Winter Hills   Saturday, March 31, 2012

Strange to be doing a "Winter Hills" blog in the near-summer, but that's when I took the pictures. So there you go.

And, by the way, something confusing to some people that I've been meaning to clear up: the date you see on each post is not the date the blog was posted, but the date I began to put it together. For the past several months I've been working a couple of weeks ahead, which explains the strange dates. I start with the photos, then do the anthology poems (if I'm doing an anthology), then the other poets from my library, the my old poems (if I'm using any), then my new poems as I write them, usually putting the last new poem in the day I post.

All the secrets revealed.

I chose for my anthology this week, German Poetry in Transition: 1945-1990. The book was published in 1999 by the University Press of New England. The book is divided into 10-year segments, 1945-1955,1955-1965, then, 1975-1990.

I will be pulling at least one poet to feature from each section.

All the poems in the book were translated by Charlotte Melin, German and English on facing pages.

Here are this week's treats.

stalking the Baskerville’s hound and such

Paisley Rekdal
a crash of rhinos
on getting a dog and being told that what i really want is a child

a long time coming
a mid-winter poem

Gottfried Benn
Can Be No Mourning

I hate writing about the weather again

Li-Young Lee
The Weight of Sweetness
From Blossoms

all brothers of all brothers

Ingeborg Bachmann
Safe Conduct

through a break in the clouds

Thomas Rabbitt
Among the Missing
Waterskiing Through Middle Age
Exit from the Hotel Lexington

it is hard

Peter Huchel
On the Death of Virginia Woolf

Reiner Kunze
The Present

Tim Seibles
A Jitterbug for Spring
Something Silver-White


Barbara Kohler
Self -portrait

Uwe Kolbe
To Start With
The Guilty Parties

Annarose Kirchner

why is Monday the first day of the week?

Page Richards
Afternoon in Cancun
Just Off Cancun
Folk Festival

again today

Volker Braun
The Wall

I could be racing

For my first poem of the week, I have this. I should say it's not the first poem I wrote last week, just the first one that didn't bore the crap out of me.

stalking the Baskerville’s hound and such

a foreboding morning,
cold, shifting winds,
a heavy sky
offering slight promise
of daylight,
patches of thick blowing mist,
memories of Holmes
afoot on the fog-blinded moor,
stalking the Baskerville’s

a gloomy
promise-me-nothing day
ahead it seems,
but nothing lethal
as is being promised
for the panhandle and Oklahoma,
where Oakies get high as an elephant’s eye,
and Kansas and those other flat places
where tornados play
kiss-your-ass-good-by on a regular
basis this time of the year
and I’m proud to live in an area
where our greatest fear is hurricanes
which usually give a week to a week and a half
notice when they want to play
we did have a couple of little tornados
a couple of miles south a few weeks ago, blew
down a couple of house and sent normally
more sedate chickens aflying in the wind and
it’s a pity but after seeing that one around
Dallas picking up tractor-trailer trucks
and tossing them off to the next county I’m
thinking we aren’t doing so bad
around here -

except a fella with a flat-top haircut
just walked in, the third fella with a flat-top
I’ve seen in the past two days and that’s about
three too many cause, goddammit, I did the 50s once
and it was not the best of times
except for very boring people and I don’t want to do it again
which is not to say that if I had to choose between
going back to the 50s or going to Oklahoma
I’d wouldn't go back to the 50s in a well-digger’s minute
cause you know, a hell’uv a lot more poetry came out of the 50s
than ever came out of Oklahoma
except for Merle Haggard
who, all by himself,
is worth passing through Oklahoma for,
except not when they’re doing tornados
and such

From my library this week, I start with two poems by Paisley Rekdal from her book A Crash of Rhinos, published by The University of Georgia Press in 2000.

Rekdal grew up in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a Chinese American mother and a Norwegian father. She earned a BA from the University of Washington, an MA from the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of the poetry collections A Crash of Rhinos , her first, Six Girls Without Pants in 2002, and The Invention of the Kaleidoscope in 2007, as well as the book of essays The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In, also in 2000.

Rekdal has received a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, and a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea. Her work has been included in numerous anthologies, including Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century in 2006 and the 2010 Pushcart Prize Anthology.

When this book was published, she taught at the University of Wyoming and now teaches at the University of Utah.

The first of the two poems this week is the title poem from her book

a crash of rhinos

What's your pet name? Collective noun?
What will Snookums do today? Your bedmate
pulls quarters magically from behind your ear, one
for each hour you've spent together. When he stops
there's fifty cents sliding into the sheets and his tongue
covering the pink cauliflower of your nipple. "Beautiful
defects," he whispers into your body. "Ah, Nature." Roll away,
don't care if he calls you "Thumper." By noon you'll be
nose to nose anyway, a sloth of bears, snoozing
your way into this relationship.

Ah, Nature. You could tell him its startling face
is not its defects but its sameness. A uniformity
suggestive of some single-cell prototype, our Adam/Eve
genome plucked, as scientist think, from the thread
of a lightning bolt. Darling, today you're more
than anonymous, one sexy blip among the thousand
couples grunting in each other's arms; defined by Loving,
your action. Flying geese only recognized
by the form they make in the sky.
A crash of rhinos, piece of asses. Stinkhead:
everything come in boring droves of hogs.

This is how you get here. Mid-morning he tallies your union
in terms of snakes, tarantulas, the evolutionary needs
of common flagellates till you scorn science: its primal
urge to pair like scared cows shoved ass to ass in circle
for defense. A clutch of penises! What is love but fear?

on getting a dog and being told that what i really want is a child

For years I considered the journey. What meals
I'd make, what cities I'd conquer, the foreign thighs

of walls tattooed with graffiti. I imagined
the exhaustion of mornings up,

without a home, the pushing on, and thought
of sailors hovering the frozen

river crusts, or the way stones
struck the mouth of Magellan walking

through the Verzin gates. How they burst
through lip and gums! And how dangerous

their animals must have seemed to him with their yellow
faces and small teeth. And the, of course, I thought

about how Magellan knew his men all hated him, the one
Portuguese on a ship of Spaniards, irritating ad obvious

as a nipple. How they plotted
to revolt at each intersection of sea

and cheered when the unknown natives
threw stones. Perhaps I am promiscuous,

the way some sailors choose to love
themselves on long journeys

and Magellan, when he reached each new port,
lay on its fish-rotted quay

and sobbed. What I want
is the dust of towns, canyons

full of dead seas and the sun a killing god. No need
for wars or discipline,

to make my body a bark
for others cast adrift, bobbing like buoys

or ice flows. There are monsters on the Pole, Magellan wrote.
And giants, a handsome people.

Though he never knew what to say of the woman
who crawled aboard his boat to see if it was true:

that dinghies suckle from the mother ship like pups
from wooden bitches. And snuck a loosened nail deep

inside herself to carry as she hobbled home,
nursing it in secret

as if its iron
was really gold.

As I've mentioned before, my next book is a book of five travel poems, each poem recording the sights and details of road trips I took over the past five years or more ago. I have an announcement about the book at the end of this post.

After that book, I have a collections of poems from 2011 I expect to publish some time next year. I'm in the selection process for that book. Starting with the three hundred sixty five I wrote during the course of the year (I write a poem each day), I'm down to only twenty or twenty five more than the eighty-five or so I need for the book.

This where it gets to the hard part. By this time all the ugly puppies have been set aside and what's left are the ones I like.

This week, I'm going to give an advance look at some of those still in the running, including the next two.

a long time coming

aching bones
    a dark poem
all the long night’s
forgotten now

black cloud
covers the rising sun
by the cold spreading

night to day
    long time

a mid-winter poem

I have the feel
of a string running out,
a slackness in my lifeline,
all I am reduced to
    loose ends

I’ve done many things in my life
good and worthwhile things,
though none lasted longer than
it took for my shadow
to fade around the corner

my proudest legacies
remembered only by me -
like clouds blown apart
by the wind, so much more fragile
    than I had imagined

and now the line that anchored me
to the future
has gone slack and I feel just another
of the world’s many forgettable
    loose ends

My first poet from the anthology is Gottfried Benn, from the 1945-1955 section.

Benn was born in 1886. He served in the German army’s medical corps during WWI and used his clinical experiences as inspiration for his first collections of poetry, Morgue und andere Gedichte published in 1912 and Fleisch, from 1917. The only major German author to initially ally himself publicly with the Nazis, he quickly became disillusioned with the Nazi regime and joined the military as a physician. But conversion came too late to undo the damager to his reputation. It wasn't until 1949 that he made a comeback with his book, Statische Gedichte, then won the highly regarded Bucher Prize in 1951, just five years before his death.

Can Be No Mourning

In that tiny bed, a child's bed almost,Droste died
(on view in her museum in Meersburg),
on his sofa Holderlin in a cabinetmaker's tower,
Rilke, George, it is true, in Swiss hospital beds,
in Weimar the large dark eyes
of Nietzche rested on a white pillow
till his last glance -
all of it rubbish or no longer around,
indeterminable, insubstantial
in painless, permanent decay.

We bear within us seeds of all gods,
the gene of death, the gene of lust -
who sundered them: the words, the objects,
who mixed them: the pains and the place
where they end, wood with streams of tears,
for a few short hours a miserable home.

Can be no mourning. too far, too vast,
too far removed now bed and tears,
no No, no Yes,
birth and bodily pain and faith
a welling, nameless, a flicker,
something unearthly stirring in its sleep
moved bed and tears - go to sleep!

Here's another poem from last week.

I hate writing about the weather again

I hate to write
about the weather again,

but there’s so damn much
of it

rain in the desert,

in unsnowy places,
record heats

and record colds
and tornados blowing

and twisting
and pounding good green

and mainstreets and playgrounds

and thistles
and shamrocks


that’s a music program
on NPR

and they don’t do tornados

just bagpipes
which are the next worse

thing to twisting and blowing

closely edging out

and good night Irenes
and battle hymns of the republic

experiences to be avoided
at all cost

unless it’s Flaco Jimenez
doing conjunto and Tex-Mex

and German, Polish, Mexican

you see

even in the realm of accordions
there are gradations

of good and

which is not the case
with tornados or bagpipes

and, jeez, I really hate all this
writing about

the weather again
even if there is so damn much of it

Next from my library, I have two poems by Li-Young Lee. The poems are from her collection, Rose, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in 1986.

Lee was born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His maternal grandfather was Yuan Shikai, China's first Republican President, who attempted to make himself emperor. Lee's father, who was a personal physician to Mao Zedong while in China, relocated his family to Indonesia, where he helped found Gamaliel University. His father was exiled and spent 19 months in an Indonesian prison camp in Macau. In 1959 the Lee family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese sentiment and after a five-year trek through Hong Kong and Japan, they settled in the United States in 1964. Li-Young Lee attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Arizona, and the State University of New York at Brockport.

Lee began writing while at the University of Pittsburgh and was strongly influenced by classic Chinese poets, in particular Li Bai and DuFu.

The Weight of Sweetness

No easy thing to bear, the weight of sweetness.

Song, wisdom, sadness, joy: sweetness
equals three of any of these gravities.

See a peach bend
the branch and strain the stem until
it snaps.
Hold the peach, try the weight, sweetness
and death so round and snug
in your palm.
And, so, there is
the weight of memory:

Windblown, a rain-soaked
bough shades, showering
the man and the boy.
They shiver in delight,
and the father lifts from his son's cheek
one green leaf
fallen like a kiss.

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches
his father has entrusted
to him.
Now he follows
his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.
See the look in the boy's face
as his father moves
faster and farther ahead, while his own steps
flag and his arms grow weak, as he labors
under the weight
of peaches.

From Blossoms

Fro blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road wehre we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all.
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death was nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Here's another possible for next year's book.

all brothers of all brothers

it’s true,
I talk to my animals…

even Reba
who can’t hear me,
but she can see my lips move

and know
she’s on my mind, like the blind cat
knows she is not alone in the dark

when I stroke her head as I pass,
like the friendly nod
I exchange with people

I pass on the street
because we all need to know we are not
alone in the dark -

such an acknowledgment
of our shared passage we should
pass on to the creatures around us -

balm to repair the primordial weld that has bound us all
since creation, the weld that is separating now
as all become remote from the others…

if you believe in God, remember he created us all
as part of his plan and it is not our place
to redraw the blueprints of his creation;

if you do not believe in God,
remember instead
that we are all creatures at base

of common offspring, basic elements
that give us,
as our relatives,

the snake, the bird, the fish in the ocean
the lion in the field, our neighbor
across the fence, the daffodil growing

wild as any creature on the meadow,
the earth beneath our feet
and the stars that shine overhead,

all brothers of all brothers
in our most basic

From the 1955-65 section of the anthology, I have the poet Ingeborg Bachmann.

Bachmann was born in Austrian in 1926, the daughter of a headmaster. She studied philosophy, psychology, German philology, and law at the universities of Innsbruck, Graz, and Vienna. In 1949, she received her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Vienna.

After graduating, Bachmann worked as a scriptwriter and editor at the Allied radio station Rot-Weiss-Rot, a job that enabled her to obtain an overview of contemporary literature and also supplied her with a decent income.

She moved to Rome in 1953, where she spent the large part of the following years working on poems, essays and short stories as well as opera libretti in collaboration with Hans Werner Henze, which soon brought with them international fame and numerous awards.

Ingeborg Bachmann died in 1973 in Rome three weeks after a fire in her bedroom. Local police concluded that the blaze was caused by a lit cigarette. Withdrawal symptoms when her stay in hospital interrupted her long habit of compulsive pill-taking may have contribued to her death.

Safe Conduct

With sleep-drunk birds
and wind-shot trees
the day gets up, and the sea
empties a foaming goblet to him.

The rivers course to the great water,
and the land puts promises of love
into the mouth of the pure air
with fresh flowers.

Earth wants no mushroom of smoke,
no spitting up of creatures against the sky,
with rain and angry lightning bolts she wants to
stop the unspeakable voices of destruction.

With us she wants to see the motley brothers
and the gray sisters awake,
king fish, her highness the nightingale
and the fire prince salamander.

For us she plants corals in the sea,
commands woods to keep quiet,
the marble to swell its beautiful vein,
the dew once more to walk across ashes.

Earth wants safe-conduct into the universe,
receiving each day from its night,
so that another thousand na done one mornings will be
of the old beauty by youthful graces.

This is another poem from last week.

through a break in the clouds

through a break in the clouds
this morning,
a little sliver
of crescent moon

since last sighted,
a week ago,
full and plump
and orange in rising…

before the clouds…

sky-watching, nights
devoid of stars, or any light
but the hazy glow of the city
on the soft underbellies of unmoving clouds…

I think again
of the ancient people
and their worship of the night sky,
the stars and moon their only light, the stars
their map of kind and tribe, a storybook
of the past and
the future and the gods
who opened and closed each day;
who made the winds blow or stop blowing;
who made wet life fall from the sky
and who pushed it away to make the damp earth
crumble from the dry of their displeasure…

the night sky, the back story of all days, all the lights
for them to read, learning in the lights
their own place in creation, and
how they must have trembled on nights
like the ones we’ve had here for the past week,
no moon, no stars, no story, no map,
no sign in the dark of any place for them…

alone, heads bowed
in a darkest dark unknown to us now,
when our own light shines into space, making us
an luminous marker on the universal face
of the cosmic night, how we push ourselves to the edges
now, how different from the humble those from whom
we came,
how much more unknown to us our proper place
then to those who trembled in the dark
of an unlit night…

through a break in the clouds
this morning,
a little sliver
of crescent moon, even so diminished,
still the mistress of our dreams,
still the tie that binds us to our oldest hopes
and fears

I have three poems by Thomas Rabbitt, from his book, The Abandoned Country, published in 1988 by Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Rabbitt taught at the University of Alabama from 1972 until 1998. His first book, Exile, won the 1974 "Pitt Prize" (the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum). A winner of fellowships from the Alabama Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, his poems have appeared in many and have been reprinted in a dozen anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2000 and The Pushcart Prize XIX. From 1979 to 1990 Rabbitt served first as editor and then co-editor of the Alabama Poetry Series which published twenty books.

I could find no more recent information on the poet. It appears from Amazon that his most recent work was published in 2005.

I do note from the book that he worked on a horse farm for many years, even as he was teaching at the University of Alabama.

Among the Missing

The bay filly tied to the stoutest apple tree
Finds the right height sucker to break and put
Her left eye out. She is crying her left eye out.
Already the ooze of half her world is what I get
For my stupidity. With her face to the sun,
Her muzzle trapped by the small green apples,
She lets the black stud mount. Sour, green maternity.
She broods. This half of what she'll ever see
Right now, through sharp leaves, the sunlight dapples.

Waterskiing Through Middle Age

My boat surging away pulls you out and up.
In the cove behind us your lovely daughter Mary,
Tan, blond and supple as a perfect lung, shouts.
She's sliding the long waterfall down to the beach.
Who knows what visitations we have missed?
You lift your left foot, drop that ski,balance
Everything. You list. You turn. You spray
White water in an arc that shines and has to last.
Who says the lake is hard? Your best friends
Lie to you about your age. You watch the rope
Quiver, a yellow line through August's long delay.
When you can, you turn back to her and wave.
The trees have blended, the steep shore dropped away.
Careful. Our small dark friends are going fast.

Exit from the Hotel Lexington

The manager has posted warnings
In English, French, German, Japanese:
I will be silent, I will not stay too late,
And should my dripping shower rot
Its way through twenty-seven floors,
I will pay, his notice says. I will
To have this all again rebuilt.
A Lufthansa pilot runs the elevator down.
Among the ferns, a Samurai tends bar.
This could be Lisbon, the war not yet begun.
The bell-hop palms his jingling pockets
And once again the skinny Cuban waiter
Offers me, point-blank, his gun.
the back-bar is ebony, trimmed with gilt.

Forty-eighth Street is walking me west
Toward dissolution,pushing me through
October, the cold late sunday afternoon.
Diamond merchants tote black Homburgs,
Earlocks,black cases full of jewels
Into the evening they hope is safe.
Sewer gases rise the lost heat of summer,
Lift the cold island we all move through.
I must push west, toward Times Square,
Forty-second Street. I still smell trouble,
Small demeaning sins, loss of what is now.
When done I'll return to the hotel.
The Jews by then will have all gone home.
Again, one life will not have been enough.

Here's another prospect for the 2013 book. Very much an old man's poem, I think, or maybe just a man feeling very old.

it is hard

slept all day
dreams of when
I made things happen

    it was in my


the blind cat
like a pin ball
from wall to wall
until she finds her way;
soft bounces,
her pink nose against the wall,
then turn
a turn into a bedroom
    that goes nowhere,
    in the dark
    beyond her personal dark
until I find her
waiting for the world
to make sense again, then
I take her
where I think she wants to go


doctor appointment today,
five and a half minutes, she will give me
    new pills
    and four and a half minutes
    of advice -
I will take the first
the second…
    young and pretty,
    what does she know
    about being old?


find comfort
in my regular place
around my regular people
    do I ever think
    I need more


    find comfort
    in thinking of other places,
    other people,
    where I can be
    the mysterious stranger
    in the back of the
    I might not ever see before
    or since

    who know even less about me
    then I know about


it is
to be happy

or old, it is hard
to know
the true nature
of happiness
from temporary


it is
to live in a world
where nothing happens
unless you make it

Next, I have two poets from the 1965-75 section of the anthology.

The first poet is Peter Huchel.

Born in 1903 near Berlin, Huchel died in 1981. Traveling and studying throughout much of Europe, he published his first poems in 1931, then begin writing plays for German radio. During the Second World War, he served as a soldier until he was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1945. After his release, he began working for East German radio and in 1949, he became editor of the influential poetry magazine Sinn und Form. After the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, Huchel came under attack from the East German authorities and the following year he was forced to resign his position and, from 1962 to 1971, lived in isolation in his house under Stasi (secret service) surveillance. In 1971, he was finally permitted to leave the German Democratic Republic and move, first to Rome, then to Staufen im Breisgau, where he died.

On the Death of Virginia Woolf

She forgot the ashes
on the warped piano keys,
the flickering light in the windows.

It began with a pond,
the came the stony path,
the trellised well, overgrown with artemisia,
the pitted watering place under the elm
where the horses once stood.

Then came the night
that was like a falling water.
Sometimes, for hours,
a bird spirit
half hawk, half swan,
just above the reeds
from which a blizzard howled.

My second poet fro9m the 65-75 period is Reiner Kunze.

Born in 1933, Kunze is a German writer and former East German dissident. He studied media and journalism at the University of Leipzig. In 1968, he left the GDR state party SED following the communist Warsaw Pact countries invasion of Czechoslovakia in response to the Prague Spring. He had to publish his work under various pseudonyms. In 1976 his most famous book The Lovely Years, which contained critical insights into the life and the policies behind the Iron Curtain, was published in West Germany to great acclaim. In 1977, the East German regime expatriated him and he moved to West Germany. He now lives near Passau in Bavaria.

His writings consists mostly of poetry, though he wrote prose as well, including essays. He is also a translator of Czech poetry and prose.

The Present

what do I keep behind lock and seal?

no conspiracy not even

The past, daughter

To know it can
cost the future


The last of all doors

But one has never
knocked on all the others

Next, two poems, one short, the other not so short, by Tim Seibles, from his book Hurdy Gurdy, published in 1992 by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Seibles, born in Philadelphia in 195,) is the author of five collections of poetry. His honors include an Open Voice Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.[1]

Seibles earned his B.A. from Southern Methodist University in 1977, then remained in Dallas after graduating and taught high school English for ten years. He received his M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 1990. He is a professor of English and creative writing at Old Dominion University, as well as teaching in the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing and teaching workshops for Cave Canem.

A Jitterbug for Spring

All along the lake the larks
send their sweet scat trough the air.
It's April. New weather jazzes the leaves.
The late sun - a long note blown
across the water. near shore
a tadpole itching for legs.

This next piece is a poem after my own heart. Who needs some pitiful, jealous little god when you have a whole universe of stars and all you have to do to know them is to lift your head. (This observation led to write a poem, included here later.)

Something Silver and White

Last night
I saw the moon
and remembered the earth
is also just a rock
riding the infinite dark
wave of space - that
somewhere else
deep down in the MIlky Way
someone very different
could look up from a garden
tosee something silve-white
candling faintly above a hilltop
and think that dull star seems
so weary near the rest
, not knowing

that all of us are living
on that small taste of light
buying food calling friends,
killing each other sleeping
and sometimes staring back
into the speckled blackness.
You know you can spend
your whole life
glancing at your watch
while everything mysterious
does everything mysterious
the way gravity keeps everybody
close to the ground.

It is hard to believe this
huge, wet stone is always
flying through space - and hard
to admit there's really nothing
to hold onto       while we build houses
and fences and thousands of churches
as though this glove were just
a fat blossom atop some iron stalk
grown from God's belly.

After sailing this blue ark
so many years together
you might think
we would be kinder
because, no matter what
anybody says about
anybody else, we were all born
to this planet suddenly
blinking under the same star
and the evening sky
means the universe
is floating.

This is the place in the order of things where I would be placing my poem for today. But, the hard truth is that my poem for today is the most boring collection of words piled upon each other in this computer since it was first sparked to life, probably somewhere in Korea.

Accordingly, I am not going to put my poem for the day here. Instead, these two poems projected for my 2013 book.

Two night poems.


to wake up god-awful early
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.

listening to the city night

an anorexic

for stars
in a city-bright sky

as always
for a night in West Texas

the dark is

and the stars
out of the sky

from a jeweller’s black velvet sack…

on the desert where far coyotes sadly howl
and across the scrub and sand

quiet winds blow
from the mountains…

but not here
in the quasi-dark
and never-quiet

we make do,
living in the city

what the city
offers, knowing

the desert
and the mountains
are there



gather in the trees
at twilight
knowing all the secrets
of night,
drawing together
as dark draws them in,
settles them into the soft cradle of
a crescent

I feel twilight
and shadows approaching

cannot find the fulcrum
that is my own

Here, now, are a couple of poems from the 1975-1990 section of the anthology.

The first of the poems is by Barbara Kohler.

Born in 1959 in Burgstädt, Kohler grew up in Saxon Penig. After completing high school, she studied to become a skilled worker in the textile industry, but went on to work instead as a geriatric nurse and as a lighting technician at a local theater

Between 1985 and 1988 she completed a study of literature. After German reunification she was unemployed and trying to succeed as a professional writer. SShe published her first poems in 1991, wrote for various newspapers and essays and catalog essays on visual arts. Since 1994 Kohler has lived in Duisburg .


I Place Myself Before faits accomplis (the wall in
my back semi-dark in my head my hand between my
thighs screaming for some world: opaque what I
sometimes see through as camouflage for a certain dis-
inclination to be TRANSPARENT in order not to disappear
I go underground agent provocateur in the third person
the incomplete present as tense form of any revolt
against having been said according to the rules of german gram-
mar tortured by silence I talk for dear life
risking myself word by word head and collar should
be washed again - that's just like me...

The next several poems are by Uwe Kolbe.

Kolbe was born in East Berlin in 1957 to a family that sailed the inland waterways. He was raised in East Berlin, undertook military service after leaving school in 1976, and first published his poetry in the journal Sinn und Form in June 1976. In 1980–81 he began study at the Johannes R. Becher Literary Institute in Leipzig, East Germany's leading centre for the study of poetics and creative writing. Between 1982 and 1985 he was banned from publishing because of anti-regime statements, particularly one in acrostic form in a poem, which the censors had failed to notice. He survived this period by taking up literary translation. From 1982–1987 he published the magazine Mikado. In 1985 he was granted a visa which permitted him to travel to western Europe and the United States. From the summer of 1988 he lived in exile in Hamburg, but returned to Berlin in 1993. From 1997–2004 he was Director of the Literature and Theatre Studio at the University of Tübingen, and has since returned to live in Berlin.

To Start With

Well, let me start right now by confessing
how much mulish conscience keeps on nagging,
and ho, though far, there sharply stands before me
that homeland which I yet disparage loudly.

Dear friends, if half in weal and all in woe,
that west grub often bloats my eastern gut,
it's all because of what the elbe brings.
That makes the tenderest dove a stringy morsel.

To mother don't I live on milk and honey?
does father not insist on bond as virtue?
And hint in sly ways at his loyal Russia?

But as for me, and to the point of madness
I seek a land, un-German, undivided,
and equidistant from both Daimlerland and Prussia.

The Guilty Parties

die, unfortunately, most of the time

of a cold
in a big bed
close to an airport

of natural causes


Five times
people told me about

Four times
I saw men in fistfights

Three times
some mistreated their dogs
in front of my very eyes

Two times
I ran to the youth office
for my girlfriend

I wanted to strangle
my sick mother

I am eighteen,
Grew up under Socialism.
Have not lived through a war.

And, finally, I have this short poem by Annerose Kirchner, for whom I can find not current biography. She, or someone with the same name, does have stuff on YouTube though, which I didn't look at.


Flying carpet dealers exchange
one to one
downs for tin soldiers.

My mind thinks German
and tries on muzzles, which are handed out free,
or go for a dime a dozen.

Tomorrow, a boozy voice
whispers in my ear,
we emigrate.

All the potential keeper-poems I've selected so far were written during the dark and dreary days of winter.

I'm thinking I should move on to poems from a brighter season to break up the gloom.

why is Monday the first day of the week

looking for a toe-hole
to get me started this morning,
i latch onto the idea

that this is Monday,
the first day of the first full week
of the new year

and that leads me to thinking
why is Monday
the first day of the week?

and that’s obvious, it’s the old
“on the seventh day he rested” thing,
which means the eight day

was Monday, time for the Most High Commuter
to get back to work
overseeing all that he had created,

or did he slip off, instead, to do some
new creating
somewhere else

and why did he need a day of rest, anyway,
he being the all powerful Whosit and Whatsit,
you’d think all this creating

would be like a snap of his mighty finger,
once for the heavens and once for the earth,
then an all-purpose multi-snap for all the plants and creatures

the lions and tigers and bears, oh my,
and squash and cherries and trees
and porcupines

and the geese and hummingbirds
and crab grass and red, red roses and
dogs peeing in the park and
sleeping and sleeping
and spiders and dung beetles

and maybe a single dedicated snap
to whip up a human being, a man
first, of course, and then a woman
    - product
    of left over
    manly parts,-
and for both the he and the she,
    he invented
    those words as well, for until then
    there were no words to even imagine a he or a she -

making up arms and legs for both
and lungs and tongues
and noses and
and forty-seven miles of intestines
and hearts that beat and break and blood
and piss and shit
and boogers, too, and
sexually-explicit play areas
and occasionally a brain,
    an accident, probably
    or maybe an oversight,
    a worn-out, late afternoon, sixth-day goof,
    creating a being capable of asking questions,
demanding answers,

and a mighty
pain-in-the- all-powerful-celestial-ass
every since

which begs the question, why,
do i, being a pretty mighty pain-in-the-ass
myself, continue to think of Monday

as the first day of the week - it’s time, i think,
in order to be true to my non-believing beliefs,
to designate Wednesday as the first day of the week

which makes it now this minute an early morning
middle of the week Monday, the day
the religiosos babosos meet here for breakfast

and i wish they’d hurry and get here
and i hope they have something interesting
to say this morning,

- not like the last couple of weeks
when all they’ve talked about was football -

a real deep and meaty conversation
that’ll give me something interesting to write about
because right now i can’t think of any darn thing

and that’s a dangerous situation,
because, lacking anything deep and meaty
to write about,

    i’m not too proud
    to bull-

Next,I have three poems by Page Richards, from her book,Lightly Separate, published in 2007 by Finishing Line Press.

The poet studied at the University of Pennsylvania,Harvard University and Boston University. A recipient of a grant from the Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities from the Vermont Studio Center, and a fellowship from the Salzburg Seminar, at the time of publican she was teaching at the University of Hong Kong.

Afternoon in Cancun

We arrived late,
flamingoes stretched by an ad on the road.
Flat under our money fits
as the woman behind glass nods.

Even the dust is tolerable, almost natural.
rails dangle and gates flake white
as possums' underbellies.

It's seedy though nothing is lost.
Tall, loose as yolks, pink forms
shuffle their mass,stumble on stones, are made to move;
bountiful, big, brightly made,with a late plumage

of speech, we find the stage and a man with a whip
wrapped around his neck, as though he has nothing
to do with it all,calls, "Birds, here."

Just Off Cancun

Our engine stalled, the moped dead, we thought.

Small,overdressed, steaming in my nylon shift
I held my own, clambered after you

keeping my light coat on.
As the dessert cooled a shot in the distance
illuminated what remained: green rocks shoved against the hardening sky.

Then I made more sense, we imagined ghosts when it got dark.

the gods liked us well enough
to settle on a blanket laid with fare:
your army knife, a slab of miniature soap, a handy wind.

Love is not the word for you, nor a candle
or we might have made it through the night
in peace. Instead we found the key, turned the engine on

both of us good alone.

Folk Festival

It was when the rains came
and Judy Collins took off her shoes
I put my head way back
to look for you ahead of me

and the stars suffered
a heave and a ho on our strained behalf
but for a minute
while I packed up out things.

Clear sheets of water bristled
and broke into lousy thousands
thumping our heads as though
we'd won something back.

In a quiet moment
when our towels lagged brown
behind us, wet and full,
you finally turned to me

the way an abandoned box car
settles into funneled desert sands.
I knew it was our last year, last month,
I saw it happening, and I shiver.

This is the last of my new poems from last week.

again today

I didn’t
fall out of love
again today

and I didn’t
all the secrets
of life
again today,
but I don’t despair
which is one of the
secrets of life
I did learn again

I didn’t win
the lottery again
grown taller
or thinner
or braver
or smarter

once again
of those things
did I do

didn’t out box
the reigning heavyweight
world champ today
and neither
did I win the Indianapolis

of those things
did I do again today

I didn’t submit a plan
for world peace
again today
and watch, grateful
tears of joy
in my eyes, as my plan
was adopted
unanimously, winning
of all the varied diplomats
and dignitaries
they all,
of all the varied nations
on this small ever-spinning earth,
gathered in a circle
singing kumbaya, dancing
together, Arab and Jew, Shiite
and Sunni, evangelical and atheist,
young and old,
white and black,
of healthy body
and in terminal pain,
broad minds
and narrow minds,
witty and half witted,
tall and short, fat and thin,
thieves and suffers from theft,
murders and the murdered arisen,
together in tripsichoric
in death grip entangled,
in forgiving and forgetting,
mercy pled, mercy given,
and all the oppressors of all the masses
and all the masses, dancing, all,
in tearful acceptance
of forgiving and forgetting,
mercy pled and mercy given

I didn’t do that again
but I have still a few days left,
who knows

in the meantime,
I did write a poem
again today,
another entry in the log
of a good-time-Charlie’s
at a day that counts
for better than
nothing-much to brag about
again today

For my final poem from the anthology this week I have this piece by Volker Braun.

Unusual for Wikipedia, Braun's biography is a very poor English translation from German. I've reconstructed the best I could

Braun was born in 1939 in Dresden. His work includes poetry, plays, novels, short stories and non-fiction.

He worked in mining and civil engineering before he studied philosophy in Leipzig. He was successful in publishing critiques of the socialist state for a period, even though a member of the East German Communist party, due to his ability to maneuver within the system.

His work included spoken poems, theater pieces, novels and stories.

Braun worked as an artistic director at the Berliner Ensemble. After the events of the Prague Spring, he became more open in his criticism of the life in Socialism and the possibility of reform. After that, he would be watched over strongly by the Stasi. Since 1976, Braun worked at the Deutschen Theater Berlin (German Theater Berlin)and from 1979 he was active again in the Berliner Ensemble. He left the Writer's Union of East Germany in 1982.

Braun belonged to the supporters of an independent "third way" for East Germany and, after reunification, he occupied himself with critiques of the foundations for the failure of East Germany.

In 1986 he was awarded the Bremer Literature Prize and 1992 he received the Schiller Memorial Prize. He was awarded a stipend of the Villa Massimo and became a guest lectturer of the University of Wales in 1994. In 1996, he received the Deutschen Kritikerpreis (German Critic Prize), became a member of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, the Sächsischen Akademie der Künste (Saxon Academy of the Arts) and held Poet-lecturer at the University of Heidelberg. He received the Erwin Schrittmatter Prize in 1998 and the Georg Büchner Prize in 2000. From 1999 to 2000, he was the Brother Grimm professor at the University of Kassel. He would be elected to the Director of the Literature Section of the Akademie der Künste in 2006. .

Volker Braun lives in Berlin.

The Wall


Between the peculiar cities that bear the same
Name, among much cement
Iron, wire, smoke, the shots
Of motors at the merging point
Of all the wonders of this peculiar land there stands out
A construction, striking among the wonders
In this astonishing country,
Foreign country. Accustomed
To suspension bridges and steel towers
And whatever else runs to the border
by way of material and machines, theyeye
Still does not comprehend
his here.

Among all the riddles: that is
Almost their solution. Terrible
It holds back, stone border,
What knows no bounds:
War. And it holds
In the peaceful land, for it must be strong
Not poor, those who flee the wolves:
the lambs. t/his is a slap
In the face of those who should go where they want, not
To mass graves, the
"People of the thinkers."

But what holds me so strongly, the half
Country that has changed with me, now
It is more secure, but
Am I still going to change it? Protected
By the tanks, does it enjoy
Its peace almost peacefully? Heavy
From guns fall the shots:
On those whom it might hold better
In other ways. The walls stand
Speechless and cold in the wind
the flags whip.


Those behind the newspapers
Bark at the cement and, scorched
By the broadcasts, run away from the dust
Of construction sites or along the barbed-wire
Piously sing among brothers and
Beneath churches scrape tunnels: those
Blind hens find themselves
Dead center in gun sights. Incomprehensible,
However, for them is that which divides
These cities. Because it is not
Made of cement staring them right in the face.
It is not a wall that divides us.

That is filth made of cement,take
That away then, with blow torches
Tear it to pieces with crowbars
Put it into the grass: when they no longer
Flee with their skins to sell at the market
Chop out the barricades. When those
Who still want to change borders are powerless
Smash the border. The last tank
Crushes it and vice versa.
So that it will be gone.

Now let that be.


I say: there stands throughout the city,
Unimposing, architecture's long non-construction
Paint it black
the firewall (shit on it)
Because it is not
Our shame: show it.
Do not make a garden of it during

Some August, do not turn the dirt over
In wide beds, with lilies over the mines
Plant nettles, nor carnations
Do not increase, between the peculiar
Cities, the riddles,roaring
Do not adorn the land
With its misery. And
do not let the grass grow
Over the open shame: it is
not ours, show it.

Here's my last poem for the week, another possible for the 2013 book.

I could be racing

I could be racing my
Stutz Bearcat
through the high mountain
of Abrakazam,
if I wanted to, or trading
tequila shots
with the Duchess de Whirl

I could do that…

or I could be riding
hell for leather
across the rocky steppes
of Kerikombati,
roast pig
on the pristine white sands
of Jazmaka de Mir,
or attending a Hollywood
with the bountifully
Hungarian star of the evening
Lotta Shigotta

I could go
hang gliding over the deep, red canyons
of Tashtaganskastan, if I wanted,
or I might pilot my
jumbo Lear
to a birthday bash
for the Prince of Cisco-Ferlingetti…

lots of other stuff
like that
I could be doing today…

but I have a poem to write first,
then the new Harry Potter movie
that opened just last night, I could
take my niece to that,
and there’s my geraniums that need
some watering, and a whole drawer full
of socks needing emergency organizational

important stuff…

real life…

real life stuff
that proves I am living

and not just part
of someone else’s
Stutz Bearcat

We're done.

All the normal usual about everything here belonging to who created it.

And I'm still allen itz, owner and producer of "Here and Now" and bookseller to the stars (anyone who buys one of my books is a star by definition).

I sent my book of road poems, Places and Spaces, off to the publisher yesterday, so I expect in a couple of weeks I'll be adding it to the list below.

And, speaking of the books below, I've never quoted a price on them because the retailers usually set their own price, which sometimes changes. Presently, the books are priced from $4.14 to $5.99, depending on which one you buy and which of the retailers you buy it from. Pretty damn cheap, considering my first book, in print, originally sold for $35. I'm turning into the five and dime of poetry.

I'm pricing the new book at $3.99, though retailers may have it for less.

As of now, here's what I have out there for your reading pleasure. (And, by the way, if you buy one of these amazingly cheap books and like it, a review on the purchase site would be appreciated.)

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"


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San Antonio, Streetside   Monday, March 26, 2012

I chose for my anthology this week, After Aztlan, published in 1992 by David R.Godine, Publisher.

Aztlan refers to the mythical ancestral home of the Nahua peoples, one of the main cultural groups in Mesoamerica and, by extension, the mythical homeland of the Uto-Aztecan peoples. Aztec is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan".

Nahuatl legends relate that seven tribes lived in Chicomoztoc, or "the place of the seven caves". Each cave represented a different Nahua group: the Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalan, Tepaneca, Chalca and Mexica. These tribes subsequently left the caves and settled "near" Aztlán, or Aztatlan.

While some legends describe Aztlán as a paradise, other sources say that the Aztecs were subject to a tyrannical elite called the Azteca Chicomoztoca. Guided by their priest, the Aztec fled, and, while on the road, their god Huitzilopochtli forbade them to call themselves Azteca, telling them that they should be known as Mexica. Ironically, scholars of the 19th century — in particular Alexander von Humboldt and William H. Prescott — would rename them Aztec. Humboldt's suggestion was widely adopted in the 19th century as a way to distance "modern" Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans.

Whatever the historical record, in this book, "After Aztlan" refers to, as the book's subtitle says, "latino poets of the nineties."

As to the photos this week, I was thinking it might be nice to do some San Antonio pictures that had nothing to do with the Riverwalk or the missions, of which many photos have already appeared here.

And, finally, in addition to all that, I have poems this week by two of my poet friends, Alex Stolis and Mira Desai.

Here's the whole shooting match:

there’s a million billion bits of me

Carol Connolly
In a Word

at the end

Ana Castillo
Zoila Lopez

Rosemary Catacalos
One Man’s Family


Catherine Tufariello
Ghost Children
The Worst of It
Plot Summary


Martin Espada
Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz, California, May 3, 1877

pictures from an American lynching

G.E. Patterson
She Told Me

heard the news?

Demetria Martinez

Francisco Alarcon
My Hair

Dinner for Two

Keith Waldrop
Wandering Curves
Will to Will

some people do their religion

Luis J. Rodriguez

About Lost Balloons

Alex Stolis
First Law off Silence
Second Law of Silence
Third Law of Silence

saying what must not be said

Victor Martinez
Some Things Left Unsaid

and so:

Mira Desai

so long have I been waiting

Robert Vasquez
California Sonnets: Night Sequence

Saturday night at Crossroads Mall

Paula Rankin
Poem for Miners
untitled fragment


Here's my first poem for this week, written last weekend.

there’s a million billion bits of me

there are a
million billion
parts to me
and upon my death
and deconstitution
they will all fly off and away
and I will be so many things
in so many places

some piece of me
will fly to the sun, become
fuel for its burning, other parts
will settle like a tiny wafer on the dust of the moon;
parts of me will join the red remains of Mars,
others will circle with the rings of Saturn
and a few will drift in Jupiter’s clouds, become a shade
perhaps it it’s great red circling eye

some bits will make an even further journey,
off on an intergalactic homecoming voyage to the nearest and furthest
stars, journey completed in a time I cannot even imagine,
for, while I will and must die, the parts of me
are eternal, soaring in the great all-nothing,
slipping between black energies and elements
until the expansion stops and universal contraction
begins, big bang cycling to big suck and all
that will not die will die as there is no more
for them to be...

and other bits of me will stay right here, at home on the world
that assembled me than broke me apart like Legos
in their resting corner of a a child’s toy box, the raw materials
of new essence, the essences
of rock or sand on a desert plain,
or essences of dog, someone’s dear companion ,
or of a tick in the dog’s ear
or a hog or a log
crossing a slow dribbling stream,
some of the bits of the used-to-be- me
in the dog, in the tick’s bloody snout, in the bristle
on the hog’s back, or in the log, or in a bump on the log
or in a bubble in the stream, or perhaps another person I'll be,
or a penguin or a pineapple on an island in the Pacific where
beautiful women dance and tell stories of ocean voyages
and great waves, each one a new construction of elements,
just like you and me, created then pulled apart so that the next wave
can rise and roll on the sandy beaches of time forever
until the world ends
and time ends
and all we know or suspect
or have never imagined ends

For my first poet from my library, I have Carol Connolly, from her book, Payments Due Onstage Offstage, published in 1995 by Midwest Villages & Voices.

Connolly, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, was born in 1934. Her first career was the raising seven children. Although active as a volunteer during her twenty-one years of marriage, it was after divorcing in 1979 that Connolly's public life took on a higher profile. Throughout the years since then, she has been variously known as a political candidate, activist, journalist, poet, and playwright.

The first of her three poems below I've used here before. But it's a sharp little piece and I like it, so I'm using it again.

In a Word

A woman I met
and only
by chance,
"I like your
but you are
than he is."
It had never
occurred to me.
I thought
it over.
He is taller,
and she's right.
I am
This news


For the 577 demonstrators
arrested at HOneywell
on October 23, 1984)

I want to float in the shallow water
close to the shore
where the sea is still,
the sand is white.

I want to loll
on my back on a puffed-up life raft,
search for the silver lining,
gaze at the sky as blue as blue,

glide straight into the sun,
and be consoled.
Never look back.
I have been in deep water.

I could
tell you stories
you would not

I will be alone now,
solitary, celibate.
I don't want to hear even a whisper
of the syllables in nuclear

the hiss in holocaust,
the murder in mutilation
I don't want to smell the sweat
in demonstrate or lobby or elect.

The kingfishers will roar by
in speedboats.
I won't even wave.
Far in the distance

the heat shimmers.
You may decide
to board a big bot,
chain your body to a war machine.

Remove all sharp objects
from your pockets
so you won't hurt yourself
or wound the cop who arrests you.

The steel door will bang behind you.
The jailor will say your time begins.
Keep in mind
what is legal is not,

and as you pour strength
into the deep ocean
that floats my raft close to the shore,
I will be safe in the sun

because you
hold back the dark
with your bare hands.


When the light is right,
the sweet perfume of hyacinths
rolls around me.

I say thanks to everyone
but myself.

I bow low to my mother
buried in 1959,
to my father

buried on the same day,
to my brother
who moved to Edina,

to a husband
who had the sense
to divorce me,

to my children
who followed nature
and grew up,

to the man in a hat
who says he adores me,
to the men who say nothing.

When the sky is dark at noon
and the hyacinths
are dead and dank,

I blame no one
but myself.

Last week, I did some old poems with some new work done on them. This week I have more old poems, without so much new work.

This next one is from 2002.

at the end

at the end of Bob Hall Pier
gulf winds
blow up
a briny
the Texas
of mid-day
with early
fog that
on a
bone froze


First from the anthology, I have two poets.

The first poet is Ana Castillo.

Castillo, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the author of two novels and a book of poetry. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and an American Book Award in fiction from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Zoila Lopez

If i were you, Zoila,
i wouldn't be here
in English class
with the disturbed child
who sits in the back
with the husband
who doesn't work.
i wouldn't laugh,Zoila,
if my first winter up north
was without boots
and the only thing to
warm me was the photograph
of Jorgito dressed as a
little indian in white
pajamas and sandals on
Guadalupe's Day, just before
he was killed by a truck
that carried oranges.

i wouldn't bathe, change
my dress, look for work,
hold a pencil upright
after this summer when
the baby ran a high fever
and the hospital people in
that marbles-in-the-mouth
language said, "It's okay.
Take her home."
She died that night.
You'd thought she'd just
stopped crying.

i would die, if i were you,
Zoila, a million deaths at
the end of each nightmarish day
with its miniscule hopes like
snowflakes that melt on one's
teeth and tongue and taste of

The next poet is Rosemary Catacalos, winner of the The Texas Institute of Poetry Prize for her collection of poems, Again for the First Time, is also a former recipient of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship. She directed the Literature Program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, then the Director of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University. She left that position in 2003 to return to San Antonio to direct Gemini Ink, a nonprofit independent literary center which offers master level workshops and classes as well as readings by nationally recognized poets and others, as well as a drama performance series.

One Man's Family

   in memory of Bill Gilmore

There was the Dog Man again today,
bent under his tow sack
making his daily pilgrimage
along St. Mary's Street
with his rag tied to his forehead,
with his saintly leanness
and his bunch of dogs
and his clothes covered with
short smell hair.
Pauline, the waitress up at
the White House Cafe, says
he used to be a college professor.
In a college. Imagine.
And now he's all the time
with them dogs.
Lets them sleep in the same room
with him. Lets them eat
the same thing he eats.
Pauline don't like it.
All them eyes light up in the dark
like wolves'.

I imagine he carries his mother's
wedding dress around in that filthy sack.
I imagine he takes the dress out on Sundays
and talks to it about the dogs,
the way he might talk to Pauline
if she ever gave him the chance.
About how to him those seven dogs
are seven faithful wives,
seven loaves, seven brothers.
About how those seven snouts bulldozing
through neighborhood garbage and memories
give off a warmth that's just as good
as all the breasts and apple pies and Christmas trees
and books and pipes and slippers
that a man could use on this earth.
But mostly about how they're dogs.
Friends that don't have to be anything else.
About how nothing could be more right
than for a man to live
with what he is willing and able to trust.

Here's another piece from last week, prompted by a reader's response to my first poem this week.


my spirit
is a creation of the shell
that holds together the meat that is me

electrical impulses
and chemical reactions that cease
when the meat ceases
and the electricity and chemistry fades

the best of me,
the diaphanous interweaving of grace and hope
that makes me wish
I was a thing apart,
lives and dies, makes it’s place
for it’s time, then dissipates like a cloud of smoke
in a summer breeze

the least of me,
the meat in all it’s constituent parts
is eternal…

in all their bright essences
live and die;
and, as creatures of stars,
inheritors and progenitors
of the is that is,
you or I should expect neither more
nor less

this is the part
no one
wants to believe,
but it is one explanation
of our mysterious
in the dark

Next from my library, I have four short poems by Catherine Tufariello. The poems are from her book Keeping My Name, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist published by Texas Tech University Press in 2004.

Born in 1963 in Ithaca, New York, Tufariello graduated from University of Buffalo, and, later, Cornell University with a PhD. She taught at Cornell University, the College of Charleston, and the University of Miami and currently lives in Indiana, where she and her husband teach at Valparaiso University.

Ghost Children

Trying to offer comfort, friends remark
How lucky it is we never had a child.
I nod agreement, knowing in the dark
They'll wake me,wild, inconsolate. You smiled
Good-naturedly when we debated names
After the wedding, wondering whether your
Features or mine would make the stronger claims -
My hazel eyes? Your hair, a black so pure
It is tinged with blue? Back home in Hawaii, you said,
Hapa children are known for special beauty.
I hoped they'd have your cheekbones, and instead
Of my pale, your golden skin. Now I mourn the pretty
Darlings I carry but cannot have, the ghost
Children whose face are mirrors of all we've lost.

The Worst of It

The worst of it is not the bitter shame
Of being left,but living a cliche.
"Good thing," my mother says, "you kept your name."
No thrill of wondering what the neighbors say,
But only the dull burden of our news
With power, perhaps, to sadden and surprise
But the to shock the hearers who must choose
Sides in our common struggle to revise
Our common story: we are the one of two
Couples in the marriage gamble who come to grief.
Too bad it didn't work; nothing to do
But wait for time's predictable relief.
I know these scenes, yet must enact them all
In our melodrama familiar and banal.


Our house still harbors memories of you
In haunting pentimento - like the faint
Unfocused images that flicker through
From a distant channel, or surface in the paint
Of a landscape grown translucent with the years.
A lake develops depths, from which a drowned
Nude body glimmers, or a dim face peers'
Between two trees, half-hidden in the ground.
Fugitive shadow, fed on my regret,
Made strong by my refusal to forgive,
You inhabit the house in silvery negative.
How long before my body will forget
Your scent and touch, recorded in its pores?
How many times it held and harbored yours.

Plot Summary

This story is full of surprises after all,
That seemed in prospect so unpromising
I nearly closed the boo. The lovers fall
in love on schedule, to be sure; and spring
Follows their winter of mutual despair
And reunites them, as we knew it would.
Put thus, the plot's familiar: nothing new there,
In the grand scheme. Look closer, now. Who could
Have guessed old Ivan had it in him to fall in love -
Really in love! - in the first place? Or that Anna,
so childlike and conventional, would prove
So brave? Canaan follows exile - but that manna
Would feed the wanderers? Oh, who would guess
Such bread could blossom in this wilderness?

The next poem is from 2000, early in my return to writing. I had a tendency at the time to sometimes squeeze a metaphor until it squealed.

The centered format is not from the original version. I'm trying it this time because it seems to me the text kind of supports centering.


communion between
horse and rider,
the fluid movement
of two as one,
each alternately
controlling, anticipating,
becoming a single thing
through the dust...

that's the way of
best done when horse
and rider are evenly

I had a horse once
who always threw me
on the second
and a long time
lover who did
the same

just a little better
at the game
than me

The next poem from the Aztlan anthology is by Martin Espada, a poet and professor of poetry at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Born in 1957 in Brooklyn, he was introduced to political activism at an early age by his father, a leader in the Puerto Rican community and the civil rights movement. Espada received a B.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a J.D. from Northeastern University. Before publishing his first collection of poetry in 1982,he worked for many years as a tenant lawyer and a supervisor of a legal services program. He continues to be a dedicated political activist.


Niggerlips was the high school name
for me.
So called by Douglas
the car mechanic, with green tattoos
on each forearm,
and the choir of round pink faces
that grinned deliciously
from the back row of classrooms,
droned over by teachers
checking attendance too slowly.

Douglas would brag
about cruising his car
near sidewalks of black children
to point an unloaded gun,
to scare niggers
like crows off a tree,
he'd say.

My great-grandfather Luis
was un negrito too,
a shoemaker in the coffee hills
of Puerto Rico,1900.
The family called him a secret
and kept no photograph.
My father remembers
the childhood white powder
that failed to bleach
his stubborn copper skin,
and the family says
hi is still a fly in milk.

So Niggerlips has the mouth
of his great-grandfather,
the song he must have sung
as he pounded the leather and nails,
the eat that courses through copper,
the stubbornness of a fly in milk.
and all you have, Douglas,
is that unloaded gun.

Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz,California, May 3, 1877

More than the moment
when forty gringo vigilantes
cheered the rope
that snapped two Mexicanos
into the grimacing sleep of broken necks,

more than the floating corpses
trussed like cousins of the slaughterhouse,
dangling in the bowed mute humility
of the condemned,

more than the Virgen de Guadalupe
who blesses the brownskinned
and the crucified,
or the guitar-plucking skeletons
on the Dia do los Muertos,

remain the faces of the lynching party:
faded as pennies from 1877, a few stunned
in the blur of execution,
a high-collar boy smirking, some peering
from the shade of bowler hats, but all
crowding into the photograph.

The next poem is an old one, written in 2000.

I was reminded of the poem by the poem above about the lynchings of Mexicans in California. The lynching of blacks continued in this country into near the middle of the twentieth century.

I was inspired to write the poem after reading about a photography exhibition that was showing around the country. It was an exhibition of pictures of lynchings of blacks, mostly in the south, during the nineteen twenties, thirties, and into the forties. The story about the exhibition included some of the photos featured.

I had seen such pictures before, but this time, instead of focusing on the people hanging, I was looking at the white people gathered all around to watch the event; it was as if a circus come to town. What I saw as I looked shocked me, for reasons explained in my poem.

pictures from an American lynching

it's not the hanging black bodies
that chill me,
it's the smiling white faces below.

so familiar, those faces,

the white man standing
under the swinging body
of the young black girl,
beer in one hand, hat cocked to one side
like he was a movie star...

the two pretty girls
arm in arm beneath the carnage,
posing for the camera
like for a picture at the county fair...

the child
in dusty overalls
standing at his mother's side,
holding on to her dress
with one hand.
pointing with the other
to the bare feet of the black man
dangling over his head.

so familiar, these faces,

like from the family albums
I looked at as a child,,
seeking among the pictures there
the story of how I came to be.

so damn familiar.

Next, I have two poems by G.E. Patterson, from his book Tug, his first book and winner of the Minnesota Book Aware published in 1999 by Graywolf Press.

A poet, critic, and translator, Patterson grew up along the Mississippi River and was educated in the mid-South, the Midwest, the Northeast, and the western United States.

The poet's awards include fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Cave Canem, the Djerassi Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

After living in the Northeast and on the West Coast, he now makes his home in Minnesota, where he teaches.

She Told Me

I have these shoes I put on on hot days
when I have to go out dressed,looking nice,
she told me. I got clothes. Trouble is shoes.
If they don't make my feet sweat,they're so light
the heat can come right up out of the ground
and brown the bottoms of my feet near dark
as the tops. You understand what I'm saying?

When I was young, all through the summertime,
I'd go shoeless and sockless every day
except Sundays, you know, because of church.
And in the spring and fall too I'd be shoeless
long as the mud was warm. No need for shoes.
Let the wind, grass,river water cool you.
I'd put on shoes if my feet got too cold.
Or if that fine boy down the road came walking.
I'd always put on shoes before those hancty
girls could see me barefoot. I didn't need
to give them more reasons to call me country.

Now these shoes I got, I'm happy with them.
They're blue. I wear them with this sleeveless top
and matching skirt of real pale violet.
I'm glad I found them. I like to look pretty.


Seems like some people never get the blues
without Billie Holiday turned up loud
quart of Chivas at their feet - maybe Dewars
cigar cigarette smoke    cat piss    dark rooms
their man two or three years late coming home
their woman packed up    out of town two days
rotten job no job    either way no money
some people got to school to feel
what I feel every morning every night
I wake up wondering what new shit's coming
to make me wish I had yesterday back
I go to bed wondering how long I'll sleep
before something wakes me - siren, bad dream
I hear them singing to themselves all night
their lives just turning bad    mine been that way

I can do the standard "Texan" accent (which is actually "standard" only to a few counties in central southwest Texas) and usually slip into it when out of state or with visitors from out of state. Wouldn't want to disappoint folks.

But it's fake. I have, naturally, the nondescript accent of your typical national news anchor (except not Dan Rather, who, I suspect, was doing the same accent scam I do sometimes).

heard the news?

at the last booth down,
some kind of electrician from what I heard him say on the phone,
has an accent straight out of East Texas,
right out of somewhere lost in the Great Piney Woods
around Nacogdoches or Huntsville, a kind of soft, sleepy syrup
of an accent that makes you want to shake a fella, “wake up,” finish
the story, a kind of accent that’ll make a folk seem either
drunk on white lightning or stupid
even though it’s best to remember that they may sometimes
be the first but hardly ever are they the second.

listening to the fella
makes me sad, thinking how this “whole other country,”
as we Texans think of ourselves,
is losing all the accents that made it that other country:
East Texas syrup, Louisiana/Tex Cajun, West Texas drawl, Hill Country
German, Coastal Plains Polish and Czech, Houston urban, Dallas chic,
Mexican on the borderlands,
and even the flat, accent-less accent
on the south river delta
where I grew up,
first whites to move in,
land speculators from back east rushing in
on specially chartered railroad cars,
surveying fresh-laid roads lined by fresh-planted palm trees,
followed by mid-west farmers who cleared the brush,
melding, over the first fifty years, a linguistic mash-up
that seems to come from nowhere/anywhere…

all coming together so that we all sound the same,
refugees from nowhere/anywhere,
except for the sleepy-sounding fella at the last booth -

a museum- ready artifact in size 13 workboots,
even as his kids grow up sounding like that news anchor on TV

Next I have a couple of shorter poems from the anthology by two poets.

The first poet is Demetria Martinez.

Born in Albuquerque in 1960, Martínez is an author, activist, lecturer and columnist. Her books include the widely translated novel, Mother Tongue, winner of a Western States Book Award for Fiction, and Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana, winner of a 2006 International Latino Book Award. She is also the author of two books of poetry, Breathing Between the Lines and The Devil’s Workshop, both of which I've used here before. She also writes a column for the independent progressive weekly, the National Catholic Reporter, and is involved with Enlace Comunitario, an immigrants’ rights group which works with Spanish-speaking survivors of domestic violence. She lives in Albuquerque.


Decked in October light adobe grows gold.
On one house a fresco of Jesus in thorns.
Red chiles strung by the decade,
Slung from porch beams.
Buckets of apples for sale.
Someone roasts green chile to peel and freeze.

Look, the Santuario de Chimayo,
Its steeples,like pencils
Sing the sky.
This is a pilgrimage, not a tour:
Make the sign of the cross.

Behind the church a mountain
Kneels in a field.
Sap on my fingers, plucking mushrooms
From timbers,
Someday when I sleep with you
It will taste like this.

The second of the two poems is by Francicso Alarcon.

The poet was born in California in 1954 and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, when he was 6. He graduated from California State University, Long Beach, and Stanford University, and now teaches at the University of California, Davis.

My Hair

you met me
my hair was
black like
the blackest

with your hair
I'll make the finest
you would tell me
my ears

and I would run
with my black
hair loose
like a colt
its black mane

with your gray hair
I've made now
a long rope
you tell me
wrapping it
around my neck

I originally started writing short stories in the mid-sixties, then, feeling I lacked a flair for the narrative, switched to poetry. (The attention span of a five-year-old doesn't help either.)

When I returned to writing in the late nineties, I continued to try to do poetry, even when writing stories that were better fit to short story mode. It was, as I mentioned last week, that I didn't have confidence that I could do anything of story length. It didn't occur to me until much later that short stories could be, indeed, very, very sort.

This next piece, from 2002, was written as a poem, even though it's clear to me now that it's a short trying to break out of its poetry cell.

So that's what I did with it in this re-write.

Dinner for Two

   As the sun sets to the west, the moon rises over the bay, a bright moon, a white button in the dark blue sky, deepening to black southern night as we watched.

   We had been warned that a hard freeze was coming, the winter's first, and the north wind began to blow just moments ago. The wind whipping around the corner of the house, lashes the wide leaves of the banana plants still green in January, grown through last spring and summer and early winter to near roof high. By this timed tomorrow, its frozen, sogggy stumps will be lying flat to the ground.

   The wind blows hard. It rattles the plastic plates we had eaten from for our afternoon picnic beside the bay. The plates and paper napkins were saved from blowing away by the heavy silverware laid across them. They were a gift from my mother before she died, taken from their velvet-lined box and cleaned and shinned on a whim just this morning.

   We had completed our dinner,hardly talking at all.

   We rarely do anymore. Not like we used to anyway, when the kids were with us, talking about school and friends and comic books and cartoons.

   I remember now we didn't talk much then either. Mainly we listened to the kids talk.

   Things change, I'm thinking, and things stay the same. And, after a while, it's hard to tell the difference.

   "Getting dark," I say.

   "Gonna be a cold night," she says.

   We gather the rubble from our silent meal and walk back to the house.

   She walks ahead, with me behind, listening intently, both os us, to the running commentary of our own thoughts.

Now, I have two poems by Keith Waldrop from his National Book Award winning collection, Transcendental Studies, published by The University of California Press in 2009.

Waldrop was born in 1932 in Emporia, Kansas. is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, and has translated the work of Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Edmond Jabès, among others. A recent translation is Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal.

He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is professor emeritus at Brown University. The French government has named him Chevalier des arts et des lettres.

Wandering Curves

A new ridge spreads underneath. Volcanoes, often
active, rim the Pacific. It bears little
resemblance to human behavior. She
crushes it in her hand and wipes it
across her sorrowful brow. Two
families of curves, drawn on a surface.

Such tremendous movements on the
surface must arise from internal
forces. Demoniac rage and
the traditional laugh of abandoned
villainy. My eyes fill with tears, my
knees double under me.

The weather is always important in
melodrama. Space is a function of
matter and energy - or, rather, of their
distribution. But how did we get like this - so
suddenly? Despair sits brooking the putrid
eggs of hope.
The world's deepest earthquakes.

Under sustained pressure, even granite
flows. The whole of Scandinavia's
still rising, having been long depressed
by an enormous ice cube. The water behind
Boulder Dam is heavy enough to
ooze the crust along the mantle.

Will to Will

an interesting case,the progress of a bird. When
they move, the move quickly, a glittering
line. One's own performance can alter.

As a mere form or fold of the atmosphere, were
our organs sharp enough. I am, as
if I were not. Tendency to telescope.

A thought vanishes and there, before
sunset, someone else is thinking it.A note in
music,as the ordinary accompaniment.

But again, I have this encouragement
not to think all these things utterly
impossible. Purchase new clothes, buty food.

Desperate attempt to escape perplexity. On the
surface too deeply absorbed to conceal
her ignorance. A cowboy leaves the ranch.

Four distinct things are to be borne in
mind: the square, a small body, free
air, the intensity. Went to town.

Mad. Foolish. The sound of an
explosion is propagated as a wave. Nobody
knows him,he's so dressed up.

Not particularly striking. the dog runs to him and
licks him. Reflected like light, refracted
like light, like light condensed by suitable lenses.

Stamp on the air the conditions of
motion. sing a hymn in the passage, but
sing so badly. Haunting tune, idea, phrase.

The dog barks at him when he comes out. He
sells the cow, shops for a wife, builds
a new barn, buys cows. Th rest I'm forgetting.

Somethings I do not, and never will,understand.

some people do their religion

some people do their religion

some people
do their religion
in churches with big steeples
and pews and pews
set in rows for the faithfully

I prefer the night sky

who needs some petty little god
when you have the whole universe of stars
and all you have to do to know them
is lift your head
from the dirt
and look

Next from the anthology I have this poem by Luis J. Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, born in El Paso in 1954, is a poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and columnist. His work has won several awards, and he is recognized as a major figure of contemporary Chicano literature. His best-known work, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., is the recipient of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, among others, and has been the subject of controversy when included on reading lists in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas schools due to its frank depictions of gang life. Rodriguez has also founded or co-founded numerous organizations, including the Tía Chucha Press, which publishes the work of unknown writers.

I pause mid-stream to note that, without my meaning for it to be so, every poet I've chosen so far from the Aztlan anthology has appeared often in "Here and Now." It is a reflection of the admiration I have for these poets.


When you bite
deep to the core
of a ripe, juicy tomato,
sing a psalm
for Margarito Lupercio.

Praise the 17-year existence
of an immigrant tomato picker.

But don't bother to look
for his fingerprints
on the tomato skins.

They are implanted
on the banks
of the Delta Mendota Canal,
imbedded on soft soil
where desperate fingers
grasped and pulled,
reaching out
to silent shadows on shore
as deadly jaws
of rushing water
pulled hime toits belly.

Margarito had jumped in,
so he could keep working;
to escape,
    miserly taunts
    stares of disdain;
    indignities of alienhood
to escape,
    Border Patrol officers tearing across
    a tomato field like cowboys,
to escape
    the iron bars of desert cells
    and hunger's dried up face.

a brother of the fields
heard Margarito's cries
as the Migra officers watched
and did nothing.

He tied together torn sheets,
shirts,loose rope -
anything he could find,
pleading for help,
pleading for help
in the anxious tones
that overcome language barriers.

Officers,in your name,
watched and did nothing.

Workers later found Margarito's body
wedged in the entrails
of a sluice gate.
they delivered it to town,
tomato capital of the world,
awakened now,suddenly
to the tyrannu of indifference.

The next piece, written in early 2000, is one of the favorite things I did during that period. The fact that so few share that view, simply reinforces my internal conviction that I am surely a most under-appreciated genius.

Well, maybe not.

About Lost Balloons

What happens,
do you suppose,
to balloons that get away?

You can see them in the sky
on clear, sunny days,
sometimes just a single balloon
soaring on wings of summer breeze,
slipped from the hands of a little girl
at the zoo, or maybe several tied together,
a multicolored cluster of balloons
flow free from some backyard birthday party.

when you see them,
they're always going away.

You never see them coming back.

I think of a book I had when I was a child,
a Little Golden Book about a toy boat
set loose in a small stream by a little boy,
the boat getting away from the boy, glorying
in the excitement of freedom, then growing
frightened as the water grew deeper and wider,
turned into a fast moving creek, then a might flowing river
that led to a harbor with giant ships and then the ocean,
the vast and lonely ocean.

A metaphor for life, this story,
a parable with a happy ending as the little boat is rescued
at the very last minute and returned to the safety of home,
family, the waiting child, the familiar little stream
where adventures always end at dinner time.

But what about balloons?

Once gone, they don't come back,
they aren't rescued by some kindly stranger and sent back
from some far, exotic place like Australia, or China, or
Leola, South Dakota. They're never folded and stuffed
into an envelope with a stamp and a postmark and a note
in a stranger's hand, "for the little girl at the zoo."

So where do they go, these fugitive balloons?

Is there a balloon graveyard, like with elephants, but high
in the stratosphere, somewhere between the vacuum of space
and the pressures of prison earth? Or, past that,
perhaps there's a saloon on an alien planet
with balloon music and balloon beer
where rogue balloons from many planets gather
to celebrate freedom and brag of their exploits
in the heavier-than-air worlds they left behind. Or,
maybe there's a rest home for runaway balloons
where they can sit in rockers on a long open porch,
watching the sun rise over rolling surf
as the last of their air slips slowly away
with little balloon sighs.

Here's some work by my friend Alex Stolis. The think about Alex, you can always count on him to find a new way to see and a new way to write it as well.

First Law of Silence

Silence can neither be created or destroyed

This is nonsense you say; as a matter of fact you insist. All I have to do is not talk or conversely all I have to do is speak. See, [you say; a little smugly I might add] I stop talking and therefore I created silence. I talk [again with the smug; this time a smile as well] and poof, silence is destroyed, vanquished, decimated, disappeared,gone. Don’t worry [it’s me talking now] you needn’t feel embarrassed or inadequate. It’s a common mistake; nearly everyone makes it. What you fail to take into account is the mass of silence. The total amount of silence in an isolated system [this one, small conversation for instance] remains constant over time. The total silence is conserved over time. Consider this: during our conversation a bird flies overhead; it appears to be heading due west. Or this: we are having this conversation in a bar [at the bar, in fact,as the dynamics of table banter differ slightly, yet importantly] we are not yet drunk but not quite sober. Seemingly out of nowhere a woman taps me on the shoulder, asks your name, then slaps me. I smile, take her hand tell her you mean nothing to me [this is the first lie] then I say you and I have just met [the second lie; we fucked only last week; your roommate was out of town; we were loud enough to wake the neighbors] Then [and this is the essential part] I stop talking. You stop talking. The woman stops. Everyone in the fucking bar stops talking; and that bird starts to head east. Its wings smooth against a shiny sky; sky bending to the weight of the horizon. And that horizon becomes a grey wire; the filament that separates disbelief from faith; sound from silence.

Second Law of Silence

Entropy always increases or remains constant in a silent system

Why do we have to go through this again? I’m not saying I’m right but goddamn it every time we have these wordless arguments I leave and you remain, cloister yourself in martyrdom [not out of a higher love; you are more stubborn than me] For some reason [the death of your mother; father; the husband who doesn’t really love you?] you do not seem to believe. You want to live life like there are no laws or physics; you would defy [deny] them for the sake of love, poetry, art [because that is what matters you say]. We have been around the block, you should know how it works by now. There are rules and regs [it is what it is baby; I know how it pisses you off when I say that] And yet you respond with silence [You see, since silence can be modeled as a closed system; silence is considered to be entropic – that is, running down.] You write me notes; post-its on the fridge; legal pad letters under my door; scratch paper questions on the nightstand [always your side, never mine; I wonder what that says about us] then there are the perfumed letters scattered randomly [those seem to appear mostly after makeup sex] Then there was Plan B: you cut your hair [in my bathroom] all Patti Smith; chop chop chop; to look hip/edgy/sexy/cool [and damn you surely did. But really,] all I ever wanted was to be your scarecrow man, black feathers falling at my feet; a lit match, your nothing that you carry in your back pocket; the thing that takes the edge off a sonic boom.

Third Law of Silence

If one could reach absolute silence, all bodies would have the same entropy

Okay, I give up I can’t do this [not the relationship thing; my unwillingness
to let go] I mean, of course I can, it’s all a choice and I’m simply making
a different choice [yeah, I know you don’t believe me and it only feels like
I’ve been saying this forever] it’s all or nothing [for me anyway] and that’s
the biggest problem with us [read: me]. Give me a gun baby and I’ll shoot
the moon. Remember how we met? I bought you a drink; told you I wasn’t
ready for a relationship [half truth; I wanted to fuck you] and you thought
that was so postmodern/honest/what-great-insight-into-yourself. You told
me about some poem written about some woman that was just meant to be
read in a bar [I had no idea; acted like I knew and couldn’t recall the name
of the poem] her name was Celia; you recited the first two lines. I laughed,
told you it was cute [another half truth; I wanted to fuck]. And although one
could say it was wrong, one could say it was manipulative [one can also
approach absolute silence as closely as one desires, though one cannot
actually reach this limit] I believed every word you said [finally; honest].
You didn’t leave with me, said you were married [much later, in bed,
admitted you wanted to fuck me right then and there] said, in a whisper
you couldn’t ditch your friend; it all felt very conspiratorial. By the way,
got your last note, read it as a poem. Keeping this one; not nearly as close
as I would desire; but livable.

I am not (you always have to say this when suggesting all is not well with this country) anti-semitic. But I am fed up with the government of Israel, which stays in power only by kowtowing to the most extreme religious elements of its culture, and its exceptionalist presumptions.

The most recent example of its troubles, its over-reaction to the poem by Gunter Grass, a speaking of truths about their abandonment of their founding principles which they will not acknowledge.

saying what must not be said

so a poet writes
the truth
about a nation
that uses history
as a bludgeon
to silent critics
who suggest that
evils of the past
do not excuse abuse
of subjugated peoples
in the present; that do not
excuse imperialistic
based on religious
mythology; that do not
excuse theft of the
property of honest
farmers and merchants;
that do not excuse doing evil
to some as evil was done
by others to you;
that do not excuse, even in the face
of real threat, belligerence
against innocents
as well as those who
threaten; that do not
excuse holding innocents
as hostage against
enemies real and imagined;
that do not excuse
against truth-tellers
because truth is not
an acceptable response
to your myth
of moral superiority

there is no excuse
for self-delusion
or insistence that
your own self-serving
must be accepted as truth
by all others

if the truth disturbs you,
the problem is not
in the truth but
in you

Here's a poem by Victor Martinez, who died in February last year.

The following is from his obituary which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Poetry is the only thing that can save the world.

So said Victor Martinez, a nationally acclaimed novelist and poet who died Feb. 18 in his Mission District apartment.

He was 56. Mr. Martinez died after a malignant tumor in his throat spread cancer to his lungs.

The self-described workingman's writer drew from his Fresno childhood in a farmworker family for his celebrated novel, "Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida," which was awarded the 1996 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Centered on the life of a 14-year-old Central Valley boy from the projects dealing with gangs, an alcoholic father and racist classmates, "Parrot" was originally banned in some schools for its violent scenes, but it's now a staple on many school reading lists.

It was his first, and only, major publication.

"It was very important for Victor to be known as an American writer," said his wife, Tina Alvarez. "He was not writing for any specific group. He was writing for everyone."

Growing up, Mr. Martinez worked in the fruit and vegetable fields with his parents and spent time in his room pecking at a typewriter. His first poem was tossed by a grade school teacher who told him even the trash can didn't want it. But he didn't give up.

He enrolled at California State University Fresno through an affirmative action program and was later awarded the prestigious Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University to study creative writing for two years. But when the teaching requirements of the fellowship impinged on his writing time, he left the program. He wrote in the early mornings and supported himself in various jobs as a welder, truck driver, firefighter, teacher and office clerk.

With dreams of creating a West Coast version of the Algonquin Round Table writers group in New York, Mr. Martinez found kindred artists in the Mission District. He helped create Humanizarte, a collective of Chicano poets, and he joined the Chicano/Latino Writers' Center of San Francisco, where he honed his craft. He began writing book, theater and film reviews for La Revista Literaria de El Tecolote. He submitted his writings to various anthologies and literary journals. In 1985 he married Alvarez, his former student at Stanford.

"The language of his poetry was so strong, and so different from the overtly political Chicano culture at Stanford at the time," Alvarez said. "His poetry was more about life and thoughts. It made you think."

There were also practical reasons to their union - her government job came with health benefits, which Mr. Martinez needed for routine polyps that grew on his vocal cords. The benign tumors, which began appearing in puberty, had to be removed by a scalpel, and then after technological inventions, a laser. Over a 10-year period, he had dozens of surgeries, including one that required doctors to put strips of Teflon between his vocal cords and anchor them with wires, Alvarez said.

Doctors said the polyps were often found in people who had grown up around pesticides, and Mr. Martinez always believed his work in the fields contributed to his health problems.

Once he turned to writing full time, Mr. Martinez began writing six hours a day, eventually securing an office at the Writers' Grotto. A book of poems, "Caring for a House," was published by a small Bay Area press in 1992 and is now out of print.

A year ago, he found out one of the vocal cord polyps had become malignant. He tried radiation treatments, which silenced his voice the last two months of his life.

Some Things Left Unsaid

What can you say better than carcinoma?
Or the warty-eyed virus eating at the vocal chords?
the skies, the rivers and forests a brain dreams
get cut away by the same scalpel
that cuts away a malignant tumor.

Look at the boy who can't walk, the lipless girl,
the half-lung man.
there are words, but they mostly go unsaid
in EKG results, in the echoes after a sonogram
has sounded, in the worried ghost of an x-rat.

Over and over in tomography charts, in bloody washbasins,
or the grave histories of lint beside the vacuum cleaner
something is talked out, perhaps explained, analyzed
or trusted to God.

How do you speak about diseased blood?
How do you say,
when cancer spreads it arms inside your arms,
"I'm in love today." or "I'm going home."

But the sun passes over, or rather earth passes over the sun,
with its latest tally of diseases, bringing the light
that brailles another million of megabytes
o the computer disc of global massacres.
It's as if the horizon wants consistency above all,
above all a little consistency.

And so we are swept by the same wind that nourishes the leaves
for erasure.
But let our little children keep playing,
and the tongue of beef keep bubbling in the clay pot;
all of creation just keeps spinning quietly on,
leaving everything unsaid.

Okay, you want to write a poem a day? You better be prepared for days like this.

and so:

I see a fella running down the street
flames leaping fiery from his feet

and then:


that’s the reason I don’t try to rhyme
in my poems, cause once I get two simple rhymes
in a row I’m done

by the way, is that street/feet thing
one rhyme or two)

I don’t even know something as simple
as that

thinking about putting the poor poetry bizwacks down
and writing a great novel
like Dostoyevsky
but pulling that many words
from just my head is ochen pesky

tiny poems
with just a very few words


“the moon settled
into a sharp-jawed marsh of lunatic
as I
screamed at the metaphoric
rending of flesh
and sinew
Fyodor forgive me,
and he did, saying, as the moon bubbled
and burped marsh gas
like a diesel truck
idlying at Mary Jo’s
Gas and Sqeeze


Here's a poem by another of my poetry friends, Mira Desai.

Born in 1964 in Calcutta, Mira was brought up in the once-princely-but-now-holding-on-to-cultural-vestiges city of Baroda. Like all good middle class Indians, she says, Mira took a technical degree(Pharmacy!) and an MBA and joined a pharma company. She believes the music lessons she'd taken on and off practically all her growing years have trickled into her work, a story or poem here, a memoir there.

Now Mira lives in Mumbai, where she finds stories swimming in the smog-haze. She is, she proclaims, a proud member of the internet writing wotkshop and Blueline poetry where she and I became acquainted though our work.

Her fiction has featured in Birmingham Art Journal, Reading Hour, Pure Slush, Granny Smith, In her Voice, Flashes in the dark, and numerous others. Her translated stories have been published in Indian Literature, Words without Borders, 91st Meridian, Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. As a nonfiction writer, her work has appeared in Frostwriting and is pending publication in Annalemma.


The vocalist begins his performance
Lays out the boundary of the raga
With the patience built of millennia,
Raga that the connoisseur can name with a note or two
Just that--just that quiver, that pitch, that shade between the notes
And in a few notes
Unaware of the sepia of the 1960’s documentary, the long forgotten maestro,
spins magic...
Birds chirp
Tender leaves unfurl to the first dawn
Clouds float past a mountainside
Sunshine gleams off
A river that splashes from one bank to the other
A king returns from fourteen years of exile
To the chime of temple bells
His subjects throng the streets, shower petals and sing words of welcome
Even as the cuckoo trills on the distant neem
That half hour of magic
Anchors my days.

Speaking of your creepy poems, this one has to be high on the list. (Hope so, anyway.) I wrote it about ten years ago.

so long have I been waiting

for three months
I waited for you,
right here,
this place, this table,
but you have not come...

for three months
I've called you every night,
but you don't answer...

I know you love me

I could see it in your eyes
when I first saw you
at that table in the corner,
alone, waiting,
for someone like me

    I followed you home that night,
    but still not sure you loved me,
    I was careful to stay out of sight

for three months I've waited for you
and for three months you haven't come...

now, I'll wait no more...

you must be home,
and waiting just for me

My last piece from the Aztlan anthology this week is by Robert Vasquez.

Born and raised in the California Central Valley, Vasquez earned a BA in English at California State University, Fresno, an MFA in English at the University of California at Irvine, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Sanford University.

He has won several literary awards, including three Academy of American Poets Prizes, three National Society of Arts & Letters Awards, a National Writers Union Award, and—for his book, At the Rainbow, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award.

In addition to teaching creative writing at the University of California campuses at Irvine and Santa Cruz, Vasquez was the King/Chavez/Parks Visiting University Professor in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Western Michigan University in the mid 1990s, and in 2000 he was Visiting Associate Professor and Distinguished Visiting Writer in Residence in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of California at Davis. Since 1991, Vasquez has been on the permanent faculty at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California.

California Sonnets: Night Sequence

for Mary Ann & for the doctor

I look up at the night's broad back
gone crazy with tattoos of light, seasonal
signs almost beyond stoppage, and let
the unsayable build skyward. As it is
I've put off sleep, its gray tunnel
circular and face-filled, to take in blue
pulse-points that work the peninsular dark.
Last night, below the ridgeline that blocks
out the ocean's amplitude, a woman
called me to bed. And slow's the sprawl
of the almost-in-love, their wave and blur
charging their own amplitude. Yielding, we took
to the windowsill, like children almost, the curtains
blown wide as if calling the star-sprawl in, almost.

Witness the Bear's stoked belly, his burning
stupor commanding the rooftops...Of course
this changes nothing; by morning the windows
are wing-sliced; all day the languid ladies
of the field and wild cowpeas still carry
hillsides into spring; the live oaks true
posture of pain deepens. But I know,
due to celestial warp, some stars are black
cinders where they seem to blaze; scars
of light that survive the body. Dead suns
do that; they haunt with their ghost-lit patinas;
they reach us with their fixed and mapped
movements, like old lovers; pliable arcs of light,
they come on inarticulate, glassy, and sure.

For the nightsky''s vault issues insomnia,
someone said, those troubled hours withholding
the passage and balance good sleep drifts back to.
In Los Altos I join the bare-knuckled ones
who browse the neoprene bags and dumpster spillage.
And my nose swells with the road-smear of skunk, not
the living kind that will not scare, but a tire-
smashed stripe, creamy clear, almost afloat.
They say eternity's a channel in the sky.
- As if the skunk soul veers upward and drafts
like a kite. - As if the skunk angels
could spot this small jaywalker, stalled
like the number 1, beneath the intersections
of heaven. - As if I were in love.


Out of the fissured earth, columbine will mount,
suffer, and sustain acres of thistle and mud;
the high, plain shouts of children
half-heard a block away at recess will strive
to twine the day together. bells and mission. But
before you rise from sleep's wash, think of raccoons
arrogant on Dixon Way, who palm chicken bones
before they rehouse the flood drains; think
of me hogging a whole street the way ladles
hog zones in the sky. Think how the wintered
and rolling earth reveals itself, how
everything the night holds out and clarifies,
like love, withdraws suddenly from the limbs
and organs of intake: hands, eyes, and heart.

Here are a couple of poems written ten years ago, just a couple of months apart, that prove that men, no matter how old, can slip back into the fifteen year old they used to be at the least provocation.


bellies are sexy,
and backs down low,
that place where
the waist tapers
to its thinnest
and the flare
of the hips begins,
and right there,
a tattoo, a rose
or a butterfly
that shows
for just a flash
with each shift
of a soft jersey,
with every step,
every routine
of a tight
body unaware
of its power,
bellies and backs
and pretty toes
painted bright
for dancing
on the beach
around a driftwood
fire, pretty toes
on packed sand
on a starlit
summer night,
woodsmoke like clouds
across the moon

Saturday night at Crossroads Mall

bright-faced little girls

with tight little butts
and bare flat bellies

dance the night
with squeal and swivel

and the scent of innocence
ablaze with wanting

and the boys,
the poor little boys

strut and posture
and burn for the chase

knowing not who is the hunter
and who is the prey

Here are two pieces by Paula Rankin, one poem and one something that looks like a lost fragment of something else I can't find.

The poems are from here book Augers, published in 1981 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press.

I could not find a complete biography of the poet, just the following short death notice from dated January,1997.

Paula Rankin - the celebrated Newport News poet - had found peace after a decade of illness and addiction and was at her happiest in the year before her death, friends and family said Monday.

A memorial service for the Hampton University professor will be held at 3 p.m. today at Hilton Presbyterian Church in Newport News. She died Sunday at age 53 of emphysema and a rare disease that had attacked her lungs, said her son, Walter Rankin.

Poem for Miners

does everyone wake up one day
to find his vocation is looping
Texas interstate, odd country where,
no matter what pre-Neanderthal cell
his family began in, there is a counterpart,
- ocean, forest, rock, tumbleweed,
boom towns still on the map
and everyone's desert,

as if, with luck, a man might accidentally
veer down a ramp and stake a claim
on a family plot passed down to him
in a will burned before America?

Does everyone sooner or later wake
as I do now, inside so many other bodies,
sifting genes like a prospector panning for gold?

All I have of my Texas father
is a snapshot staring through credit cards,
through the cracked seam in my wallet
towards anything I pretend
is the object of his attention.
Father, I am low on luck, so forgive me
if I walk you up and down the tracks
of the Santa Fe, as if it will help you
lose weight, improve your circulation,
stoke coals into the failed furnace
of your heart. Is there anything here
I can hammer like a spike into railroad ties,
something so true I can finish
the unfinishable novel
about men who walk off
and keep walking
and never look back
except through eyes flattened
to fit inside wallets?

If I say I stand in Sweetwater, Texas,
asking this, I mean it as any town
where no Alamo overshadows other defeats -
one man gong down at a time
one descendant mining for the least
geiger count transmitted
in the unreasoning hope
he will know how to pass it down.

This next fragment is on a page by itself,untitled, seemingly unconnected to anything else and not included in the table of contents as a piece by itself.

it just starts at the top of the page and ends about half way down.

There was no walking on water,
but there were moments we rode like surfers
on ocean breaking under us
with its heave of undertow and silt.

And still the magic
happens: my neighbor's sow
nurses kittens he's give her
to eat; purposes are thwarted
even here, in Tennessee,
where I came to grow mature
and acquiescent, to put aside the child's fascination
with dark mirrors, the faith which swears
she saw hands silvering themselves
across her dimly lit face.

I wrote this poem about 1967-68 while with the military, stationed at an American intelligence outpost on Pakistan's Northwest Frontier.


with a long and gently stick
the shepherd guides his flock to pasture
reserved for this season's sustenance

wooly-bearded and stringy like his sheep
he talks to them
in a quiet language only they and he share


he puts the flock to graze
and rests
in the shade of a sun-stunted tree

in the distance,
bleak and barren mountains
rise and fall
in the heat-haze of the intervening desert


That's all, folks.

As usual, everything here belongs to those who made it. Mine, too, but you can have it for the cheap price of proper credit to me and to "Here and Now."

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and you can have everything that follows, but it will require money, though not much.

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"


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