little clear spot above the music
and a good bet was
that whatever happened next
wasn't going to happen to him.
Suddenly he wasn't the minor deity,
coat still on, in the corner booth,
smiling benevolently upon his children,
but a guy walking out, head down,
into the cold of an outer borough,
the signs unreadable, the age of Changes over.
Though aren't those still his angels
at the gold bar of Heaven
who lift glass trumpets to their lips?
V. Orpheus at Last Call
One of those dreams: you struggle and fail
to dial a number, read a page, remember
not to look back...
(her hand confused in mine, soft struggle of a bird)
I've drunk so much
it rises in me: something like soft roots
and my head sweeps down the singing river singing...
Apollo in Age
I am no good with pain.
I'll tell you anything.
There are lots of things in the world that could stand some serious rethinking. I ennumrate some of them in this poem from my eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around.
somewhere out there
this is serious business
interstellar star systems
an alien race
is going extinct as their
is slowly replaced
by megaterlagon oxygen farts
a spaceship full of
Pat Boone is thinking about
a comeback tour
is suffering from delusions
a bunch of foreigners who don't
even speak English
are bouncing balls off their heads
and calling it
this is no damn time
and silly faces
My next poems are by Paul Muldoon, from his book Moy Sand and Gravel. The book was published in 2002 byh Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Muldoon, an Irish poet, was born in 1951 He has published over thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 - 2004. At Princeton University he is both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 Professor in the Humanities and chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He is also the president of the Poetry Society of the U.K. and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.
Once again (it seems to be a habit this week) I begin with the book's title poem.
Moy Sand and Gravel
To come out of the Olympic Cinema and be taken aback
by how, in the time it took a dolly to travel
along its little track
to the point where two movie stars' heads
had come together smackety-smack
and their kiss filled the whole screen,
those two great towers directly across the road
at Moy Sand and Gravel
had already washed, at least once, what had flowed
or been dredged from the Blackwater's bed
and were washing it again, load by load,
as if washing might make it clean.
He sucked, he'll have you know,
the telltale sixth toe
of a woman who looked like a young Marilyn Monroe,
he hubby getting a little stroppy
when he found them there in the back of that old jalopy.
Other papers please copy.
Think of this gravestone
as a long,low chair
at a turn in the stair.
An Old Pit Pony
An old pit pony walks
across a blasted heath.
Its coat is a cloud hung on a line.
for the pit-propped skies
of that world beneath.
Its coat is a cloud hung on a line.
Closing in on the end of my 30 days - 30 stories challenge. This is number 28.
Sonyador rides his bike faster and faster on the sandy road, the wind on his face blowing stronger and stronger and he feels like he might fly, might takeoff into the blue summer sky like a giant two-wheeled bird.
He feels like he could fly.
The last poet from my library this week is Ron Slate. His poem is from his book The Great Wave, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009.
Slate was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1950. He received an MA in creative writing from Stanford University in 1973. His earlier collection The Incentive of the Maggot, was chosen by Robert Pinsky for the Bakeless Poetry Prize and was a winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Slate has worked as a corporate speechwriter and as vice president of global communications for EMC Corporation.
Looming before us is the pale, tender,
childlike foot of Nikita Krushchev.
Size 7 or 8, "like a boy's" according
to Sergei, his son, on the lecture circuit.
A shoe meant a lot to a Russian foot,
something you'd tug off a frozen corpse.
A shoe meant a lot to a British head of state,
to tap a shoe on the rostrum in Parliament
expressed the highest degree of obstruction.
So when Khruschev slammed his shoe on a desk
in the U.N., it meant megatons to us
but just a parliamentary flourish to him,
designed to make P.M. Macmillan, orating
unmenorably, feel at home.
Such a delicate foot, veined and moist -
it makes me want to reveal a secret,
and expendable one, declassified.
One night when I was seven years old,
my father woke me at three A.M.
to scan the sky for the coming
of the satellite, Kruschev's star.
There was nothing to impede the view,
not a wisp of cloud. So small and sharp,
bristling with speed, and gone -
It was then I knew I wanted to be
something to admire. Maybe to fear.
Of course, the massing of mistrust
between father and son,
our standoff in the Divided City
had something to do with it.
Disclosed: the Premier told his aides
to place a shoe under his desk.
A single American penny loafer.
Agrarian reformer on a hot day in May,
he had walked into the General Assembly
wearing socks and sandals.
If a person's nature is harsh
and resolute, may it also keep us
vigilant and entertained.
Years later, the child may explain
exactly what the father meant to say.
It was a very hot summer last summer, as described in this poem from my book, Goes Around, Comes Around, published if I remember right in the middle of it.
the Hawaiian shirt plan
it's a kind of an
with palm trees
and some kind of
with sailing ships
o the label -
it's one of seven
Hawaiian shirts I bought
a couple of weeks ago -
the one I have on today
part of my new
strategy for facing
south Texas summer -
no more hiding
in my air conditioned house
for four months, tasting
unprocessed outside air
only for the time it takes
to get from my air conditioned
house to my air conditioned car...
i will sweat, just
as one's supposed to
when it's 100 degrees
in 85 percent humidity
i will wear my salt-stained
Hawaiian shirts daily,
i will work at leas one hour
per day in my backyard
in the cinder-roasting sun
as lightly dressed as allowed
by law, my fish-white belly
will be brown like the pecans
that fall from the tree, my
feet will become summer rough
again, my hands black & bruised
from digging in the dark soil
and sharp caliche rock
I will be like the ancient people
who made their hard lives here,
among the cactus and hills,
rocky meadows, summer heat,
and north winds of winter
I will be seven years old again
when summer was my friend
i will be summer
And now, Sonyador story number 29. One more to go.
Sonny sleeps and he dreams of the people he’s known.
But he stirs, comes slowly awake, realizes there’s someone in the room with him, someone standing beside his bed.
“Sasha,” he cries out.
“No sir,” she says. “I’m Gloria. I’m your nurse.”
Here's a last poem for this week from my eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around, available at lots of places, cheap, too.
A suitable piece for this political season of bumblers and fools.
the liberal godless socialist media will never tell you this...
the liberal, godless socialist media
will never tell you
Barack Obama was born in a hospital
and has five toes
on each foot
brushes her teeth with
grew up in a Nevada desert
in his underpants
was a Presbyterian
in her youth and while
in the White House
was very close to a number of
are white men who can't
many other Democrats
are black people in possession of natural
and great recipes for sweet-potato pie
some Democrat women
wear underpants and some
do not - unlike Harry Reed, none
of the Democrat women
who wear underpants have sand
Ted Kennedy was
mortal - unlike Ronald
Reagan who will live forever
in the right-thinking minds of our viewers
who know that we, here at the
report all the news, including
the important secret stuff
will never let you
Here it is, the end of thirty stories in thirty days.
Even Dreams Must Someday End
Sonyador, the dreamer, dreams.
And the dreams seem more real than anything else; more real than the bed he lies in, the machine by his bed going blip, blip, blip, night and day, the infections, the nurses and the doctors, more real, even, than the catheter they inserted in his penis that hurt so much when they did it. That pain a shadow now, barely noticed among all the other shadows behind his dreams.
He is confused, a woman who said she was his wife came today, but he did not know her, did not know her name, did not know he had wife.
He has no wife in his dreams, all those years past, alive again in his sleep. His father long dead, victim of outrageous fortune, his mother, happily mindless in her nursing home until one night, when the truth of all things befell her, Tug, the brother he loved and idolized, gone so long ago, if not dead now, very, very old, Conch, his younger brother, lost in a faraway jungle in 1969, never found, presumed dead, Uncle Otto, another wrong death, Sasha, the mystery, the ever-sustaining myth of his life, and all the other people who walked upon the stage of his life, his teachers, and the boy who tried to push him around and Mr. and Mrs. Pretts, all back again, alive again, but only for as long as he can dream.
He had a knack for work, it was always said, and a knack for money, as it turned out. Though rich he became because he had a knack for work and acquisition, never rich enough to make up for lack of the knack for friends. No knack for friendship like his father had, no knack for friends who would be with him in this sterile, dismal place.
In the end, like everyone, like you and me, he becomes a victim of who he was. And he dreams of all those who might have made him different. His life, a product of all he ever was and all those who were in his time with him, in the end all before him again in sweet dreams of times before he became he who lies dreaming.
He weeps in his sleep because even in his sleep, maybe only in his sleep, he knows the dreams are just dreams, not real, all those people are not real. And he weeps, because he knows he is but a dream as well, a long dream ending soon.
Sonyador has grown so accustomed to the blip,blip,blip of the monitor beside his bed that he doesn’t hear it anymore.
Until it stops.
The dreamer who grew alone now dreams alone, until he dreams no more.
And all the dreams end, fading, as does he.
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 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"
For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon
"Seven Beats a Second"