A Random Universe Meets the Organization Man   Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I have a bunch of pics, many, for reasons good and/or personal (in which case, good don't count), I like. This week I have a random sampling of some I like.

Continuing with the anthology gambit, I have this week Atomic Ghosts, subtitled "Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age." The book was published in 1995 by Coffee House Press.

Which reminds me of why I did not end up an anthropologist, a subject which did and does interest me. My introductory course professor, a strong adherent to all conventional wisdom, however shallow and simplistic, was making the argument in class that we were in a new age, the "Atomic Age." I argued with him, suggesting that the atomic age began when the first bomb was dropped and ended the next day, when bomb number two fell. Instead, I suggested we were entering an "information storage and retrieval age."

This being 1969 and him most likely never having heard of a "computer" and, further, having no interest in such a trivial machine (unless it was atomic powered), and, even further, having no interest or patience with having his convictions (which he picked up at the most recent faculty cocktail party) questioned, reacted quite angrily. And, of course, being nearly 30 years old and quite set in my own mind, I argued back vigorously.

It turned out that the professor was not one to be argued with, and being of a very long memory, neither forgiving nor forgetting, he rewarded my prescience with a "D" in the class and since he taught all the anthropology courses at the University, I decided that the chances of me every doing better than a "D" in any anthropology class he taught were minimal, my best course of action was to do something else. Which I did, which has nothing to do with anything else that's going to happen in this post.

Now that I'v got that story out of the way and the forty years repressed resentment that accompanies it, here's what's up this week.

who don’t think it’s a great idea?

Lorine Niedecker
"The Radio Talk…"

William Stafford
At the Bomb Testing Site

Gary Snyder
Vapor Trails

stringing fence on the Rio Grande

Joyce Carol Oates
Make-Up Artist
Photography Session
The Consolation of Animals

geckos is a-okay

Jack Marshall
In the Shadow of the Poisoned Wind

Arroyo Pastoral

Daniel Nathan Terry
The Battle of Fredericksburg - December 13, 1862
Private Haydon - The Field (Fredericksburg)
Noah Williams - Still Life Outside the Surgeon’s Tent(Fredericksburg
Noah Williams - The Good Gray Poet

forwarding address

Lynn Emanuel
The Planet Krypton

just the dark

Marina Tsvetaeva
you throw back your head
where does this tenderness come from

Slow Dancing on a Rainy Day (short story)

Barbara Kingsolver
Waiting for the Invasion

Shore Leave (short story)

Naomi Shihab Nye
Living Where We Do

the role of squirrels in heaven

David Romtvedt
Eating Dinner at My Sisters

finding our way

Langston Hughes
Walkers with the Dawn
Dream Variation

Missing Smitty (short story)

Shinkichi Takahashi

David Ignatow

Simon and Garfunkel

Robert Pinsky
The Anniversary

not my fault

Kitty Pride (RIP)

My first poem for this week, written last week when I finally slipped into a Spring state of mind.

who don’t think it’s a great idea?

legs are out

in shades from pasty white
to ebon night

according to ethnocentricital
on the basic and original design...

all that winter-chilled
thrown open to
warming sun,
arms and shoulders
and bellies
and the beginning swell
(and sometimes more)
of peek-a-boo

good god-amighty, man!
ain’t it a glory-smack-straight-in-your-face
time of year

who in the world don’t think that’s a hell’uv a grand

As I mentioned above I have a little trouble with the whole idea of a nuclear age.

For me, what people are talking about when the talk of the nuclear age is actually the Cold War period. And I remember that well, the duck and cover exercises in school, watching for Russian bombers from atop the fire station, listening, as a new college freshman, to Kennedy's Cuban missile crises speech and assuming I was due for one off the shortest college careers ever, and, certainly, the bomb was a major part of the fear and paranoia of the time. But thinking back on those days, I can't help but come to the tentative, heretical conclusion that nuclear bombs and the potential they offered for mutual obliteration was the single most important factor contributing to our avoidance of a World War III.

Again a divergence from the purpose at hand, which is/was introducing three short poems from the anthology.

The first of the three poems is by Lorine Niedecker, a Wisconsin poet and the only woman poet associated with the Objectivist movement. She was born in Wisconsin in 1902, lived her entire life there and died in 1970.

"The radio talk..."

The radio talk this morning
was of obliterating
the world

I notice fruit flies rise
from the rind
of the recommended

The next short poem is by William Stafford, a Kansas poet who was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 1970. He born in 1914 and died 1993.

Growing up in the depression era, Stafford graduated from high school in the town of Liberal in 1933. After attending junior college, he received a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1937. He was drafted into the United States armed forces in 1941, while pursuing his master's degree at the University of Kansas, when he became a conscientious objector. As a registered pacifist, he performed alternative service from 1942 to 1946 in the Civilian Public Service camps operated by the Brethren Service Commission of the Church of the Brethren, which consisted of forestry and soil conservation work in Arkansas, California, and Illinois for $2.50 per month.

At the Bomb Testing Site

At noon in the desert a panting lizard
waited for history, its elbows tense,
watching the curve of a particular road
as if something might happen

It was looking at something farther off
than people could see, an important scene
acted in stone for little selves
as they flute end of consequences.

There was just a continent without much on it
under a sky that never cared less.
Ready for a change, the elbows waited.
The hands gripped hard on the desert.

And, last for this series of three, a poem by Gary Snyder.

Vapor Trails

Twin streaks twice higher than cumulus,
Precise plane icetracks in the vertical blue
Cloud-flaked light-shot shadow-arching
Field of all future war, edging off to space.

Young expert U.S. pilots waiting
The day of criss-cross rockets
And white blossoming smoke of bomb,
The air world torn and staggered for these
Specks of brushy land and ant-hill towns -

   I stumble on the cobble rockpath
Passing through temples,
Watching for two-leaf pine
   - spotting that design

When I returned to writing in 1999, after a 30 year hiatus, I started first to rework old poems (in fact, the first poem I published that year appeared in a print edition of Maelstrom and was written in 1969).

That poem is not the next poem.

The next poem is the kind of thing I mostly started writing next, semi-autobiographic and verbose, with storyteller ambitions. They were not such bad poems, but with not much in common with what I write today.

I worked on the poem this week, trying to eliminate some of its excesses without losing the voice of the poet I was thirteen years ago.

Stringing Fence on the Rio Grande

It was damn hot the summer of ‘63
and me and Toby
was right in the middle of it, working
for a fella named Lackland Caintrail
in the cactus and caliche badlands
between Laredo and Old Guerrero.

Caintrail was a banker,
bought himself a few head
of stringy looking cattle and
a hundred acres of Rio Grande brush
and decided he was a rancher,
even though he didn’t know diddly
about range cows and ranching.

I wasn’t much of a cowboy either,
but my friend Toby knew the work
and he’d got me out of scrapes before
so I knew he’d watch out for me, get
me across a pasture without too much cow
flop on my boots, keep me from sitting
on a cactus or pissing on a rattlesnake.

Mostly, we was fixing up the fences,
putting in new cedar posts,
stringing barb wire,
so I didn’t need to know much,
just how to turn a post hole digger,
though it’s harder to do than talk about
since putting a hole in that hard-packed
South Texas caliche’s not much different
from digging in an asphalt parking lot
in downtown Fort Worth, except it’s hotter’n
hell and the only shade in fifty miles is under
a scrubby brush that’s more’n likely
already been claimed by a nest of rattlers.

It was hard work,
and the hotter and harder it got,
the thirstier we got, and the thirstier we got
the longer seemed the days and nights baking
in the desert, waiting for our paycheck,
until, usually, the last week in the month,
we’d cleanup, put on some good jeans, polish
up our Fancy-Dan boots and drive the forty miles
to town, to where the Red Cross Blood Bank stayed
open late for cash-short rig hands and cowboys
running dry, light, and summer-night lonely.

Me and Toby’d line up
with the other roughnecks,
take our turn, and get what we could,
which wasn’t much for me, barely buy
a couple of six-packs, but, Toby, for a
black man, he was lucky as hell, had a gold
mine running in his veins, each pint
enough to get us across the bridge
to Nuevo Laredo with money
for a woman, tequila and cigars and a
big meal of something besides pinto beans

Here are several poems by Joyce Carol Oates, from her book The Time Traveler, published most recently in 1989 by E.P. Dutton.

Makeup Artist

"I feel like such a...shit.
I rescued this little lost terrier
on Broadway and Ninetieth, mangy little thing
that couldn't even bark, I took him home,
took him to the vet, nursed him back
to health or almost, then,Labor Day week-
end - my husband and I are separated, that's
the thing - I went to Atlantic City with a
friend and when I got back Skippy was dead.
I guess I 'd sort of forgotten him, locked
in the kitchen, so much on my mind I forgot
to give him extra water and food and he never
did bark, just sort of accepted things....
Look straight up at the ceiling now, I promise
I won't jab you in the eye."

Photography Session

- in memory of Jim Jacobs

You died on Wednesday. On Friday
I'm hauled by limousine to be photographed
for a magazine feature, Charles Street
near Varick, a garbagey smell to the air.
March 25 and warm as May! "My object,"
the photographer explains, "is an utterly
natural image." His five assistants, all male,
move like dancers in the semi-dark.

For years you'd kept your dying a secret.
The illness...it's dread name. Chemotherapy
and blood transfusions and the rest. Sparing
us, one might say cheating us of premature sorrow.

Thirty minutes were required to make up my face.
Pain doesn't sweat at any pore, nor
does the meager soul reveal itself.
Layered in past, paint, rouge, I'm safe.
"look into the lens," the photographer says
patiently, repeatedly, "- look at me."

The Consolation of Animals

It's their not knowing how they must die.
The emptiness of their beautiful eyes.
The heat and damp and pulse of their breaths,
the way joy seizes them like a miniature death -
and no shame in it.

Here's another piece I wrote last week.

geckos is a-okay

a petite young girl
maybe nineteen or twenty,
with pale green eyes,
the color of sea foam on a bright day

the pretty girl has a tic,
an unconscious (I assume) habit
of, on a semi-regular basis,
opening her eye very wide, as if
suddenly seeing a naked picture
of Pope Pius the 87th, or similar,
you get the idea,
eyes stretched open
much wider than normal,
then relaxing them to normal,
giving her,
for that very brief moment
of eye-stretched agogish appearance
like that gecko on TV,
selling insurance or something, I’m not sure,
the pitch-gecko being more interesting
and fun than the product being pitched

I notice recently she has obtained glasses
for herself, a very attractive pair,
dark like her hair,
that frame her foam-green eyes

maybe this will help

but, if not, no worries,
the gecko is a very adorable
and intelligent seeming creature
just as she,
eyes agoged or not,
is a very adorable
and intelligent seeming creature,
and, after all,
it could be a lot worse, for example,
though I have spent little time
in my life
on a lily pad
I am sometime mistaken to be
of the bullfrog persuasion
due to the lines and structure of my physiognomy
and my squat and warty appearance
when at rest,
so, my fine and adorable young girl,
if gecko is the worst it comes to
you are still doing great

postscriptumly speaking:

I’m sorry ladies,
I know some of you might object
to my description of this young lady
as a “girl” - reducing women to a subservient position
through an act of “infantilization”
as some of your more strident sex
but you have to understand
you are all girls to me
until about the age 47
at which point you become “m’aam”

it’s just the way I was raised

men, on the other hand, usually
stay boys
until about the age of eighty-seven...

it’s just the way they were raised

The next poem from this week's anthology is by Jack Marshall, born in Brooklyn in 19376 to an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother of Jewish heritage. Author of numerous books and poems, He grew up speaking Arabic in a Sephardic Jewish household ruled by traditional Arab Jewish culture. He attended public school as well as a Hebrew school in his neighbourhood.

In the Shadow of the Poisoned Wind

In Arctic latitudes, almost another
planet, Laplanders herd their radiation-
laden reindeer down from their mountain

feeding grounds. Without a sound now
they glide like robes of royalty, billowing, breathing
sleeves of vapor, tiara antlers, thick

fur glowing dark as mahogany
fattened o vegetation watered by nuclear rains.
To be slaughtered, and not eaten. So we

go into what has been gliding
forward to meet us from so long ago
we have seen coming against the black

velvet of galactic space,
the many pouring down to the one
wave not yet broken. Shadow

on ice, here and gone.

Here's another thing from my return to poetry in 1999. This one has been rehabbed extensively, cut by about a third among other things. Still pretty long, but not nearly as dense as it was with all its roundabout verbiage and adjectival excess moderated at least a little.

Arroyo Pastoral

Large willow trees grew along the arroyo,
all the way from where it broke off from the river
to where it emptied into the gulf.

A path skirted
the edge of the muddy stream
in the shade
of the cooling trees,
their canopy of hanging branches
blocking the summer sun
and dipped into the water as it passed,
caressing the surface
with lazy green fingers.

I learned to swim there.
dangling from the drooping branches,
falling, splashing, whooping,
startling the birds to silence, cardinals,
red-coated with hipster head tufts , mocking-
birds, fussy and aggressive
if you strayed to close to their nests,
and little brown-coat sparrows, and
bluejays, orioles, chattering chachalaca,
preening and calling above us,
feeding on the wild grapes that draped the trees,
tiny, sour grapes, green, no good to ear,
but the dried vine good to smoke in the shadows.

I shot a bird under those trees,
I shot a bird in mid-song, with my bb gun,
blue-barreled and smelling of oil
and the sweat of my cheek on its wooden stock,
watched the bird fall,
a bright crimson scar dripping
from under its eye.

Of the many sins
in my life,
that’s the first I remember
and the one I remember with most pain.

Sometimes, I caught turtles
from the arroyo, mean, snapping turtles
that would take a finger
if it came within reach, I caught them
for the soup my mother would make for dinner,
but not often - I watched them more than I like
the soup, liking
the shy , tentative way they lifted their head,
sometimes showing only their lidded eyes
and the black holes of their nostrils before
hiding again underwater.

I also took catfish from the water,
crafty looking fish, sinister
with their wide gulping mouth
and fu Manchu mustache, and the spiny fins
that made them dangerous even dead on the ground.

Catfish grow until they die, and some of the catfish
in the arroyo were very old and very large, but not as large
as the gar, alligator looking fish, six feet or more
long, ferocious-looking and ugly, like refugees from some
prehistoric sea, with greasy, nasty smelling meat that made them
not good to eat.

And, late at night, frogs, bellowing
from the marshy pools at the water’s edge.
We hunted them at night, with lights, and gigs, and
fast hands, for their legs, fried, dipped in red sauce, with
onion rings, boracho beans and cornbread.

I spent years as a child along those muddy waters,
watching horned toads feed at red ant beds,
watching rabbits run through the brush,
watching skunk, raccoon, small, stunty deer,
families of hairy, greasy-looking javelinas, like pigs
on a drunk, and, once, a wildcat, a jaguarundi roaming
north from Mexico, small an gray, a flash
in the corner of my eye, so fast.

Then, one day, the bulldozers came.

I could hear the diesel roar growing closer,
the smell of their exhaust, the clanking clatter
of their massive tracks, frightened birds
shrieking as the trees and their nests fell,
the birds, circling in confusion, as brush and trees
were pushed into high piles, the crackling of fires burning
the piles to ashes, the nests and lairs of all the animals
howling into the sky in smoke and fire.

All of us cleared away, the birds, the trees, the animals, me,
all of us, superfluous, a distraction,
in irritant, a diversion from matters more important
to someone or something bigger than we.

All of us gone away, as if we had never been, a bare plain
by muddy water all they left

Next, I have four poems by Daniel Nathan Terry from his book Capturing the Dead, a collection of poems telling the same stories of the Civil War that we see in the photographs of Matthew Brady and other war photographers of the time.

The book was the 2007 winner of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Stevens Poetry Competition and was published that year by NFSPS press.

The Battle of Fredericksburg - December 13, 1862
It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."
- General Robert E. Lee

In the cold of November, the Union army
arrives at the rain-swollen banks of the Rappahannock,
ahead of the pontoon bridges Burnside ordered

for the crossing. He fears the depths,the slow
but deadly current. Rather than risking his men,
he waits for nearly a month until the bridges arrive.

One month for Lee to discern his position, to gather
reinforcements. By then the rebels are too well
dug in, impossible to dislodge even for the great black cannons

of the North. The Union soldiers send wave after wave of men
across the fields, where they are cut down like autumn grain
by the rebels who hide behind the stone wall that flanks

the sunken road. The battle ends with a whimpering retreat,
with more than twelve-thousand Union casualties.
Pinned down by the Confederate artillery, they lie

where they fell. Dead horses dot the landscape like dark
boulders. The fields echo with moans, the guttural

Private Haydon

The Field (Fredericksburg)

A mercy: I cannot see
my comrades writhing in the mud.

A mercy: I cannot feel
my legs.

I hear drums. Cannons. My heart
beats slower than my blood

Let my mother weep.

Let my father's ghost smile
upon his fallen soldier.

Let my brothers raise the plow, turn
the earth of home. Let the wheat grow

ripe with the sun.

Noah Williams

Still Life Outside the Surgeon's Tent (Fredericksburg

a white-enameled
wash pan -

the kind you bath
babies in -

with severed feet.

Noah Williams

The Good Gray Poet

Whitman walks among the wounded
gathered at the commandeered mansion that serves
as a field hospital. He looks like a farmer - wide brimmed hat,

baggy clothes, a beard like pipe smoke. I want to photograph
him on his rounds - here he leans over a writhing boy,
offers his hand, his soft words of comfort. Now, he sits

beside an armless man who is succumbing to fever, places
a damp rag on his brow that burns despite the cold.
And the the image I would take: the young man dies

soundlessly, Whitman closes the dead eyes, withdraws
his hand, his head bowed in prayer or tears beneath the shadow
of his hat. Soon it will be Christmas.

A well-worn copy of Leaves of Grass rests in my haversack
with candles, hardtack. I will not interfere n the poet's mission
or interrupt his pain

with the business of history. Let this moment fall
away. I will leave this house. I will walk down to the Rappahannock
and watch the black surface as it slides downstream

devouring the snow.

This is me, last week, welcoming Spring again.

forwarding address

I’m wearing my
today, the one with the flowers
with a name I don’t remember but which
persons of a Hawaiian persuasion
would recognize immediately

no birds,
which I consider a constitutional

but, then, I’m only
the forwarding address of Spring
not the one who runs
the show

Next from the atomic anthology is this poem by Lynn Emanuel

Emanuel was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, in 1949. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa, an MA from City College of New York, and a BA from Bennington College.

In addition to her books, her work has been featured in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry numerous times and is included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She has been a judge for the National Book Awards and has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Emanuel has taught at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, The Warren Wilson Program in Creative Writing, and the Vermont College Creative Writing Program. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Planet Krypton

Outside the window the McGill smelter
sent a red dust down on the smoking yards of copper,
on the railroad tracks' frayed ends disappearing
into the congestion of the afternoon. Ely lay dull

and scuffed: a miner's boot toe worn away and dim,
while my mother knelt before the Philco to coax
the detonation from the static. From the Las Vegas
Tonapah Artillery and Gunnery Range the sound

of the atom bomb came biting like a swarm
of bees. We satin the hot Nevada dark, delighted,
when the switch was tripped and the bomb hoisted
up its silky, hooded, glittering, uncoiled length;

it hissed and spit, it sizzled like a poker in a toddy.
The bomb was no mind and all body; it sent a fire
of static down the spine. In the dark it lowed like the coils
of an electric stove. It stripped every leaf from every

branch until a willow by a creek was a bouquet
of switches resinous, naked, flexible, and fine.
Bathed in the light of KDWN, Las Vegas,
my crouched mother looked radioactive, swampy,

glaucous, like something from the Planet Krypton.
In the suave, brilliant wattage of the bomb, we were
not poor. In the atom's fizz and pop we heard possibility
uncorked. Taffeta wraps whispered on davenports.

A new planet bloomed above us; in its light
the stumps of cut pine gleamed like dinner plates.
The world was beginning qll over again, fresh and hot;
we could have anything we wanted.

Here's of my standing-in-the-dark-early-in-the-morning poems. This one from last week.

just the dark

five days
of cloudy nights

no moon no

just the dark
at the top of the stairs

Now I have three poems by Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva from her Selected Poems, originally published in 1971, my Penguin Classics edition published in 1994.

I've told Tsvetaeva's complicated story a number of times here, from her birth in 1892 to her happy and secure childhood to the turmoil and brutality of the revolution and early twentieth century Russia, the death of a daughter from deprivation, exile, the death of her husband in a labor camp and her own suicide in 1941.

Her's was not a happy life, but happy lives were rare for anyone during that period of her country's history.

Her poems were translated by Elaine Feinstein.

You throw back your head

You throw back your head, because
you are proud. And a braggart. This February has
brought me a gay companion!

Clattering with gold pieces, and
slowly puffing our smoke, we
walk like solemn foreigners
throughout my native city.

And whose attentive hands have
touched your eyelashes, beautiful boy,and
when or how many times your
lips have been kissed

I do not ask. That dream my thirsty
spirit has conquered. Now
I can honor in you the
divine boy, ten years old!

Let us wait by the river that
rinses the colored beads of street-lights:
I shall take you as far as the square
that has witnessed adolescent Tsars.

Whistle out your boyish
pain, your heart squeezed in your hand.
My indifferent and crazy creature -
now set free - goodbye!


Where does this tenderness come from?

Where does this tenderness come from?
These are not the - first curls I
have stroked slowly - and lips I
have known are - darker than yours

as stars rise often and go out again
(where does this tenderness come from?)
so many eyes have risen and died out
   in front of these eyes of mine.

and yet no such song have
I heard n the darkness of night before,
(where does this tenderness come from?)
   here on the ribs of the singer.

Where does this tenderness come from?
And what shall I do with it, young,
sly singer, just passing by)
Your lashes are - longer than anyone's.



Young men, don't ride away! Sand
   stifled the soul of the
last one to disappear and now
   he's altogether dumb.

To look for him is useless.
   (Young men, I never lie.)
That lost one now reposes
   in a reliable grave.

He once rode into me as if
   through lands of
miracles and fire,with all
   the fire of poetry, and

I was: dry, sandy, without day.
   He used poetry
to invade my depths,like those of
   any other country!

Listen, to this story of two
   souls without jealousy
se entered on another's eyes
   as if they were oases -

I took him into me as if he were
   a god, in passion,
simply because of a charming tremor
   in his young throat.

Without a name he sank into me. But now
   he's gone. Don't search for him.
All deserts forget the thousands of
   those who sleep in them.

And afterwards the Sahara in one
   seething collapse will
cover you also with sandlike sprinkled
   foam. And be your hill!


The next old piece I’m going to try to rehabilitate was originally written in 1966 while I was attend the Air Force Intensive Language Training Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Normally, my fellow airmen and I tried to live up to our responsibilities as military Russian students by drinking to excess most nights. On this particular night I ended up in the University library with a yellow pad and pencil and began to write. (For those who have been around a while, this was also the night I ran, literally, into Chet Huntley of TV news fame. He had been giving a speech at the library and I bumped into him on my way for a bathroom break. He was very tall, as was Brinkley who I met briefly twenty years later at a Chamber of Commerce event.)

I originally wrote this as a short story. As I have continued to work on it over the years (I never throw anything away), I have taken it from story to poem and back to story many times. For this rehab attempt I’m taking it back to story since I see no reason why it ought to try to be a poem.

Influenced by early Hitchcock, I tried to make it a creepy story. Maybe so, though as I look at it now, forty-six years later, I can imagine creepy to degrees unimagined by my twenty-two year old self.

Slow Dancing on a Rainy Day


   I woke to her slow breathing beside me, then turned on my side to watch her sleep.

   She was a study in brown on a gray day.

   A brown dress I had seen her wear a hundred times, small on her, high-necked and tight to the waist where it flared out to end above her knees. The color of the dress a match to her hair and a shaded contrast to her tanned skin and yellow-flecked eyes, like a cat, closed now in sleep.

   I brushed a wisp of hair from her forehead, traced the path of her eyebrow and ran my finger down the line of her nose; passed my fingertips over her lips and chin and down the curve of her neck, then back to the pale whisper of down on her upper lip.

   She laughed in her sleep and ran her tongue over her lips, her teeth a flash of white in bedroom shadows.

   I cupped her chin, the kissed her lightly. Her eyelids fluttered and she opened her cat-yellow eyes, bright in the tangled dim of our bed.
   She raised her hand and began to speak, but I stopped her, kissed the palm of her hand and her eyes, sealed her lips. Then lay back beside her and closed my eyes.

   I felt the bed move as she got up; heard the bathroom door close, then open. I felt her beside me again. I turned and opened my arms to her.

   The rain came harder, louder against our tin roof, as I pulled her close.


   It was still raining when I woke again in late afternoon. I walked to the window and opened it, pressed my face against the wet screen. I drew in the cool damp air as fine droplets of rain passed through the screen. I passed my tongue over the screen, swallowed the rusty rain.

   I turned my back to the window and to her, asleep atop the covers, watched the slow rise and fall of her small breasts. I passed my hand over them, over the warm rise of her belly, then back again to the tiny freckles that ran across her chest and up her throat.


   Outside the rain stopped with a glare of light beaming through the window.

   But it passed and was dark again.

   With a distant rumble of thunder, the rain began again, soft and slow, like lovers consumed by sad, low-banked passion on a rainy afternoon.

   Together, we had agreed, this was to be our last afternoon.

   Together, she insisted. We should do this together.

   I did not tell her I had decided different.

   I circled her pale throat with my hands; crushed the freckles there as she slept.

The next poem from the anthology is by Barbara Kingsolver. It describes exactly the war and coming war atmosphere I remember from the early to mid-1950s.

Kingsolver was born in 1955, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona, and has worked as a freelance writer and author since 1985. At various times in her adult life she has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia.

Waiting for the Invasion

In other years I watched the sky for birds
flying south in formation.
This year they pass in unbroken lines through my sleep,
driven down on machine wings.

I know the voice you use
for telling the children not to fear
every droning sound
that scatters their play like shrapnel or shattered ice across asphalt; every approach sends them
into piles of human limbs under trucks,
sends the youngest under your breasts
that ache like the unmilked she-goat bleating somewhere,
ache with the waiting.

Every child waited for death angels: I
listened at night for the Russians, who would
know our little town
by its twin water towers.
Someone, believe this, painted the towers black
hoping to save us.
And even now, fear is a night-time animal,
winged engines pulsing and the drone
of my mother praying
in the bed where she never died.

No one slipped through a lake of night sky
in search of our secret towers.
No one. I know this now, but some believed
and believing still, prepare the massacre.

Here’s another piece for rehab from early in my return to writing in 1999.

Written first as a poem, mainly because I was convinced I couldn’t write a story, as part of the rehab I’ve turned into the story it should have been from the beginning.

Shore Leave

   Sunday morning, a week before Christmas, 1962…
   A whorehouse on a muddy street in a little border town called Nuevo Progresso…
   Home on college break, I was at the bar drinking Carta Blanca and smoking little Between the Acts cigars. My buddy, Toby, just back from three months Navy boot camp, was in one of the back rooms, dropping anchor, so to speak.
   “Hey, man,” I’d said when he got off the bus that morning, “How you doing?”
   “Shore leave horny,” he said, and laughed.
   There was only one thing he wanted that morning, and we set out in my old Ford pick-up and headed the seven miles to the border, crossed the river, and there we were, a Sunday morning whorehouse.
   He was in the back, with the ugliest whore in the grand State of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and I was up front, drinking warm beer in a bar that smells like sweat and dime store perfume. I was just beginning to feel sorry for myself, wishing I hadn’t answered the phone last night when he called; wishing I hadn’t gone to the bus station this morning, most entirely disinterested in what was for sale at this place and wishing I was back home having coffee and reading the comics, when he came out from the back of the whorehouse with the ugly whore on his arm.
   And it was just at that moment when four Federales came through the front door, rifles at the ready. Seemed there had been talk of a couple of gringo gun-runners coming though, bring guns across the border headed for Cuba. They seemed pretty sure we fit the bill.
   “Oh, shit,” I thought as they came through the door and then it was up against the wall chingaso gringos. And I was saying, “For chissake, take it easy Toby,” since he was about three quarters tanked and not real easy on the trigger even when he was sober and he was not, at that moment, sober at all.
   “Don’t get our asses shot off in a whorehouse, “I said to him, “cause I’d never be able to explain it to my mother.”
   Turned our someone else had caught the gringo gun runners a ways up the river in Reynosa, so, two hours later, they let us go, leaving us with fifteen cents to get back across the bridge and a few new bruises to remind us of lessons about the consequences of sins of the flesh on Sunday mornings.
   So we high-stepped it across the bridge and back home to drink some Lone Star and brag to our friends about the damndest Sunday morning any of us had ever had.
   “The worst part,” I told Toby, “is that you lost all your money getting laid by the ugliest whore in Northern Mexico and I’m stuck buying the beer.”
   “The worst part is,” he said, “I’m still horny."

Here's a poem by a San Antonio poet who also happens to be one of my favorite poets, Naoml Shihab Nye. The poem is from her book, Red Suitcase,published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in 1994.

Living Where We Do

I like to think of the man under the house
who failed to place a post beneath one corner,

perhaps so he could pass by 20 years later
waving a rag and humming
to see if the house had fallen in.

When it hadn't, when he found it sitting firm
in the glaze of western light,
I think he reconsidered all that time
on his knees, with jacks and hammers,
the bubble in the level leaning tipsy left,
the undersides of boards.


Julia said - Never live
in a place that's new.
She said it could shrink you.

Find a roof and walls that sang
of joining and cracking
before you were born.

Each time something topples,
each time you send out the small cry with
no home, no healing,
an echo will help pick it up.


Evenings, the houses inhale,
let go. Each one emitting
a different little cloud;
today they started school again,
today the woman with wings
and crooked hip came home.


Consider the smells
absorbed by walls,
garlic, eggplant,
Molly's pork chops next door
drifting into plaster,
the sweet slow cooking of beans.

Each old house with a baby in it
has a secret.

The hundred year old house we slept in
the first year we were married
pretends not to know us.

I don't mind.
I've seen what vines do
to railings.
Even the telephone wire
we talk over
wreathed in floral pink,
and leaves

The ex-owner left her wedding gifts
sealed in boxes, stuffed
in a shed. Fifty years - the platter,
the rusted juicer, each card
crumbling inside its envelope.
In a creaky trunk, her husband's clothes.

So many good wishes too late -
then we heard he died in the bathroom
by his own hand.

His white woolen socks
rolled into balls.


Go away, the house will wait.
All it ever did was wait,
while crisper villages rose and fell.

Strangers drive our neighborhood
on weekends, waving.

"That doesn't look so bad.
Thing what you could do to fix it up."

What it could do to fix you up.

Cold floors,
The little seam around windows
letting in weather -
a vine that snaked inside at night
and wrapped around a pillow -

your head, stem of brief blossoms,
its root lodged deep in the ground.

the role of squirrels in heaven

as I often do
about the effects
of squirrels in the after

I have set myself to think
ing of afterliving
and how it must be, attending
to the chores of celestial chorusing
and how the squirrels
and their bushy tailed cousins, chipmunks,
might fare if left out in the heavenly choral
with the horses and donkeys
and other such critters of the barnyard and verdant forested areas,
intellectually inferior and creatures of large piles
of poop in inconvenient places when compared to
squirrels and their bushy-tailed recording stars
cousins who have superior survival intellect and instincts
and tiny, discreetly deposited (have you ever seen any) poop,
completely unlike horse hockey and cow pie and donkey
dunk and who would never allow themselves to be choralled
with a bunch of horses and donkeys and the like no matter
how warm and cozy it might be to be among such a congenial, if
somewhat retarded, company, horses after all are possessors
of such infectious laughter and donkeys, well what would one do
at parties if there were no one around for tail-pinning-on, it’s
not like a squirrel (or it’s bushy tailed cousin, etc.) can just go out
on a Saturday night and get some tail, so even the lower creatures,
as is so often demonstrated, have their uses, which, takes me back,
to my original question about squirrels in the afterlife
and what effect that have on the quality of my
after-living and whether heavenly squirrels, etc. would continue
their thieving ways when it came birdseed, so diligently
laid out for the heavenly sparrows and doves and cardinals
and other non-angelic wing-ed-creatures every day
by the She-Who-Runs-The-Show who might or might not
put with the kind of squirrel nonsense those of us in non-heavenly
environs endure when it comes to trying to keep plump and happy
our non-heavenly birds who inhabit our tree-endowed backyards
and the bigger question which occurs to me
now as I writhe in confusion,
since squirrels by nature are thieving varmints
how is it they get to heaven in the first place, complications
once there, put aside for the moment, is it by faith
they are saved for the heavenly sing-along or is it by the coincidence
of their familial relationship to the musically-gifted
chipmunks for whom there is always great demand in the heavenly
musicale or is it, that, just by being true to their thieving nature
they have met the design and original intent of
and is thereby guaranteed a place in the silver-leafed halls
of for-ever-after

and what does that mean to you and me who don’t have
and are likely to ever find a clue to our own original intent or purpose
and whose transport to the eternality of forever-and-forever-amen
would seem to be completely unlike that of the true-to-their-nature thieving
squirrel, etc, and much like the weekly lotto, purely a matter of random

Next from the Atomic anthology, here's a poem by David Romtvedt.

The poet and musician graduated from Reed College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He lives in Buffalo, Wyoming and teaches at University of Wyoming.

Romtvedt plays button accordion with the band, The Fireants, which plays Latin and Cajun/Zydeco music, as well as original music written by Romtvedt. It has recorded three CDs.

Eating Dinner at My Sisters

It's another warm night.
The grass is growing.
The city shouts its city song.
The birds and bugs clack
and buzz, saying, "Here we are!"
How small the yard is
and how close the house
next door. House after house.

In the middle of our dinner
the atomic bomb falls.
For a moment I feel terror,
then, having waited so long,
this terror turns to relief.
I set down my dinner
and watch. Then I run
screaming in the yard.
Blinded, I collide with my sister
who takes my hand.

This close,what is left
of a person is shadow,
pale gray on a shattered wall
or dark on the dusty earth.

The rising mushroom spirals toward us.
My sister opens her mouth and swallows.
The moon rises and its cold light seems warm.

Some people think by thinking, a la Rodin. Others, like me, think by writing. It is the process of making sense on paper that makes it possible to incorporate the sense of things in my own mind. A problem is, once it's embedded, I usually forget where it came from.

I wrote this next thing, rehabbed here from an earlier version from the late 90s, after a reading ot the Tao te Ching.

finding our way (after Laozi)


listen to the silence
and knows a true mystery

whose answer is seen only
in darkness


beauty is not known
in the stars

and water not found
in the sea

wet is a thing
of deserts searing
and dry

and beauty
a diamond in the


with this mark
I rend the universe

with this voice
I cry the apocalypse

we will defy all eternity


form birth comes death
our birthright
to die

leaving the unborn to live
stay forever, be

while we pass in and out
of the eternal wake


sing softly
and let the song
become your voice

be at one
with the one
that encircles all

become the center
by letting the
find the one that is you


look at me
and see a construct
of belief

for I am not
until we agree
I am


find the value
of that which is not

the hole in the cup
that makes its bowl

the cut in the wall
that opens a door

the empty corner of a heart
that awaits
the embrace of a love

that which is not
is the nurture
for that
which may someday be


the gifts of old
can only be seen
by those with a gift
for seeing anew

the blur of familiarity
blinds us

eyes tight shut
our deeper vision


water flows
as it will go
bringing life
with the indifference
of a force pure,
and true
only to its own measure

we can ride the tides
but never change them


if I say nothing
you will hear the truth
of all I know

if you hear me speak
you hear a lie
for the truth cannot be told

I have two short poems by Langston Hughes now. The poems are from the collection of his work, The Dream Keeper and other poems, published by Knopf in 1994.

I read somewhere recently of people taking umbrage because a teacher ask a black student reading Hughes in class to read more "black."

I don't understand this.

Hughes wrote often in dialect and even his poems not in dialect have a rhythm that suggest the same. Now certainly Hughes, an educated and highly literate man, didn't speak in dialect (just as I, normally with a mid-twentieth century news anchor non-accent, tend to speak more Texan when around folks foreign to that region). But, I'll bet when he read his poems, he didn't read them in his educated, highly literate accent but in the rhythms he wrote the poems with.

Maybe the teacher should have told the kid to read more "Harlem Renaissance." All would have been well in that case, I'm sure.

Walkers with the Dawn

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness -
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Dream Variation

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
'Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
   Dark like me -
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
'Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening....
A tall, slim tree....
Night coming tenderly
   Black like me.

I’m thinking it’s time to put an end to my stroll through the graveyards of old, failed poems. So, the excursion ends with the next piece, a story, not a poem.

The purpose of the excursion was rehabilitation (of the work, not of me, just to be clear, the exercise is not part of some prison release program). It worked on some, not on others. As I write this, I’m about to start rehab on the next piece, probably in greater need of creative destruction than any of the others. We’ll see how it turns out.

Missing Smitty

   There were four of us. Me, my good friend, Toby, along with Rene Ross Escarbonet, from Charleston, South Carolina, the whitest white boy I ever knew, and Jimmy Spain, a sawed off Tennessee kid with a lack of common sense and caution that got the four of us in trouble more than once.

   We were out on the down and dirty end of a three day pass, drunk past the point of drunkenness, twilight-zone drunk, arguing with a fence post drunk, and we were raising hell, kicking up dust as best we could at two in the morning in a little West Texas like San Milagrito, closing down the last open bar in town, leaving with an old lush of a woman Jimmy had started talking to earlier in the evening.

   The woman was old and ugly and drunk and spit when she talked and in the sober light of day that might have been important to us, but on this particular night we didn’t care about any of that because she had something we wanted.

   She knew where we could get another drink.

   “Smitty’s,” she said, “that’s the place to go. Open all night, doesn’t close until everything else opens.”

   So we all piled into my old DeSoto, me driving, Toby in the front seat with me, and Jimmy and Rene, in the back, with the woman between them, toothlessly giggling.

   We drove around the town, waiting for the woman to tell us where to go, until, finally, she said, “It’s on this street, somewhere on this street.” “It’s a big old house,” she said, “with a big ol’ front porch.”

   “Well, shit,” Jimmy said, “is that the best you can do. It’s dark as hell and there ain’t nothing on the damn street but big ol’ houses with big ol’ front porches.” He was sounding pissed, “Do you know where we’re going or not, how do we know which house is Smitty’s?”

   “Blue lights,” she said. “The porch lights are blue. It’s like a sign, you know.”

   Just as she said that, we came upon a house with blue porch lights.

   “This is it, “she said. “Give me some money and I’ll go get the b ooze.”

   “Like hell!” Jimmy said.

   He looked at the rest of us, “I don’t know about you guys, but I ain’t watching this old bag walk away with my money.”

   “Okay,” I said, “you go with her.”

   “Not a chance,” he said. “I ain’t putting my white ass on a stranger’s front porch, especially in this neighborhood, could get a shotgun shoved up my nose.”

   While this discussion ensued, Rene, being the whitest white person in Texas at the time and Smitty, being a black man living outside the law in the blackest neighborhood of San Milagrito, slunk back into the corner of the back seat, trying to make himself smaller and smaller so that we might forget he was there.

   “Hell, I’ll go,” Toby said, taking the woman by the arm. “Come on Mama, let’s go see Smitty.”

   Toby and the woman, weaving, walked to the front door, stopping twice so he could pick her up after she stumbled to her knees in the grass.

   “Shit, woman, get off the ground and come along,” I heard him whisper.

   They knocked at the front door, waited, then knocked again.

   Finally, the porch light went out and there was a squeal of the screen door opening and I could see someone, like a shadow, come out and walk across the porch.

   I could hear a rumble of voices, then the woman crying out, “oh,no…”

   The shadow went back into the house and Toby and the woman came back to the car.

   “What happened?” Jimmy asked.

   “No booze tonight,” Toby said. “Smitty’s dead, died yesterday.”

   “Well, shit!” we all said.

   And the woman began to cry.

   “Oh, Smitty, poor Smitty,” she sobbed.

   “Damn,” Jimmy said. “What do we do now. It’s too fucking early to go sober.”

   “What about it?” I asked the woman. “Any other ideas.”

   “Well,” she stopped crying and blew her nose. “I have some gin in my room.”

   So ten minutes later, we were on the eight floor of the John B. Livingston, “weekly rates, cheap,” Hotel.

   Not much then, but once the best place in town to stay the night, the hotel had wide halls, high ceilings and a transom over the door to circulate the air in its un-air conditioned rooms.

   “This is my room, “the woman whispered. “Number 323.”

   “So open the door and let’s have a drink,” Jimmy said, keeping his voice low, like hers.

   “I can’t,” she said.


   “Lost my key.”

   “Well, sonofabitch,!” Toby said.

   “Lost you fucking key!” Jimmy said, not whispering any more. “Why the fuck are we here if you don’t have a key?”

   “Take it easy, Jimmy,” I said, then turned to the woman, “So, why the fuck are we here if you don’t have a key?”

   She pointed to the transom over the door, open just a crack. “I was thinking one of you could climb through there and open the door from the inside.”

   “That’s fucking nuts,” Jimmy said, turning to us, his voice getting louder. “It’s fucking three o’clock in the morning and this crazy old woman wants us to break into this room.”

   “Goddamn,” he went on, “She’s so fucking drunk it’s probably not ever her room. “

   “Wait a minute,” Rene said, speaking for the first time since we drove up to Smitty’s house. “What if she breaks into the room herself?”

   “Sure,” Jimmy said, “Like this old shit is going to climb the wall like some kind of goddamn fly, swing through the transom like a Granny Tarzan, then let us in when she’s on the other side.”

   “Give me a break,” he said to Rene, “Go back to sleep or playing with yourself or whatever the fuck you’ve been doing for the past two hours.”

   “We could lift her up and push her through,” Rene said.

   “And if she falls through on the other side and breaks her leg?” Jimmy asked.

   “And just exactly how would that leave us worse off than we are now? Rene answered.

   “I get your point,” Jimmy said.

   Me and Toby were standing back through all this, just watching.

   “You guys sure you know what you’re doing?” I asked.

   “No worries,” Jimmy said. “We’re on it. Right Rene, we’re on it, right?”

“Right on,” Rene reassured Jimmy.

“Okay,” Jimmy said. “Here’s how we’ll do it. You take her left leg and I’ll take the right and we’ll lift her up and over. Got it?”

   “Got it.”

   “You ready, honey,” Jimmy asked the woman.

   “Well, I don’t know…” she began, then “humpf,” as they grabbed her on either side and began to lift her.

   “Holy shit,” Rene jumped back.

   “What the hell’s wrong?” Jimmy asked. “You’re goinna give me a hernia letting loose like that.”

   “The old woman’s got a wooden leg.”


   “I ain’t shittin’ you man. Her leg’s a pro…a pro.. a whatchamacallit, a goddamn wooden leg.”

   “Well, I’ll be damned, you’d never know from looking,” Jimmy said and shook his head.

   “Okay, let’s pick her up and get her over.”

   “No way,” Rene said.


   “Let’s change sides. I ain’t touching no pro…pro…no fucking wooden leg.”

   “Well goddamn, Escarbonet, do you want a drink or not?”

   “I don’t give a shit. I ain’t touching no goddamn wooden leg - it’s fucking creepy.”

   “Goddamn, all I want is a drink,” Jimmy muttered. “Okay, you take this side and I’ll take the wooden leg.”

   “Your ready honey,” Jimmy asked again and he and Rene switched sides and began to lift her.

   “Well, I don’t know…” she began, then with a jerk was up in the air.

   “Grab the edge there, babe,” Jimmy said, “and we’ll push you right on through.”

   It was at that very exact moment that sirens began to scream outside the hotel like police cars and fire trucks and ambulances and God knows what else was heading right straight toward us, getting closer by the second.

   “Goddamn,” Jimmy yelled as he and Escarbonet dropped the woman and ran toward the stairs at the end of the hall.

   The woman, eyes wide open, mouth open in a little circle like she was trying to blow smoke rings, screamed and slid slowly down the wall, like in slow motion, fingers scratching on the wall paper.

   “What the hell?” I said, as Toby and I looked at each other, then took off together for the stairs at the other end of the hall, running down three flights of stairs, hitting the sidewalk just as three fire trucks roared past, sirens blaring, heading north toward the interstate.

   “Well, shit!” I said.

   “That’s enough for me,” Toby said. “Let’s call it a night.”

   “What about Jimmy and Rene?” I asked.

   “Fuck’em. They know the way back to base. We’ll see them tomorrow at roll call.”

   “What about the woman?” I ask.

   “What about her,” Toby said. “She’s sleeping at home tonight, or at least a lot closer to home than either of us.”

Next, I have three short poems from the anthology.

Two of the three are by Shinkichi Takahashi and were translated from Japanese by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto.

Takahashi the poet, (not to be confused with the Japanese pop singer born in 1969) was born in 1901 and died in 1987. He is considered by many in Japan to be their greatest modern Zen poet.


The universe is forever falling apart -
No need to push the button.
It collapses at a finger's touch:
Why, it barely hangs on the tail of a sparrow's eye.

The universe is so much eye secretion,
Hordes leap from the tips
Of your nostril hairs. Lift you right hand:
It's in your palm. There's room enough
On the sparrow's eyelash for the whole.

A paltry thing, the universe:
Here is all strength, here the greatest strength.
You and the sparrow are one
And, should he wish, he can crush you.
The universe trembles before him.


I'm an unthinking dog,
a good-for-nothing cat,
a fog over gutter,
a blossom-swiping rain.

I close my eyes, breathe -
radioactive air! A billion years
and I'll be shrunk to half,
pollution strikes my marrow.

So what - I'll whoop at what
remains. Yet scant blood left,
reduced to emptiness by nuclear
fission, I'm running very fast.

The third poem is by David Ignatow.

Born in 1914, Ignatow Ignatow began his professional career as a businessman. After committing wholly to poetry, he worked as an editor of American Poetry Review, Analytic, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and as poetry editor of The Nation.

He taught at the New School for Social Research, the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas, Vassar College, York College, City University of New York, New York University, and Columbia University.[3] He was president of the Poetry Society of America from 1980 to 1984 and poet-in-residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in 1987.


Simultaneously, five thousand miles apart,
two telephone poles, shaking and roaring
and hissing gas, rose from their emplacements
straight up,leveled off and headed
for each other[s land, alerted radar
and ground defense, passed each other
in midair, escorted by worried planes,
and plunged into each other[s place,
steaming and silent and standing straight,
sprouting leaves.

A bit of late-night connecting.

Simon and Garfunkel

a single star
in a clear patch of sky
between the clouds

and another
off a couple of million billion trillion
closer to the western horizon,
not in the clear,
but behind a thinner cloud
that makes it a lacy twinkle barely

and Garfunkel
I decide to name them,
one still bright
the other fading behind time’s soft enveloping

so good
together, neighbors in the soup
of first days, a sky-width
apart now, separated by the expanding universe
and life, forever drifting
to their separate far-reaches,

moving on,
like all of us, memories
in the universal drift,
in the soft, enveloping
clouds of time

Next, I have a longer poem by Robert Pinsky, from his book Gulf Music. The book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2007.

The Anniversary

We adore images, we like the spectacle
Of speed and size, the working of prodigious
Systems. So on television we watched

The terrible spectacle, repetitiously gazing
Until we were sick no only of the sight
Of our prodigious systems turned against us

But of the very systems of our watching.
The date became a word, an anniversary
We inscribed with meanings - who keep so few,

More likely to name an airport for an actor
Or athlete than "First of May" or "Fourth of July."
In the movies we dream up, our captured heros

Tell the interrogator they commanding officer's name
is Colonel Donald Duck - he writes it down, coed
Of a lowbrow memory so assured it's nearly

Aristocratic. Some say the doomed firefighters
Before they hurried into the doomed towers wrote
Their Social Security numbers on their forearms.

We can imagine them kidding about it a little.
"No man is great if he thinks he is" - Will Rogers:
A kidder, a skeptic.A Cherokee, a survivor

Of expropriation. A roper, a card. Remembered
A while yet. He had turned sixteen the year
That Frederick Douglass died. Douglass was twelve

When Emily Dickinson was born. Is even Donald
Half-forgotten? - Who are the Americans, not
A people by blood or religion? As it turned out,

The donated blood not needed, except as meaning
At a Sports Bar the night before, the guy
Who shaved off all his body hair and screamed

The name of God with his box cutter in his hand.
O Americans - as Marianne Moore would say,
Whence is our courage? Is what holds us together

A gluttonous dream thriving? Whence our being?
In the dark roots of our music, impudent and profound?
We inscribed God's name onto the dollar bill

In 1958, and who remembers why, among
Forgotten glyphs and meanings, the Deistic
Mystical and Masonic totems of the Founders:

The Eye afloat above the uncapped Pyramid,
Hexagram of Stars protecting the Eagle's head
From terror of pox, from plague and radiation.

The Western face of the pyramid is dark.
And if they blow up the Statue of Liberty -
then the survivors might likely in grief, terror

And excess build a dozen more, or produce
a catchy song about it, its meaning as beyond
Meaning as those old symbols. The
Wilds of thought

Or Katharine Lee Bates: Till selfish gain
No long stain the banner of the free. O
Beautiful for patriot dream that sees

Beyond the years
, and Ray Charles singing it,
Alabaster cities, amber waves, purple majesties.
Thine every flaw. Thy liberty in law. O beautiful.

The Relettes in sequins and high heels for a live
Performance - or in studio to burn the record
In sneakers and headphones, engineers at soundboards,

Musicians, all concentrating, faces as grave with
What purpose as the harbor Statue herself, O
Beautiful for liberating strife
: the broken

Shackles visible at her feet, her Elvis lips -
Liberty: not Abundance and not Beatitude -
Her enigmaatic scowl, her spiky crown.

Certain things need to be made perfectly clear before I finish up this week.

not my fault

off to a bad start,
and I just want to make it clear
it’s not my fault,
this declaration is important so as to aggregate
suitable sacks of
for I am the victim here
and not the perpetrator
(or perp, as Lenny used to say on “Law and Order”
and thinking of that makes me sad
cause I miss Lenny)

but that’s not my fault either

and the only good thing so far
is that the interstate is closed west of me
because of a major acid spill
on the highway - not my fault, either -
and traffic is backed up for miles going west
and looking out from my large window here
I can see the cars and trucks all lined in a row
and frustrated drivers - and I want to assure them
it’s not my fault - even though I’m going east from here
and will not be required to participate in their
west-not-going traffic nowhere-going extravaganza
cause I’m going east (ha ha) - and though that sounds
malicious it’s the best thing that’s happened to me so far today
since I’m almost never on the right side of the road
in situation such as this, usually among fumed fuming
and it’s not even my fault

and though the day started for me late and
it will get better I know because I’m assured by the sight
of all the misfortune of all the stranded drivers
fuming right outside
my window
and though that might sound so very malicious
and mean-spirited
not my fault
being so entirely human
as I am,
finding so often my fortune
in the misfortune
of others

it’s just what we humans
and it’s not even a little bit

I didn't get quite as random on my photos as I wanted, so I'll try again in some future week.

In the meantime and 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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