From Where I Sit   Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Okay, I'm declaring this weird, but occasionally, strangely beautiful picture week.

And there's nothing you can do about it.

I'm also declaring this Blaise Cendrars week, not exclusively, but mostly. My favorite travel poet, why shouldn't I.

Also other poems from my library and poems from me, some new and some lifted from my most recent book Always to the Light.

I sit by the window

Blaise Cendrars
From Nineteen Elastic Poems

Munch finds his scream

Carol Lem
Family Business

knife in a gunfight

Blaise Cendrars
From Black African Poems

games of the high and flighty

Joyce Odam
The Music in the Water

Maia Penfold
we value him
kafka watches me

from where I sit

Blaise Cendrars
From Kodak
from West
from Far West
from Aleutian Islands
from The South
from The North

practical and orderly

Robinson Jeffers
Carmel Point

Janice Gould
The Day of the Dead

poesis interrruptus

Blaise Cendrars
From Travel Notes

push and pull

The Detective

smile for me

Blais Cendrars
From South American Women

ironing three shirts on Sunday morning

John Guzlowski
Work and Death
My Father Dying

how nuts is that?

Blaise Cendrars
From Various Poems

a great tree

Samuel Hazo
National Prayer Breakfast

attack of the 50-foot woman

Blaise Cendrars
From To the Heart of the World (fragments)

walking my dog when it’s 19 degrees

This is my first poem for the week, a celebration of the coffee-shop where I spend the better part of my days.

I sit by the window

I sit
by the window
so I can smile at all the people
who pass
and enjoy the smiles they return
to me

I sit by the window
so I can hear the conversations
all around, passing toward the window light,
reflecting off the glass
and to my ears

I sit by the window
so I can enjoy the paint salesman
working his phone, a rainbow conversation
of gloss and matte
as he talks to painting contractors
about the colors to be displayed,
all the regular colors of a crayola box
and new colors I never heard of,
or maybe just new names

sit by the window
so I can hear the attorney
talk to her friends,
her men-friends she has coffee
with nearly every day,
the businessman, the artist,
the musician
and the novelist
telling stories in Spanish
and English,
a modishly lean free-spirit woman,
I can tell,
long black hair
dressed in elegant black
to match,
her late thirties, maybe older,
with the light fresh laugh of a girl
twenty years

I like to hear them talk
and I like to listen to her laugh

I sit by the
so I can watch the young students
from the college down the street and
the high school boys and girls
from the Catholic school down the street,
uniformed and fresh
and alive with after-school freedom

i sit by the window
to enjoy the artists and musicians
and filmmakers
who meet here to talk about their latest
art, and the teachers from the private school
who meet to plan their lessons,
and the politicians and social activists
and community volunteers who meet here
to conspire their ongoing insurrections
and the mothers
with their babies
and the old men with their crosswords
the the city planners
in their pin-stripped suits
and the hobo
questing freedom
and quarters from bridge to bridge
and the churchly do-gooders
their good-doings
the man in the corner
who reads his worn bible, whispering
to God
the things for only God
to hear

I sit by the window in this place
where I spend my day,
alive with the life around me,
my mind
and my heart
with the stories around

I start this week with one of my favorite poets and my favorite-above-all-others travel poet, Blaise Cendrars.

Cendrars, born Frederic Louis Sauser in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1887, like a certain twentieth century folk singer, preferred the myth he created around himself as progeny of revolutionaries, born in a building on the Left Bank in Paris to the truth of his thoroughly bourgeois family and upbringing.

But, whatever stories he chose to create around his early years, he lived in his mature years a life of adventure and travel, including his time during World War I when, as a volunteer in the French Foreign Legion, he fought and lost his right arm in battle.

His life is a story worth reading in full. His literary reputation continued to grow in his later years, even as his writing output dwindled and his named dimmed in the public eye. Finally, he died in 1961, the same year he received the Grand Prix Litteraire de Paris, a final honor, though he was mostly forgotten.

I'm using several of Cendrars' poems from Complete Poems,published in 1992 by the University of California Press. Centrars' work was translated by Ron Padgett,

From Nineteen Elastic Poems

1. Newspaper

It's been more than a year now since I stopped thinking about You
since I wrote my next-to-last poem "Easter"
My life has changed a lot since
But I'm still the same
I've even wanted to become a painter
Here are the pictures I've done and which hang on the walls tonight
For me they open strange views onto myself which make me think
   of You.

That's what I've ransacked

My paintings hurt me
I'm too passionate
Everything is oranged up.

I spent a sad day thinking about my friends
and reading the paper
Life crucified in the wide-open paper I hold at arm'slength
You'd think an airplane is dropping.
It's me.

It's useless not wanting to talk about yourself
you have to cry out sometimes

I'm the other one
Too sensitive

         August 1913

3. Contrasts

The windows of my poetry are wide open onto the boulevards and in its
   shop windows
the jewels of light
Listen to the violins of the limousines and the xylophones of the
The stenciler washes up in the washcloth of the sky
Everything is splashes of color
And the women's hats going by are comets in the burning evening

There is no more unity
All the clocks now say midnight after being set back ten minutes
there is no more time.
There is no more money.
At the Chamber
They're wasting the marvelous elements of raw materials

At the bar
The workers in blue overalls drink red wine
Every Saturday, the numbers game
You play
You bet
From time to time a gangster goes by in a car
Or a child plays with the Arch of Triumph...
I advise M. Cochon to house his homeless in the Eiffel Tower.

Under new management
The Holy Ghost is sold in small amounts in the smallest shops
I read with pure delight the calico rolls
Calla lily rows
It's only the pumice stones of the Sorbonne that have never flowered
On the other hand the Samaritaine sign plows the Seine
And toward Saint -Severin
I hear
The relentless bells of the trolleys

It's raining light bulbs
Montrought Gare de l"EAst Metro Nord-Sud omnibus people
One big halo
Rue de Buci they yell L'Intransigeant and Paris-Sports
The aerodrome of the sky is now, all fiery, a picture by Cimabue
And in front
The men are
And smoking, factory stacks

         October 1913

10. News Flash

OKLAHOMA, January 20, 1914
Three convicts get gold of revolvers
They kill their guard and grab the prison keys
The come running out of their cells and kill four guards in the yard
Then they grab the young prison secretary
And get into a carriage waiting form them at the gate
They leave at top speed
While guards fire their revolvers in the direction of the fugitives

A few guards jump on horses and ride in pursuit of the convicts
Both sides exchange shots
The girl is wounded by a short fired by one of the guards

A bullet shoots down the horse pulling the carriage
The guards can move in
They find the prisoners dead their bodies riddled with bullets
Mr. Thomas, former member of Congress whoo was visiting the prison,
Congratulates the girl

Copied telegram-poem in Paris-Midi

         January 1914

11. Bombay Express

The live I've led
Keeps me from suicide
Everything leaps
Women roll beneath the wheels
The jalopies are fanned out at the station entrances.
I have music under my fingernails.

I never have liked Mascagni
Nor art nor Artists
Nor barriers nor bridges
Nor trombones nor trumpets
I don't know anything anymore
I don't understand anymore...
Such a caress
That the map is trembling form it

This year or next year
Art criticism is an idiotic as Esperanto
Good-bye good-bye

I was born in that town
And my son too
He whose forehead is like his mother's vagina

There are thoughts that make buses jump
I no longer read books found only in libraries
Beautiful ABC off the world

Bon voyage!

Oh to sweep you away
You who laugh at bright red

         April 1914

And then there are the mornings when I wake up at 3 a.m. and the night is no darker than my sleepless heart.

Munch finds his scream

dark nights
& darker days
cover both the sun
and the moon

I dream
mechanical spiders
sssifty sssifting
from an open

and it seems
that which mattered
matter least

it is dark
at the end of the tunnel

Here's a poem by Carol Lem, from the Summer 2001 issue of Rattle.

Google gave me nothing about the poet.

Family Business

When it was Ah Wings Cafe
on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood,
they'd come to study their lines
in the noirish booths by the kitchen
where steam and cigarette smoke
merged with the shadowy faces
of Newman, Brando, Mitchum,
who took breaks by walking
to the Vine Street newstand.
For years, my mother kept
Raymond Burr's five dollar i.o.u,
hoping he'd remember before
television made him an icon.

When the business moved
to Little Tokyo in the 50's
and became Lem's Cafe,
Keye Luke and JamesWong Howe
would enter through the back door
asking for their hom yu, as my father
sipped the egg flower soup
and nodded their way
toward the pink table cloths
reserved for special guests.

It was almost forty years
since my mother, an extra
in D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms,
looked out at the damp pavements
of Limehouse. But, still, the gas lamps
rising through the mist and fog
of life glowed in her eyes
while she flirted with actors and
directors slumming J town.

Hosting big parties
during Nisei Week was not the role
she and other Chinese haunted studios for.
But while the men became Japanese
stereotypes in the 40'war flicks
she was working on a marriage
with the man who got her away
from the railroad tracks on Alameda
only to fit her onto a track
of property his father owned.

So when the old man decided to turn
an abandoned movie theater into a restaurant
and cast my father as cook, Mother
found her audience in a reel that never
stopped running, Family Business.

Here's a bit of a "back in the day" poem.

knife in a gunfight

when I was a kid
every man
carried a pocketknife,
like maybe bankers
in their pinstripe suits,
just a tiny little pen-knife
they hardly ever opened but to lovingly clean
their nails
and disembowel debtors,
ignored otherwise, not
spoken of in polite

like my father,
took great pride in their knives,
sharp enough to shave with,
they would say,
watch me shave my arm) or else
why have it at all

my dad was a working man
with hard working-hands, dressed
always in hard-working clothes,
and in his hard-working pants carried always
a hard-working knife…

all my kid friends
carried pocket knives,
as did I, not so big as my dad’s
and not so sharp,
but big enough to whittle
and big enough to play mumbly-peg,
- which,
the way we played it, involved
splaying our hands on the ground and trying to flip the knife
between fingers -
leading me to quit playing
after my friend’s knife, a big sharp knife
putting mine to shame, got stuck
in my hand

I carry a pen,
sharp as any knife
when most diligently applied

I've called Blaise Cendrars the best ever travel poet. Part of that comes because of his poetry; the rest of it comes from him being a very good traveler. A keen and discerning observer of everything he sees and hear, plus openness to all things, whether familiar to him or not. Though he is an artist who considers himself to be French and therefore secretly (or not) superior to the rest of the world, he never demonstrates any smugness about his better position. I don't recall reading in any part of his travel poetry, any suggestion that there is anything wrong with anything he sees. He seems to understand that a good guest does not try to tell his host how to rearrange the living room.

You can't help but, as you read his poems, to fall into his sense of openness and adventure.

From Black African Poems

The Great Fetishes

A hardwood sheathing
Two embryonic arms
The man tears his belly
And worship his risen member

Who are your threatening
As you go off
Fists on hips
Barely in control
Almost fat

Wood knot
Head shaped like an acorn
Hard and refractory
Face stripped
Young god sexless and shamelessly jovial

Envy has eaten away your chin
Covetousness lures you
You rise
The missing part of your face
Makes you geometric

Here's the man and the woman
Equally ugly equally nude
The man slimmer but stronger
Hands on his belly
Mouth like a piggy bank slot

The bread of her sex she bakes three times a day
And her belly stretched full
On her neck and shoulders

I'm ugly!
By sniffing the smell of girls in my solitude
My head is swelling up and soon my nose is going to fall off

I wanted to escape the chief's women
My head was shattered by the sun's stone
In the sand
All that's left is my mouth
Open like my mother's vagina
And crying out

This one
Has only a mouth
A member that goes down to his knees
And feet cut off

Here's the woman I like best
Two sharp lines around a mouth shaped like a funnel
A blue forehead
Some white at the temples
And the gaze shining like a bugle

         British Museum
       London, February 1916

Waiting in barely-morning barely-light outside the doctor's office for my quarterly labs, bird watching.

games of the high and flighty

not horses,
eyes bulging with wild, equine intent,
nose dripping
not rabbits,
gray streaking,
low to the ground,
ears flowing back
like racing stripes, not man
racing, neck cords
like ropes,
legs a vision

but birds,
blackbirds, I think,
(hard to tell in the morning dark)
that swoop and swirl, turn
and circle in tight formation,
joined by smaller birds,
who swoop and swirl and circle and turn
with the big birds,
all pushing, pushing, pushing
like the horse
like the rabbit
like the human athelete,
against gravity
against inertia, against
the ground below

it must be play,
a game,
this avian intensity for a
chase, or a race
to the front of the flying cloud,
wings pushing pushing pushing
against the cool morning

I think of my son
when he was very young, active play
like a narcotic pushing him
faster and faster,
unwilling, unable, to stop
until in full sweat exhausted
he fell in a heap
as hard as he played

like the birds,
game over, the race’s winner
unnamed as all perch, wings flapping at first
for balance,
on an electric line three levels deep,
large and small in three lines,
one above the other,
a constantly shifting line as one bird
after another shifts
to a higher line, to a better spot
on the same line, is this the winner’s circle
lining up, I don’t know as more birds,
large and small who didn’t race
join the power-line confab,
finding place between the perched
contestants, until all are settled
and a morning chorus
disharmonious, sparkle song
of the smaller birds,
against the cawing counterpoint
of the larger birds, volume swelling,
swirling, swooping and shifting,
birds on a line
against a just-bright sky…

another game
to wake the morning

Here are three more poems from the Summer 2001 issue of Rattle.

The first of the three is by Joyce Odam.

The Music in the Water

It is the music in the water when I look in
the moon flows through my hair
fish dart through my eyes
my hand meets my hand and the world trembles

I take the cold to my body like a dream
a star falls
I watch it float
a black leaf drifts down my shoulder.

The other two poems are by Maia Penfold.

we value him

not only for
the paintings on their canvases
but also for that ear
he cut off

and the fact that
he didn't listen

kafka watches me

i have no
cockroaches in my
but kafka stares at me
over the sink his face
on the white wall
and to my left beside
the refrigerator i see sunshine
as a strange substance
and through glass

i have painted my refrigerator

Next, I have a piece from my most recent book, Always to the Light, a collection from my 2010 poems published late last year.

from where I sit

where I sit
I can see past
a small grove of
winter-bare red oak
to Interstate-10, east & west
routes, the one to Houston
and, though Houston, Louisiana
and points east and north beyond

the other route, followed westerly
600 miles through hill country
& high desert to El Paso,
and 4 states beyond,
the orange setting sun
on Pacific waters

most of
the people I see passing
are not going so far,
most know
the furthest you travel
in any direction
the closer you get to home,
so why not just stay
but satisfied,
right where you and your life

I don’t know that I’ve ever
been at home
so I’m always pulled
leave and stay

under a cold, overcast sky
I think I want to


that’s why
we have night and day,
night a curtain that comes
between old and new,
a sign to us as it rises every morning,
that new things are possible

after all, what use a curtain if nothing
between acts

Here are several poems from several sections of Kodak (Documentary) about a visit to America.

From Kodac (Documentary)

From West

II. On the Hudson

The electric boat glides silently among the numerous ships anchored in
   the immense estuary and flying the flags of every nation in the world
The great clippers loaded with wood from Canada were unfurling their
   gigantic sails
The iron steamers were shooting torrents of black smoke
Dockhands of all races and nationalities were bustling around in the din
   of foghorns and whistles from factories and trains
The elegant launch is made entirely of teak
In the center rises a sort of cabin something like those on Venetian

IV. Office

Radiators and fans running on liquid air
Twelve telephone and five radios
Wonderful electric files contain endless industrial and scientific dossiers
   on every kind of business
the only place the multimillionaire feels at home is in this office
The big plate-glass windows overlook the park and the city
In the evening the mercury vapor lights shed their soft bluish glimmer
this is the origin of the orders to buy and sell which sometimes cause
   the Stock Markets of the entire world to crash

V. Girl

Light dress in crepe de chine
The girl
Elegance and wealth
Hair a tawny blond where matched pearls shine
Calm and regular features that reflect frankness and kindness
Her big almost green sea-blue eyes are bright and bold
She has this fresh and velvety complexion with a special pinkness that
   seems to be the prerogative of American girls

From Far West

I. Cucumingo

the San Bernardino hacienda
It was built in the middle of a lush valley fed by a multitude of small
   streams that run down from the surrounding mountains
The roofs are tile red in the shade of sycamores and laurels

Trout thrive in the streams
Immense flocks graze untended in the lush meadows
the orchards are thick with fruit pears apples grapes pineapple figs
And in the truck gardens
Old World vegetables grow beside those of the tropics

Plenty of game here
The California quail
The rabbit known as the cottontail
The long-eared hare known as the jackass
The prairie hen the turtledove the partridge
The wild duck and wild goose
The antelope
It's true you still see wildcats and rattlesnakes
But there aren't any pumas anymore

II. Dorypha

On holidays
When the Indians and vaqueros get drunk on whiskey and pulque
Dorypha dances
To the sound of the Mexican guitar
Some exciting habaneras
That people come from miles around to admire her

No woman knows as well as she
How to drape the silk mantilla
and to fix her blond hair
With a ribbon
A comb
A flower

V. Squaw's Wigwam

When you go through the rickety door made of boards ripped from
   packing crates and with pieces of leather for hinges
YOu find yourself in a low room
Smell of rotten fish
Stench of exquisitely rancid fat

Barbaric panoply
War bonnets of eagle feathers necklaces of puma teeth or bear claws
Bows arrows tomahawks
Seed and glass bead bracelets
You also see
Some scalping knives one or two old-fashioned carbines a flintlock
   pistol elk and raindeer antlers a whole collection of little embroidered
   tobacco pouches
Then three very old soft stone peace pipes with reed stems

Eternally bent over the hearth
The hundred-year-old proprietress of this establishment is preserved like
   a ham smoked and dried and cured like her hundred-year-old pipe
   and the black of her mouth and the black hole of her eye

From Aleutian Islands


Bay scattered with small rock islands
the seals sunbath in groups of five or six
Or stretch out on the sand
When they play they give a kind of guttural grunt like barking
Next to the Eskimo hut there is a lean-to where the skins are prepared

From The South

I. Tampa

The train has just stopped
Just two passengers get off on this boiling end-of-summer morning
Both are dressed in khaki suits and pith helmets
Both are followed by a black servant who carries the baggage
Both glance absentmindedly at the distant houses that are too white at
   the sky that is too blue
You see the wind rising swirls of dust and flies pestering the two mules
   harnessed to the only coach
The driver is asleep with his mouth open

From The North

II. Country

Magnificent landscape
Green forests of fir beech chestnut cut with ripe fields of wheat oats
   buckwheat hemp
Everything breathing abundance
And it's absolutely deserted
Every great once in a while you run into a farmer driving a cartload of
In the distance the birches are like columns of silver

IV. Harvest

A six-cylinder and two Fords out in the field
All around and as far as you can see the slightly tilted sheaves form a
   a checkerboard of wavering rhomboids
Not a tree
From the north the chugging and clatter of the thresher and hay wagon
And from the south the twelve empty trains coming to load the wheat

I wrote this next thing last week. Not a very good poem, but what I had on my mind that morning, so there you are.

practical and orderly

another’s poem this morning
made me think of faith,
believing in things we do not,
may never, understand

the invisible force
that holds me tight to my planet-home’s
reassuring bosom,
the unbreakable bound that keeps me
from falling up
except in anxious dreams,
the anxiety of life’s broken rules

the curvature of the
horizon, belief in the truth of things
that deny the evidence of our eyes,
that lets us be not surprised
when the tiny ships
on the horizon
grow as they approach us, become
giant ships from tiny ships

as we drive on a mountain road
that beyond the crest
just ahead
the road, though unseen,
that we will not fly into the sky
or fall and crash into the ground

all this faith
I can believe in,
faith based upon acceptance
of certain rules, not
blind faith,
but practical faith
based on experience and
the natural reason of intelligent minds

faith based on the realness of life,
not blind faith
that assumes an unreal,
unreliable universe, inconsiderate
of all rules

the reason I can accept the faith
of gravity, that I will not fly off the earth,
that the tiny ships on the horizon
are not tiny up close,
that the natural roads of life
do not arbitrarily end
just because I cannot see
their continuation

a faith
in an orderly universe
that has no room for magic
or omnipotent and omnipresent
deities who create and destroy with a flick
of a celestial middle finger
or wistful desires for a man, like me,
who dies, then returns to life
as a god

an orderly and practical
has room only for
orderly and practical faith

the other kind

Next, I have two poets from Poet's Choice, an anthology put together by Robert Hass.

The first poet is Robinson Jeffers.

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses -
How beautiful when we first beheld it.
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop
   rockheads -
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. - As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves:
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

The second poet from Poet's Corner is Janice Gould. Born in California of European and KLoyangk'auwi Maidu ancestry, Gould has taught American Indian literature at the University of Santa Fe in Albuquerque.

The Day of the Dead

I wish it were like this:
el dia de los muertos comes
and we fill our baskets with bread,
apples, chicken, and beer,
and go out to the graveyard.

We bring flowers with significant colors -
yellow, crimson, and gold -
the strong hungry colors of life,
full of saliva and blood.

We sit on the sandy mounds
and I play my accordion.
It groans like the gates of hell.
The flame of the votives
flicker in the wind.

My music makes everything sway,
all the visible and invisible -
friends, candles, ants, the wind.
Because for me life ripens,
and for now it's on my side
though it's true I am often afraid.

I wear my boots when I play the old squeeze-box,
and stomp hard rhythms
till the headstones dance on their graves.

Here's another poem from Always to the Light, my most recent book.

poesis interruptus

I stopped off
at my friendly local
convenience store
for money
after my morning coffee
and newspaper read
at my usual table
at my usual diner
with the usual Sunday morning
dueling churchfolk
to the behind and either side of me,
including an extra place or two
at each table
filled by the twice-a-year
who, it would seem,
get all the saving they need
on Christmas and Easter,
securing all other Sunday mornings
for sleeping late or golf

after my third cup,
that I had no cash
but for four pennies
three dimes, two quarters
and a Canadian coin
I’ve been trying to get rid of
for two weeks now
leaving me to pay
my $1.94 coffee tab
with a credit card.....

............................... is at this point in the story
that the poet is interrupted
by life outside the poem -
poesis interruptus -
and the question is 4 hours later
as to whether
he can get it up again
to finish
what he had most ardently

at first you might think
that returning to the poem
half finished is a process of
the wheat of earlier inspiration
from the chaff
of the humdrum interim,
but that’s not the case
because with proper
poetic recognition
of reality
all could be one and
each could be the other
with no separation
necessary or

integration the need instead,
finding the wheat in the
of all chaff
and the chaff that infiltrates
all wheat

like the small strip shopping center
by the gas-grocery-beer-cigarette store
where I stopped to use the ATM machine,
anchored by a large vacant “$1 Store”
close up to the “X-treme Impact Church”
next to “Alive MMA -Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”
adjacent to the “Gathering of Grace Church”
neighbor to “Fantasy Nails and Tan”
snuggled up tightly to “Tattoos and Piercings”
sharing a common wall with “Gin’s Chinese

it’s all
like that shopping center,
all the disparate bits and pieces,
all the wheats and chaffs
of everyday urban life,
swirled together by the mix master
of everyday living,
the single and complete
here and now
of this particular
and unique
Easter Sunday morning

another party
to which I am not invited
because I will not pay the price
of admission -
separation of sinners from the saved
rather than the embracing unity of all mankind,
some sinner
in every saint and a bit of saint
in every sinner

wheat from chaff
I am one
and I am both
and cannot separate my one self
from the other
or either

Blaise Cendrars again.

From Travel Notes

From The Formosa

Waking Up

I always sleep with the windows open
I slept like a man alone
The foghorns and compressed air whistles didn't bother me much

This morning I lean out the window
I see
The sky
The sea
The dock where I arrived from New York in 1911
The pilot shack
To the left
Smokestreams chimneys cranes arc lamps against the light

The first trolley shudders in the icy dawn
Me I'm too hot
Good-by Paris
Hello sun


The ship tangos from side to side
The moon the moon makes circles in the water
As the mast makes circles in the sky
Pointing with its finger to the stars

A young girl from Argentina leaning over the rail
Dreams of Paris while gazing on the lighthouses that outline the coast off
Dreams of Paris which she's hardly seen and misses already

These turning fixed double colored intermittent lights remind her of the
   ones she saw from her window over the Boulevards and which
   promised her she'd come back soon
She dreams of going back to France soon and living in Paris
The sound of my typewriter keeps her from going all the way with her
My beautiful typewriter that rings at the end of each line and is as fast
   as jazz
My beautiful typewriter that keeps me from dreaming portside or
And makes me go all the way with an idea
My idea

La Coruna

A compassionate lighthouse like a giant madonna
From outside it's a pretty little Spanish town
On shore it's a dungheap
Where two or three skyscrapers are growing

Villa Garcia

Three fast cruisers a hospital ship
The English colors
Shining optical signals
Two carabineros sleep in deck chairs
Finally we leave
In the sweet breeze

Within Sight of the Island of Fuerteventura

Everything has gotten even bigger since yesterday
The water the sky the purity of the air
The Canary Islands look like the shores of Lake Como
Trails of clouds like glaciers
It's starting to get hot

I did this last week. It requires a picture of it's own.

push and pull

two part,
each on their own way,
by life’s tidal

stands alone
on a shore by the sea,
for a fellow dreamer

pushes and it pulls

and its counter
even kindred souls

for reunification
sustains through solitude
those left behind

Next I have a poem by Ai, from her book, Vice, published in 1999 in W.W. Norton.

Florence Anthony was born in 1947 and died in 2010. She was a National Book Award winning American poet and educator who legally changed her name to Ai Ogawa, publishing by her new first name only. She won her National Book Award for Poetry for this book, Vice.

The Detective

I lie on my daughter's body
to hold her in the earth,
but she won't stay;
she rises, lifting me with here,
as if she were air
and not some remnant
of failed reeducation
in a Cambodian mass grave.
We rise, till I wake.
I sit up, turn on the lamp,
and stare at the photo of the girl
who died yesterday,
at her Vietnamese mother
and her American father.
Jewel van duc Thompson,
murdered in Springfield, Ohio,
in her eighteenth year,
gone the day she was born
like in the cartoons,
when somebody rolls up the road
that stretches into the horizon
and the TV screen goes black...

Go home, Captain,
the cop said yesterday,
as he gripped my hand
and hauled himself
up from the ditch
where they'd found her
like Persephone
climbing from the underworld
one more time,
his eyes bright,
the hunger for life
and a good time
riding his back like a jockey.
Death is a vacation, I answered.
Then my hand was free
and I could see
how she was thrown
from the highway
down the embankment.
Where were Art and Rationality
when it counted? I thought -
always around the corner
from somebody else's street.
Even the ice cream man
never, ever made your block,
though you could hear the bells,
though you could feel the chill
like a shock
those hot days
when your company beat the bushes,
when you bit into death's chocolate-covered center
and froze...

I turn off the lamp
and lie still in the dark.
Somewhere in time, it is 1968.
I am bending over a wounded man
with my knife.
My company calls me the Angel of Mercy.
I don't remember yesterday
and there is no tomorrow.
There is only the moment
the knife descends
from the equatorial dark.
Only a step
across the Cambodian border
from Vietnam
to search and destroy the enemy,
but it is just a short time
till the enemy discovers me
and I would die,
but for the woman
who takes me to the border,
who crosses with me from the underworld
back to the underworld.
I open the curtain.
Outside the early morning
is spinning, gathering speed,
and moving down the street
like a whirlwind.
I pull the curtain shut again
and switch on my tape
of the murderer's confession,
hear the faint, raspy voice
playing and replaying itself.
It was Saturday night.
She stood alone at the bus stop.
When she took the first step
toward my car,
I dropped the key once, twice.
She smiled, she picked it up.

I lie back on the bed,
while the voice
wears itself out.
Yes, I think,
you live for a while.
You get tired.
You walk the road into the interior
and never come back.
You disappear
the way the woman
and your child disappear
into Cambodia
in the pink light of dawn,
early April 1975.
You say you'll go back,
but you never do.
Springfield, Phnom Penh.
So many thousand miles
between a lie and the truth.
No, just a step.
The murderer's voice rises,
becomes shrill.
Man, he says, is it wrong
to do what is necessary?

I switch off the tape.
Each time I sit down,
I think I won't get up again;
I sink through the bed, the floor,
and out the other side of the Earth.

There my daughter denounces me.
She turns me back
at the muddy border of forgiveness.
I get up dress quickly,
then open the curtain wide.

At the door,
I put my hand on the knob, hesitate,
then step out into sunlight,
I get into the car,
lift the key to the ignition,
drop it.
My hand is shaking.
I look into the back seat.
The Twentieth Century is there,
wearing a necklace of grenades
that glitters against its black skin.
I stare, see the pins
have all been pulled.
Drive, says the voice.
I turn to the wheel,
imagine the explosions,
house after house
disintegrating in flames,
but all is silent.
People go on with their lives
on this day that is one hundred years long,
on the this sad red balloon of a planet,
the air escaping from it
like the hot, sour breath of a child.

Here's another piece from my collection of 2010 poems, Always to the Light

smile for me

it’s the lunch side
of Sunday

& the place
is packed
a mixed crowd

of church folk
in their Sunday

& the just-

in shorts &

flat on one side
sticking out

on the other
like a

in heat,
& the golfers,
from the quarry

in their golf shoes

& the grandmas and pregnant
with last year’s

in high chairs
dads in khakis

& hard starched
checkered shirts

how simple
is at work

& that baby
looking at

from across
the room


a big toothless


this swirl of sound
& color
is like I’m alone

in the center
of a whirlpool

of sensation
all moving sound & color

like paint
in a circle

except the baby

smiling a big


Blaise Cendrars again.

From South American Women


The road rises in hairpins
The car climbs rough and powerful
We climb in a roar like an airplane approaching its greatest height
Each turn throws her against my shoulder and when we swerve in the
   void she unconsciously clutches my arm and leans over the precipice
At the serra's top we skid to a stop before the gigantic fault
A monstrous close-up moon is rising behind us
"Lua,lua!" she murmurs
In the name of the moon, tell me, how does God authorize these
   giant constructions that allow us to get across?
It's not the moon,sweetheart, but the sun, precipitating the fog,that
   made this enormous gash
Look at the water down there rushing through the fallen rocks and into
   the generator pipes
That station sends electricity as far as Rio


There are three of them I like especially
The first
An old woman sensitive beautiful and kind
Lovably chatty and of a sovereign elegance
A socialite but so gluttonous that she liberated herself from social rules
The second is the wild child of Hotel Meurice
All day she combs her long hair and nibbles at her Guerlain lipstick
Banana trees black wet nurse hummingbirds
Her country is so far away you travel six weeks on a river covered with
   flowers with moss with mushrooms as big as ostrich eggs
She is so beautiful in the evening in the hotel lobby that the men are all
   crazy about her
Her sharpest smile is for me because I know how to laugh like the wild
   bees of her village
The last one is too rich to be happy
But she has already made great progress
It's not right away that you find your balance and the simplicity of life
   among all the complications of wealth
It takes stubbornness
She knows this well she who rides so divinely she who become a part
   of her big Argentine stallion
May our will be like your riding crop
But don't use it


There is still one more
One I love more than anything in the world
I give my whole self to her like a pepsin because she needs a tonic
Because she is too soft
Because she is still a little fearful
Because happiness is a very heavy thing to bear
Because beauty needs a nice quarter-hour's exercise every morning


We don't want to be sad
It's too easy
It's too stupid
It's too convenient
It comes up all the time
It isn't smart
Everyone is sad
We don't want to be sad anymore


Okay, another poem from Always to the Light.

ironing three shirts on Sunday morning

it’s Sunday morning
and I’m
the beginning of a new week
in which I am
by shaving
and ironing 3 shirts

means 3 days without pressure
to conform
to social norms of ironed shirts
and shaved faces

I’m good until Wednesday
when I will have to decide again
whether to conform
or go wild,
and proceed on my own un-predetermined

what would Jesus do?
I think

(it is important to consider historical
precedents like these
when making decisions about choosing
among alternate life paths)

and what about Abraham Lincoln
or Truman Capote?

and Cabeza
DeVaca - what would he do?

Jesus didn’t shave
and hardly ever ironed his robes

Lincoln hardly ever shaved
and wore starched and crisply ironed
white shirts
except when splitting

shaved and had someone else
iron his shirts

and Cabeza De Vaca
spent a large part of his life being chased
by cannibal Indians in South Texas
and had limited time
for shaving or shirt ironing

such things just weren’t high on his daily
lists -

so it seems
the best conclusion I can come up with
it’s too hot for robes
and I have ugly feet which could be
considered a public nuisance if bared in
flip-flops or sandals,
and, rail-splitting
sounds like too much work
for a dedicated idler like me, and,
being not a rich and renown author,
I cannot afford
to hire someone to iron my
only old Mr. Cow’s Head,

setting aside the issue of the
cannibal Indians, which can best
be seen
as a symptom
of a condition not a
base condition
in and of its own self, said base con-
dition being the living of a full
and interesting life
with better things to do than
face-shaving and shirt-ironing

having a similar life of challenge and
adventure (despite the obvious lack of
in my life), I will observe the example
of my homeboy Mr. Cow’s Head and
not shave
or iron a shirt Wednesday

I will wait until

I have used poems by John Guzlowski before and he is one of several poets from my library who have written to express appreciation for seeing their work in "Here and Now," which, as you might imagine, pleases me greatly.

Guzlowski is Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University. He says that most of his poems are about his Polish-Catholic parents' experiences in the slave labor camps in Germany and his own acclimation to life in the United States after immigrating here after the War.

His poems this week are from the Winter/Spring 2007 issue of The Spoon River Poetry Review.

I think I might have used the first poem here before, but I like it and it leads well into the second poem.

Work and Death

At the end
my father sat in his garden
in the early morning

the desert in Sun City,
Arizona, this strange place,
still cool

the clear light
tinged with desert blue

the pigeons cooing.

He couldn't lift
the shovel then, drag
the bag of topsoil
from here to there.

He couldn't breathe
or stand either.
There wasn't much
left to him.

But he could nod
toward an orange tree,
it's roots bound in burlap,
and point to the place
where he wanted me
to plant it.

There, he'd say
to me min Polish,
please plant it there.

My Father Dying

His death like all death
is hard. There is no peace
in the darkness. His right eye,

the one that sees, is looking
for someone to comfort him.
He knows his mother is dead

but he whispers for her still,
the way he did as a boy
crying at her deathbed.

In his Polish the word
is three long, pleading
syllables: Mamusha."

The second syllable
is stressed, the third
falls of into silence.

Just yesterday, he talked
a little, asked for water,
smiled when I gave him some.

But today, he can only
call for his mother. Hope is
the cancer no drug can cure.

I wrote this last week.

I hate political rants; they have the life expectancy of a raisin on the kitchen floor. But sometimes the only way to beat the devil is to give him his day.

how nuts is that?

blood, splinters of bone,
flailing about of defective minds
on good sense and practical
insanity, wicked
splashings of gory ignorance
splattering the walls, mean-eyed
ruling the

it’s a political year,
and that’s just the other guys;
while the good guys
drowning in occupational dis-therapy
aren’t much better, non-malevolent
well-meaningly irrelevant
stupidity and ineptitude not such an improvement over
the other guys as one might

I despair,
thinking of seeking
sanity and solace in the presumably
or possibly south
to the rich coast of Costa Rican
where sane people are welcome,
I’ve heard
and the others deported
back to the feral politics of Winken, Blinken, Nod,
and Gramps on the north shores
of el rio grande
where I was born when our only problem
was a fight against fascist foreign
and not home grown
and people who wanted to do good
did good things instead of play -acting
on city sidewalks

all around and I’m arguing
daily with the insane
and how nuts
is that

Blaise Cendrars did not write often of his war experiences. Here's a poem where he did.

From all I've read,he almost never, beyond a passing reference to being one-armed, spoke of the arm he lost in that war.

From Various Poems



In the fog the rifle fire crackles and the cannon's voice comes right
   up to us
the American bison is not more terrible
Nor more beautiful
Gun mounting
Like the swan of Cameroon


I have clipped your wings, O my explosive forehead
And you don't want a kepi
On the national highway 400 thousand feet pound out sparks to the
   clanking of mess kits
I think
I pass by
Brazen and stupid
Stinking ram


All my men are bedded down under the acacias the shells rip through
O blue sky of the Marne
With the smile of an airplane
We are forgotten

         October 1914

Here's another poem I wrote last week that comes with its own picture.

this tree
when Christ’s cross
was virgin timber

to grow as millions
have come to life
and died

false gods
and their believers
from the lists of the living

the true God
if she exists
lives here

Lots of Jesus talk nowadays, especially from politicians. Always makes me wonder who they're trying to convince, me, or themselves.

Here's a similar view expressed by Samuel Hazo, from his book A Flight to Elsewhere, published by Autumn House Press in 2005.

Hazo is the McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Duquesne University and Founder and Director of the International Poetry Form in Pittsburgh.

National Prayer Breakfast

Conventioneers from thirty-seven
   countries throng the banquet
hall to hear the message.
A clergyman asks God to bless
  &bps;fruit and rolls.

   speaks up for Reagan, Martin
   Luther King and having faith
   in faith

            Love is the common
   theme, most of it touching,
   all of it frank, unburdening
   and lengthy.

               If faith is saying so,
   then this is faith.

               The problem is
   that I must be the problem.
I've always thought that faith
   declaimed too publicly destroys
   the mystery.

            Years back
when Brother Antoninus yelled
   at listeners to hear the voice
   of Jesus in them, Maura said
   "The Jesus in me doesn't talk
   that way."

         Later, when I saw
   a placard bannering, "Honk,
   if you love Jesus," I thought
   of Maura's words and passed
   in silence...

         Jesus in fact
   spoke Aramaic in Jerusalem,
   foretold uninterrupted life
   and sealed it with a resurrection.
If He asked me to honk
   in praise of that, I'd honk
   all day.

      But rising from the dead
   for me seems honk enough
   since no one's done it since,
   and no one did it earlier or ever.
Others might disagree, and that's
   their right

         But there's an inner
   voice I hear that's one
   on one and never out of date.
It's strongest when it's most subdued.
I'll take my Jesus straight.

Whatever happened to all the good movies, that's what I want to know!

This is from Always to the Light, my most recent book.

attack of the 50-foot woman

the movie
and, being 14 years old,
the idea
of the scarily magical girls
I knew
growing to 50 feet
wasn't something I could
rule out -
but the idea that their clothes
would grow with them
did not seem
reasonable to me,
in my festering
little mind,
how it would be
such a much better,
more realistic, movie
if they did not

Here's my last piece from Cendrars, fragments from a collection that was apparently never published, at least, not in the form originally intended.

From To the Heart of the World (Fragments)


The Paris sky is purer than a winter sky crisp with cold.
I've never seen nights as starry and leafy as this spring's
Where the trees along the boulevards are like shadows from the sky,
Foliage in the rivers mixed with elephant ears,
Leaves of sycamores, heavy chestnuts.

A water lily on the Seine, it's the flowing moon.
The Milky Way is swooning in the sky over Paris and embracing it
Wild and naked and lying back, its mouth is sucking Notre-Dame
The Great Bear and the Little Bear are growling around Saint-Merry.
My amputated hand is shining in the constellation Orion.

In this cold, hard light, trembling and more than unreal,
Paris is like the cooled image of a plant
That reappears in its ashes. Sad simulacrum.
As straight as an arrow, the ageless houses and streets are just
Stone and iron heaped up in an unlikely desert.

Babylon and Thebaid are not deader, tonight, than the dead city of
Blue and green, ink and tar, its edges white with starlight.
Not a sound. No one. It's the heavy silence of war.
My eye goes from the pissoirs to the violet eye of the streetlamp.
It's the only bright spot I can drag my worries to.

And so I walk all the way across Paris every night
From Batignolles to the Latin Quarter, the way I would cross the Andes
Beneath the light of new stars, bigger and more alarming,
The Southern Cross more prodigious with every step you take toward it
   as you emerge from the Old World
On its new continent.

I'm the man who doesn't have a past. - Only my stump hurts -
I've rented a hotel room to be completely alone with myself.
I have a brand-new wicker basket where my manuscripts are piling up.

A newspaper is strewn across my table.
I work in my empty room, behind a cloudy mirror,
Bare feet on the red tiles, and play with balloons and a little toy
I'm working on THE END OF THE WORLD.


Suddenly the sirens wail and I run to my window.
Already the cannons are thundering over toward Aubervilliers.
The sky is starred with Jerry planes, shells, crisscrosses, rockets,
Cries, whistles and melismas that melt and moan beneath the bridges.

The Seine is darker than an abyss, with its heavy barges that are
Long like the coffins of the tall Merovingian kings
Bedizened with stars that drown - in the depths - in the depths.
I turn and blow our the lamp and light a big cigar.

The people running for it in the street, thundering, still half-asleep,
Will take refuge in the basement of police headquarters that smells like
   powder and saltpeter.
The police commissioner's purple car meets the firechief's red car,
Magical and supple, wild and caressing, tigresses like shooting stars.

The sirens miaow and fall silent. The shindig is going full blast. Up
   there. It's insane.
At bay. Cracking and heavy silence. Then a shrill falling and dull
   vehemence of the bombs.
The crashing down of millions of tons. Flashes. Fire. Smoke. Flame.
Accordion of the 75s. Fits. Cries. Fall. Stridencies. Coughing.
   Collapses and cave-ins.

The sky is jumping with imperceptible winking
Pupils, multicolored streaks, that cut, that divide, that revive the
   melodious propellers.
A searchlight suddenly hits the billboard of Baby Cadum
Then leaps into the sky and bores a milky hole in it like a baby bottle.

I get my hat and now I go down into the dark streets.
Here are the portly old houses that lean against each other like old men.
The chimneys and weathervanes all point to the sky with their fingers.
I walk up the rue Saint-Jacques, shoulders jammed into my pockets.

Here's the Sorbonne and its tower,the church,the Lycee Louis-le-
A little further up I go in and ask a butcher for a light.
I light up a new cigar and we exchange a smile.
He has a nice tattoo, a name, a rose, and a heart with a dagger in it.

It's a name I know well: it's my mother's.
I rush out into the street. I'm facing the building.
Stabbed heart - first point of impact -
And more beautiful than your naked torso, handsome butcher -
The building where I was born.

And here's my last poem for the week, another one with its own photo.

walking my dog when it's 19 degrees

walking my dog
19 degrees
slippy slurpy
sloppy streets,
splishing and splashing
along icy streets
splishing and splashing
frigid tsuamies
on my shoes
and frosty feets -
it puts
a little run
in your ndoze
and a nip
in your nipplets
but the poor ancestrially wild
though since subdued
friend of the family has been acting
needing a little sniff
of the world
our own securely fenced
enclave for which we are
to the tilt
and I wish she would understand
and appreciate the sniffs
we have
rather than demanding
in her soulful, brown-eyed way
the acquisition
of sniffs foreign to our own

when it’s 19 degrees
and she’s winter-furred up
and I’m

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog which is now done for the week and, as you may have heard before, everything here remains the property of its creators, and, as always, I'm still pushing the same jams and jellies as noted below.

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"

at 7:28 PM Blogger John Guzlowski said...

Dear Here and Now, thanks for reading my poems.

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