High Life   Thursday, May 17, 2012





I  have no plan for this  week, so  whatever comes next is next.

Here's who is unplanned with me.



Me
a moment  by the river

Gary Soto -
Suspicions
The Charity of  La  Senora Lara

Me
bop shee bop

Belle Waring
What Hurts?
Children Must Have Manners
Morley Asks,  What Are You Thinking

Me
in the sphere of human  events

Lana Wiltshire
change of scene
untitled
stormy
at the precipice
to  dream…
last hurrah
bento box goodbye
sing
HATE
gone
TRAP
foggy, bottom
change

Me
spiffy

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
The Ringing of  the Earth
Memento

Me
the day burst open

Jean Janzen
Ionian Sea
Pastoral

Yorifumi Yaguchi
A
Words
Many Winds
A Rescued Vietnamese Boy
Gravestones
A Woman

David Waltner-Toews
Sweeping
Friday Night

Me
weather report

Joshua Clover
Ouro Preto
Orchid
El  Periferico, or Sleep

Me
high life

Shulamis Yelin
Yom Kippur Morning ‘73

Me
storm warning

Coleman Barks
A Hard-Cuss for Gourd Seed
Ornamental Decision
Or

Me
trail's end
Thom Gunn
Lines for My 55the Birthday
Skateboard
Well Dennis O’Grady
Barren Leaves
Jamesian

Me
why the boys go out on Saturday night

Paul Guest
My Crush
My Past

Me
stars between storms

Luis Rodriguez
Running to America

Halvard Johnson
Guide to the Tokyo Subway

William Baer
Breaking and Entering

Me
only us Israelites and armadillos

R.C. Gwynn
Body Bags

Jan Epton Seale
Rain Dance

William Vergil Davis
Windows
October:  With Rain

Naomi Shihab Nye
Debris

Me
has there ever been a better day?


Before I move on, an unplanned announcement.

At the end of this post I have information about my latest book, Places and Spaces.

As  those on my email list know, at this time I am telling people  NOT to  buy the book yet.

As a result of a stupid error on my part, the book,  as of  right now, does not contain the text I intended, but an unproofed draft of book I am planning for next year. My publisher, bookbaby (which has been very helpful in getting my book past my own stupidity), is withdrawing the  book from  all  retailers and will  replace it with  the book I actually intended to publish. This is not a process which will happen immediately, but which will take maybe as much as a week or two.

So, though I hope you  will eventually buy the book (and review and/or rate), DON'T do it now. I will post here and elsewhere when it  is  safe to buy the book and actually get the book I intended.

Such a soap-opera of mis-steps and flummoxed intentions!











My first for the week.



a moment by the river
waiting for the light to change
in a shower
white cottony wrapped seed
from the tall Cottonwood tree
by the seven-eleven on the corner

thinking of the Medina River
right outside Bandera,
already running low now
on the edge of a second summer
of drought,
and the cottonwood trees that line
it’s banks,
and how the gentle blow
of white blossoms
will fill the air in this early summer season
like soft, plumb snowflakes;
how their drift
on lazy summer breezes
must make it seem a scene
from New England winter

then the light turns green
and I push into traffic
and out of the cottonwood
storm,
the moment by the river
broken
by the honk
of some sonofabitch
in a minivan
behind
me
may he rot
in cottonwood
litter
forever









I'm starting the week from my library with Gary Soto, one of my favorites. The poems are from his book Junior College, published by Chronicle Books in 1997.

Born in 1952, Soto was raised in Fresno, California. He is the author of eleven poetry collections. His father died when he was five years old and his family struggled. He did his part to help, working in the fields in the San Joaquin Valley and in factories in Fresno.

He attended Fresno City College and California State University in Fresno, where he earned his B.A. degree in English in 1974. He did graduate work in poetry writing at the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his M.F.A. in  1976.

Soto taught at University of California, Berkeley and at University of California, Riverside, where he was a Distinguished Professor.



Suspicions

I suspected some nuns raked
Their palms over their shaved heads,
A bristly feeling that tickled their skin,
Or on rainy nights unwrapped butcher paper
Where shorn hair lay like a whip.
I suspected women wanted to hit us really hard
And others wanted to peer out
The classroom window,
Oblivious to our crippled fractions,
Poor spelling, the crayoned Christ with five holes.
I suspected that if I could get through 3rd grade
I would make mother happy,
Mother with all her hair, lipstick
Herr sleeve gray from her work of peeling potatoes.
I suspected I was not right in the head
And wanted only to sit in the same chair,
Hands on the table, a pen in the right pocket
And a short pencil in my left.
I didn't want to cause problems,
Like the boy who wrote "fuck" on his arm
Or the girl who peed serenely in class.
I wanted to see the  blackboard.
I wanted to write
In my own jittery script, the Lord is with me,
Then fold this piece of paper
And wear it close to my rabbit-thump of  a heart..
I didn't talk much back then.
I suspected that I was good
Because I felt light and most of my thoughts
Were on the dead, like my father,
A four-prong twig in the ground.
Some of my thoughts were on Africa,
A thorny place
If you had to run from lions and pagans,
And some of my thoughts were on my guardian angel,
An invisible but holy shadow
that brought on barking dogs.
I walked slow for my angel to keep up,
And once muttered, "I"m here. It is me."
We were at Mass for a run-over student,
A fresh pair of eyeglasses on his studious face.
I  prayed for this boy with weight on my knees
and none on my shoulders. Lightning cracked,
Rain poured like sorrow,
And my lungs reaped
The dead boy's portion of air.


The Charity of La Senora Lara

Once I worked
For a nearly deaf vieja,
And she worked to get in my way,
Her grin chattering over my shoulders.
I raked an already raked yard,
Gathered dropped plums into a bag, swept
And hoed the life out of a flowerbed.
I roofed the doghouse with flattened  tuna cans
And beat the mites from a rug.
Later, on the lawn, we stood together
At a wobbly sprinkler throwing out cool seed
Of water. I worked two hours,
Screamed in her good ear for my pay,
And then walked home,
Musing over the value of unearned money.

She was more than loca
When I returned, weeks later, and she asked
From the porch, "Quien es?" Who are you?
Plastic fruit clacked in her  straw hat
And the autumn wind rippled her print dress
And her furry slippers. She clicked her fingers,
"You're the barber's boy, no?"
I shook my head. I was neither the barber's boy
Nor the preacher the preacher's spoiled son.
I was neither Italian or Jew,
Syrian nor Armenian. I was neither the lost lamb
Nor a stray child walking in the sandals of a gracious god.

I made a raking motion with my hands.
She giggled, remarked, "I am a woman,"
and scratched the one hair on her chin.
I gathered invisible oranges,
Shoveled a flower bed, spanked rugs on a clothesline,
And hammered boards for the rain shook from a cloud.
She shook her head, eyes clear as the zeros
Plugged through a road sign.

"You know me, senora," I screamed, "I'm your working boy."
Her smile rattled the banana and cherries on her hat.
"Mi'jo," she wept into my shoulders. "welcome home!"










Here's a little think from my first book, Seven Beats a Second.



bop shee bop

hips swaying
   bop
       shee
            bop

in sunlight streaming
   bop
       shee
             bop

through thin cotton dresses
   bop
       shee
            bop

and legs all the way up to there

   bop
       shee bop
       shee biddly biddly bop bop

   bop
       shee bop
       shee bee

too old for all this thinking
about brown-eyed girls
in skimpy summer  dresses

but damn it's hard
to stop shee bop
   shee biddly biddly
   bop
   bop










Next, I have three poems by Belle Waring, from her book  Refuge, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1990.

Waring is the author of two poetry collection, Refuge, which won the 1989 Associated Writing Program's Award, and Dark Blond, which won the Larry Levis Prize in 1998.

She was born in Virginia in 1951 and holds degrees in nursing and English. She received her M.F.A in Creative Writing at Vermont College and, at the time this book was published, was on the Field Faculty of the Vermont College M.F.A.  Program, while also working as a registered nurse.


 What Hurts

is waking up flung cold across
the bed,  right where  I left myself, these eyes
spooked, like my father's after a binge.
Just what the hell is he doing in my face?
I don't booze. I'm not like him.
But that scared and blowzy stare
I recognize after this stark dream of looking
for Max, my hopeless ex, world without end.
some nights my father spent stripped in a cell
to sober up. I  learned to sleep in my clothes.
Sentry. Night watch. Mother by a sickbed.
Doctor on call. No surprise. Ready for
a shit storm. Praying for a cool sunrise.


Children Must Have Manners

Not morals. Manners. Grist for the guests.
They suck up the Scotch. Daddy
rattles my school  report under their snouts.
See. I'm his prize piggie.
But soon as they exit,
he slaps my fat face
'cause I dropped a whole fifth.
Twelve years old.
They praise must have gone
to my head, Daddy says.

"Pig," he spits.
But when company's here,
pig's to smile till it splits.
One jangled day I'll forget
this face. Show up for breakfast
pig scrapped to the bone.
Nights, alone with my face,
I peel it away, wring out the grin,
rinse it in pilfered rosewater.
While I sleep, let it work its roots.


Morley Asks, What Are You Thinking?

I'm frankly shocked to be this
content. I remember  one
precedent:  loose
in Nana's garden,
I danced with the irises,
mauve and yellow. That  scent.
Now the rascal-cat moon
grins until  it coals down west,
and Morley gathers me
up in his garden arms,
safe in the swallowing dark.











Another new poem  from last week.



in the sphere of human  events
eTown,
Saturday morning
taped-live music program
out of Colorado, carried on one
of our college radio stations (may all
college radio stations live and reign
unto the far reaches of our darkly brightly
future, for they are
surely fine
and
dandy)

guests this week, Ruthie Someone,
a young blues singer from Texas of whom
I shall endeavour to hear more in the future
(endeavour to persevere, as would say Chief Dan George
who did not make it into our darkly brightly future
but who was most indeed
fine and dandy
in the previous regions of here and now)
and, the feature of the week, Blues Traveller,
about whom I have heard not much lately, complete
with singer and chief harmonicaizer, John Popper, who
I was very pleased to hear again because I enjoy
his work very much and mostly because I thought he was
dead
and considering all the dead people I know, it is a joy
to come across one of my favoured dead
who has come back to life
again

not quite a religious experience,
hearing this favored dead man
harmonizing,
but as good as I can
do
in the religious experience
sphere of human
events








Now I have  some short poems by my friend and housemate at Blueline's "House of Thirty," Lana Wiltshire. It's a pleasure to read Wilt's poems at the forum, especially her minimals, which are masterful.



change of scene

an approaching storm
slashes the velvet night
its fiery fingers
shards of rain like silver nails
even the wild turkeys hide

untitled

white tulips dying
beside blooming pink roses
time embracing death


stormy

cold rain
—the final gasp
of a timid winter—
as springtime’s softly growing buds
drink deep


at the precipice

waiting
for that moment just before the wind lifts
your heart and you stretch out your wings
to fly


to dream…

to write
perchance to read
to dream instead of work
and let the words wake up slowly
mornings


last hurrah

waving in the wind
bolstered by yesterday’s rain
faded red tulips


bento box goodbye 

at Sushi Cafe
California rolls and wine sunshine memories
clearer than old photographs
all packed and ready to go 


sing

even the silence seems too loud after you’ve gone
but then one small note
– freesia or some sweet lily –
brings the full orchestra of spring



HATE
fury
gnashing teeth deep-hearted darkness
takes over and all grace
departs, never looking back

“The fiercest fire is hatred”
~
Gautama Buddha, The Gospel of Buddha


Gone  

at the gate you stand
uprooted your back
to me in my mind you turn
for a last lingering look
one final cherry blossom


TRAP

Ensnare
Imprison

Captured in mid flight,
shocked into submission,
she stops dreaming of escape.

“We think caged birds sing, when they cry.”
~
John Webster


foggy, bottom

like stillness uttered
this moment of pure mourning
the world holds its breath
and weeping willows sigh
reflect the gray ghostly sky


change 
afraidI’ll say too much,
I stuff all my meaning
into these mute, minute moments
of truth
     of pain:
     that perception
     of drowning in the air
     as you reimagine your life…
     again








A day for an old-timer round-up.



spiffy
got my spiff
on today,
not a lot, but a bit,
socks match,
shirttail in…

having lunch with
some other old timers
who remember when spiff
was us

we remember

like those Aztec
studios
they just uncovered where
artist and priests and calendar makers
did their work, telling their stories,
studying the stars, counting
all the days to come and gone,
all in living colors, still, alive still
in all their color and
against all the odds in their damp jungle…

they had some pretty damn-good
spiff, themselves - setting aside
the virgin sacrifice part of the
business…

those of us gathered today remember
our own
lost places,
our caves where good magic
prevailed, when loyal,
brave and true
was our stock in trade…

but that was before
the virgin sacrifice
fellas
took over the business

now we just get ourselves a little
spiffed
once a year,
have lunch, and remember,
knowing
we’re the only ones
who do









Next , I  have a couple of poems  by the1960s  Russian  "rock star" of poetry,  both in  Russia, and for a while,  the United States, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, from the collection The Face Behind the Face published  in Great Britain  in 1979  by Marion  Boyars Publishers  Ltd.

The poems in the book were published by Arthur Boyars  and Simon Fanklin.



The Ringing of the  Earth

A kind of ringing once dinned though  my head
and  right round the city of Moscow everything
Double,then  trebled and resounded:
Tramcars, sparrows, lampposts -
And something,summoned up within me,
A pure uncoiling, went completely wild;

The ringing crashed careering  down  on me
As if onto  a savage stallion,
And  striking  my ribs with its sharp  heels
The ringing called me to the sky-blue gap,
right were the town glutted itself  on  pasties,
Tore everything to shreds, but in a kindly way.

The ringing knew things I  didn't know  myself.
It was as much at home in the pure  sky
As  in the trash of out-of-town  ravines.
The ringing was  coloured music without words,
Blending  egg-yolks of church cupolas
With  red-clothed  slurping splashing out of flags.

The ringing imagined verses for me
Out of rough husks of sunflower  seeds
Crunched underfoot on station platforms;
And answering I rang out to the earth's  ringing,
And linesfrushed from the tunnel of my throat
Like railway carriages, crammed with ringing.

And there was no more me - only the ringing.
It  chose me as its  incarnation,
But dropped me - started to look for someone  younger.
And, as you  loved me for that borrowed ringing,
You ceased to be. The ringing created you,
And you died  in the ringing when it ended.


Memento

Like a reminder  of this life
Of trams, sun, sparrows,
And the flighty uncontrolledness
Of streams leaping like  thermometers,
And because ducks are quacking somewhere
Above the crackling of the last, paper-thin ice,
And because children are crying bitterly
(Remember children's lives are so sweet)
And because in the drunken, shimmering starlight
The new moon whoops it up,
And a stocking crackles a bit at the knee,
Gold in itself and tinged by the sun,
Like a reminder of life,
And because I was madly mistaken
In thinking that my life was over,
Like a reminder of life, -
You entered into me on stockinged feet.
You entered - neither too late nor too early -
At exactly the  right time, as my very own,
And with a smile, uprooted me
From memories, as from a grave.
And I,once again whirling among
The painted horses, gladly exchange,
For one reminder of life,
All  its  memories.











Another new from last week,  supermoon night coinciding with a  wet and welcome storm.




the day burst open
the day
burst open
with thunder and rain pounding
like hammers on a tin-roofed
city,
the last lingering
dark
of
night
illuminated
by bright
flashes
of close-struck lightning,
ozone-smelling burnt-air fire,
blue-hot light
splashing on wet asphalt

and in the fast-flowing creek
rumbling, like a train
bound by the gravity-pushed insistence
of the night’s Supermoon
toward the Mexican
gulf and the rivers in between,
and on it,
a yellow-disc
reflection
rides,
rushes toward the end
of it’s orbit-bound
glory

orbits,
the circling of moons and stars
and the nights of our lives,
they come
and they go,
some to be forgot
and others to
remember,
some to pass in unnoticed
routine,
some born to be a poem












Here are three poems from the collection Three Mennonite Poets, something  from each of the three.


The first of three is Jean Janzen, born in Saskatchewan in 1933, her father, a school teacher who became a Pastor, moved her family to Minnesota in 1939. She grew up in that state and in Kansas.

She graduated from Fresno Pacific Cllege with a BA in English and received her Masters in English-Creative Writing from California State University-Fresno.

In addition to her work as a poet, she teaches piano and is a minister of worship with her  church.


Ionian Sea

Here in the sand
we  can feel it,
how our feet dissolve
in the warm,lapping waves,
how even marble
disintegrates.

Looking into your eyes,
blue and lambent,
I fail to imagine
the death stare, yet
I know that with one gasp
you could slip away
as easily as a fish,
and I would stand here
alone wearing this tight
wedding band given
in ignorance
like so much that is given,
the sculptor surprised
at what his chiseling
gives back, and no way
to unlock it.

One block  at a time,
this moment,  the sandpipers
racing in and out.


Pastorale

Dawn over farmland,
over the endless blanket
of new wheat. Gray-green
distances. The rounded hills
like hips and shoulders
of giants asleep.
the highway curves past
farm kitchens where families
lean over plates of eggs,  listening
to news and prices and assassinations.

Morning grows bolder now.
Flick of oriole, the grackle's
green wing. The fields
shine and sway. Jeremiah,
arthritic and groaning, turning
in his damp bed to take
the warmth of the sun.


Next from the collection is Yorifumi Yaguchi, a Japanese poet born in 1932.

He graduated from Tohoku Gakuin University with a B.A. in English, from International Christian University with an M.A. in Education, and from Goshen Biblical Seminary with a B.D. in theology.

He spent one year as American Council  of Learned Societies visiting Scholar at the State University of New York, Buffalo and taught a semester at Shenyang China. At the time the book was published he was professor of American poetry in the literature department of Hokusei Gakuen College.


A

withered leaf
hanging on a twig
heavy as the earth


Words

Leave them there
in the darkness
as they have been
from the beginning.
It's their silences
that speak to us
and not
the combined sounds.


Many Winds

Many winds
swarm to
a wounded word,
picking at it
like  vultures
until it becomes
a white bone,
half-buried in the
sand, and sharpens
into  a razor.


A Rescued Vietnamese Boy

For  days we did not ear or  drink.
Babies sucked withered breasts,
feebly crying,  while  my brother suddenly
burst into laughter and jumped into the sea...

Then one dawn we found a big fishing boat,
a Japanese one, near us,  and we waved
and shouted , "Tasukete!,"* the word
Japanese salesmen taught us before the liberation...
But the boat, pretending not to notice us,
quickly went away and we were again floating
without any country to return to or to go to
and my family died one after another...

*"Save  us!"


Gravestones

I caught some words,
which were raging hard
in my hands to flee away,
     but finally I  pinned them
     down on a sheet of paper.

There they were writing,
groaning in their death agony,
under pins of letters,
     but gradually their wings stopped convulsing
     and they were changed into gravestones. 


A Woman

naked
is lying
deep
in the grass
on a mountain
with the red
full
moon 
between her
thighs


The last of  my three Mennonite poets from the collection is David Waltner-Toews.

Born in Manitoba in 1048 to Russian-born Mennonite parents, Waltner-Toews was educated first as a writer, then as a veterinarian and most recently as an epidemiologist. At the time the book was  published, he  was working as a veterinary epidemiologist in Indonesia, while continuing to write essays, poetry and fiction,..


Sweeping

the snow  was expected
we were  not prepared
for the blizzard

the trees like stiff  brooms
quivered
against gray clouds
compulsively tidying
the sky
like trees we stood
out in the swirling
snow
sweeping
sweeping


Friday Night

Friday night sits in the closet
all week long     head in hands
waiting for the week to be  over
He hopes no one  has to be at work
this Saturday     He  hopes
the day was okay and is glad
when the children go to bed early
He hopes everybody isn't
too tired
He hopes they will  be able to find him
here     hiding behind the bathrobes
He hears the closet  door open
Clearing his throat
he straightens his color
Someone is reaching
for the hanger in front  of him
He grins     foolishly










I have this feeling that this week a lot of my poems have some kind of  weather connection. (I may have already said that or will say it later - I lose track.)

So keeping the flow going, if there is such, here's a vaguely weather related poem from my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.



weather report

its supposed to snow
in the hill country tonight,
and now, near midnight,
clouds are banked high
in that direction, swirls
of clouds, mixed grey
and white and black,
reflected in the city lights,
they look like polished granite
     piled
     helter-skelter
against a black felt sky...

it won't snow here,
but it's cool enough,
and little above freezing,
with a strong north wind
that stings my face
with icy drizzle...

wet days, cold nights
it's like winters years ago,
cycles and cycles,
     weather cycles
     life cycles
     death cycles, too,
          I guess,
they always come in threes
it's said and it seems to be true...

I used to think my life
was lived In five year cycles,
and for a long time
it seemed to run that way,
     with changes regular
          as clock work
          every fifth year

but now it seems
the pattern is broken
and my life is a lull
even as time races past

     I feel disconnected
     from that flow
and I begin to wonder
if this is how life
     winds down,
     like being sunk
in plush leather seats
of a fast moving car

the world rushes by,
a blur of passing life
and I want nothing more
     than to stop,
     to walk again,
     to live again
not behind glass
as the world passes,
but on my own feet,
     to control again,
     like before
when I was the one
who set the pace
and direction
I would live it...

the night is chill
     and wet
but it will not snow
for the snow cycle
is done and now
the night is just cold
     and I am cold
     in it










Next, I have  several  poems by Joshua Clover, from his book Madonna anno domini,  published by Louisiana State University Press and winner of the 1996 Walt  Whitman Award of The Academy of American  Poets.

Born in 1962 in Berkeley, California, Clover is a poet, critic, journalist and author. He has appeared in three editions of Best American Poetry, and is a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize.

A graduate of Boston University and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Clover is a Professor of English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of California, Davis, and was the distinguished Holloway poet-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley in 2002-2003.



Ouro Preto

A woman in a blue shirt,,  resinous cafezinho, low sandstone buildings
     circling the plaza:
from this a whole country can be unfolded.
Eliz. is a model of no extra blah-blah.
The losing of art isn't hard too, and it's  all there is:
Lota de Macedo Soares, the day opens out like a tiny atlas-flower!


Orchid

Seen in the south of that country's south, near the wavefront of total
war: indolent orchid, window box auto-de-fe, the year's acedia. The
flower  was not  about anything & nobody in the house to watch -  not
the simplest thing,  12  hours  of sun,  summer's cool closure. I see you are
curious so  let me tell you it was not a museum but a house.  Flower in
the flowerbow,  ear in the air's cyan arc,  mantic green  wire. Almost  fall
& cool between the mountains & the master war - walking, walking...
because I am  not history I can return "at will" to the house like a
museum - the clothed idea of it, each of us passing, minds delinquent
panic-bulbs, the flower about nothing (we are not attached to the
beginning or to the end, divining nothing, the autumn out there beyond
the museum-house still we could not come to the boundary of the funny
war,  secret heliotropes, orchid in the orchid box. God in abeyance -


El Periferico, or Sleep

A man throws ten thousand shovels of gravel at a window  screen
propped inside a wheelbarrow so only the powder
passes into the wheelbarrow and the gray rocks fall to the ground.
You musta died once to live like this.
Yeah he says I died once and I had lost my ear
so I was looking for it in a field and the stars were like a seiner's net
and then they were like a system of nerves
and then they were like a sieve I came through
that right back into this country and got a job and married
the woman the first two things
she said to me in that fiery field holding in her hands
my ear were how this country is full
only of pilgrims and residue and her name is Beatiz ending
like light ends with a z












Here's a bit from last week, refugee for fifty year old memories.

                                                high life

climbing,  
looking ahead,
large rocks        
scattered               
on either side          
of the trail,                 
and stunted trees,          
and, looking back             
in those days, first below,   
brown                                    
foothills,                                  
then the city,                               
green strip                                     
of the Rio Grande winding                
through it, north                                   
to south,                                                 
then the desert,                                         
bare-looking in the low distance,                
and dusty, spreading west                               
as far                                                                
as I could see                                                     

(later,                                                                                     
around a campfire,                                                                
looking out beyond the mountain,                                          
the city                                                                                  
like a glittering band of stars                                                 
across the dark)                                                                     

- today,
as the city has crept
across the hills
and around and over
the arroyo floodways
and the brown
desert,
all you’ll see
is the city,
brown an dusty
as the desert it subsumed -

climbing                                                   
on that day long ago,                                
pack strapped high                                  
so as to put the weight                             
on my legs                                               
and not my back,                                     
my low-land lungs laboring                   
in the altitude, still I                              
struggled,                             
one                             
step                             
and then the                 
next,                            
higher, steeper,                                                                          
each hard step by each hard step,                                                   
until we dipped                                                   
into a high canyon                                           
                                   and were                                                                        
shuttered                                        
between                                        
steep rocky walls,                       
then                 
v             
e             
 r             
t             
i             
c            
a            
l            
cli                              
                                 mbs,                              
strung                               
 together                              
by rope                                
like                    
 b                        
e                        
a                        
d                        
s                        
on a sweaty
necklace
of young men,
 r
e
a
c
h
i
n
g
with our hands
for each rocky crevice,
r
e
a
c
h
i
n
g
with our feet
for each knobby
 protuberance,                       
to pull and push ourselves
higher,
toward the top,
the sweet blessed
level top
where we could
stretch                                    
 flat
on the ground
and rest

the climber ahead of me
s                          
l                                 
i                  
p                        
p                                
e           
d
and fell,
bringing a shower
of small rocks 
onto my head
as he slipped,
falling
almost level to me,
eyes
 wide and white
against his sweating,
sunburned face,
hung                                                                                
by the rope,
scrambling                                
                with his feet                                                    
against the cliff face

I waited for him to regain his footing                                                                                        
then followed him to the top                                                                                     
where I could lie flat on the ground                                                                                            
and rest                                                                                                                                       
and climb no more that day                                                                                                         

  

                                                  
                                      











Next from my library, I have a poem by Shulamis Yelin, from her book, Seeded in Sinai, published in 1975 by Reconstructionist Press.

Yelin was born in Montreal in 1913. Her parents had emigrated from Chernobyl three years earlier." As a poet and educator, she had a great influence. In 1963 she won the LaMed Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. She died, still in Montreal in 2002.



Yom Kippur Morning '73

The dead surround me, my beloved dead
this awesome break of day:
My Mother, smiling,
piles her clothes in an orderly array
on moving elt to fiery furnace;
my sister, young and lovely,
soft and solemn-faced, embraces me;
and wise and gentle,
calling me by pet-name to his  open arms,
my husband smiles.
Death himself,
in pin-stripe  suit,
with jaded ear-ring
dangling from his long left  ear,
calls me, snaps his fingers,
telling time
on sundial darkened by his shade.

My head is lit with charred memorial lamps,
singles, sixes and six million,
flickering in the dawn,
and I, in whom there's little faith
in life beyond the grave,
plead their intercession:
Sing me a better tomorrow.
Oh, the portents of this aweful day!










Another poem from Seven Beats a Second, another kind of storm.



storm warning

gray and white gulls
swirl overhead
thick
like a cloud,
blown in the wind
like smoke
from a cane field fire

the shipyard
across the bay
is hidden
by black clouds
of rain
lying across the water
like crepe on a coffin

lightning
arcs between the clouds
and thunder echos
against the bluff

I hear you in the driveway,
slamming the car door
with a crack
like a rifle in the dark








Next I have  Coleman Barks, with three of the shorter poems from his book, Gourd Seed. The book was published in 1993 by Maypop Books.



A Hard Cuss for Gourd Seed

Out the sack and in the hand,
little dry nuthin's bird-turd,
him just lay there thinkin'
I'm a big guckin' man.

You're a stupid rotten tooth.
Be like yo daddy,  little
peter-in-the-wind. I spit
and thumb you in and hump

once to make you jump.
Bump up, jumpkin bumpkin,
you got this one sombitchin' chance
to  be a gourd, or feed for the ants.


Ornamental Decisions

Where to sit in the sun
is the only true question,
when not going to teach,
along with how not to feel paranoid
they'll find out and fire me.

Under pear-trees full-white nearly hiding
the red and blue university
postal kiosk, I choose
this bench and this new-heat
on my face, instead of talking
the history of my fear
thus far. Petal-sky overall.

I know who planted these, my friend
in the Law School, Milner's
wife, June. June and Mr. Forsyth's
forsythia, they bolster  my floral resolve
to write letters in the sun and become
a man resembling an Asian flower opening,
with a curved knife in the center.


Or

We sit here trying to tell or sing
each other something truthful or tinged
with beauty or joy or some other empty,
full word that hasn't  been ruined
by being overstamped, the die

blurred, before some fading thirst
we have or have had poisons through
the water, or the very ground pulling through
good corn on the cob chomped on the back
stoop with sips of red wine, settles

enough micro-sediment somewhere,
the brain or the marrow, to make us
not any longer care, or recognize,
what in words or otherwise is
beautiful and/or true.










I wrote the first version of this next poem in 1969 while waiting for my clothes to dry at a laundromat, responding to the sights and sounds of a very large storm right on the edge of breaking. A similar storm last night, menacing in the distance, like watching your fifth grade bully coming down the hall toward you, reminded me of this poem and the similar  story it told.

I've rewritten the poem many times (I never throw  anything away), never making it any better than it was to start. This latest version,  which is an improvement, is still just a rest stop. Lots  of work to be done, before it's done.



trail’s  end
the
storm
snarls in the distance
raging
rampaging
electric filigree
spurting
across the heaving belly
sky

the street quiet lying
like a neon-whore
child
spread-legged
on a two dollar
bed

the storm
snarls
in the distance
closer
whoring
rain dripping
like whiskey
on a cowboy’s beard

the street
quiet lying
quiet
lying
quiet crying

oh

where
are you hero
mine
she cries

                             waiting








Here are three poems by Thom Gunn. The poems are from his book The Man with Night Sweats,  published by the Noonday Press in 1992.

Gunn was born in Gravesend, Kent, in 1929. In his youth, he attended University College School in Hampstead, London, then spent two years in the British national service and six months in Paris. Later, he studied English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduated in 1953, and published his first collection of verse, Fighting Terms, the following year.

In 1954, Gunn emigrated to the United States to teach writing at Stanford University and to remain close to his partner, Mike Kitay, whom he had met while at college. Gunn taught at the University of California at Berkeley from 1958 to 1966 and again from 1973 to 1990.

In 2004, he died of acute polysubstance abuse at his home in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco, where he had lived since 1960.



Lines for My 55th Birthday

The love of old men is not worth a lot,
Desperate and dry even when hot.
You cannot tell what is enthusiasm
And what involuntary clawing spasm.


Skateboard

Tow Head on his skateboard
threads through a crowd
of feet and faces delayed
to a slow stupidity.
Darts, doubles, twists.
You notice how nimbly
the body itself has learned
to assess the relation between
the board, pedestrians,
and immediate sidewalk.
Emblem. Emblem of fashion.
Wearing dirty white
in dishevelment as delicate
as the falling draperies
on a dandyish
Renaissance saint.
Chain around his waist.
One hand gloved.
Hair dyed to show it is dyed,
pale flame spiking from fuel.
Tow Head on Skateboard
perfecting himself:
emblem extraordinary
of the ordinary.

In the sexless face
eyes innocent of feeling
therefore suggest the spirit.


Well Dennis O'Grady

Well Dennis O'Grady
said the smiling old woman
pausing at the bus stop I hear
they are still praying for you
I read it in the Bulletin.

His wattle throat sagged
above his careful tie and clean brown suit.
I didn't hear his answer,
but though bent a bit
over his stick
he was delighted to be out
in the slight December sunshine
- having a good walk, pleased
it seems at all the prayers
and walking pretty straight
on his own.


Here are a couple of minimals, a bonus, because they're funny.


Barren Leaves

Spontaneous overflows of powerful feeling:
Wet dreams, wet dreams, in libraries congealing.


Jamesian

Their relationship consisted
In discussing if it existed.








Here's a poem from Seven Beats a Second that has nothing to do with weather. More of a fish story.



why the boys go out on Saturday night

s
e
x

sells

especially when lit in
n
e
o
n

flashing

on
   and
        off

flashflash

on
   and
        off

sex  flashes through the night
drawing us through the rushing current

up
     stream
                  we
                          go

bashing our heads on the sharp rocks
of deceit and desire, all for a chance to
fuck our fish brains out before we die
in the shallow pool of everyday life








Next I have three poems by Paul Guest,  from his book, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, published in 2008 by HarperCollins.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Guest broke the third of fourth vertebrae in his neck in a bicycle accident when he was twelve, bruising his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the neck down. He graduated from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and from Southern Illinois University with an M.F.A. in 1999 and is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.

His poems appear in Harper's, The Paris Review, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Slate and elsewhere. The book I'm drawing from today was his first.



My Crush

I never  saw more of your unsunned skin than
the bus driver or the chainsaw salesman
or the waitress in that barely visible town,
unless they saw more than me
by accident or arrangement
o some other calculus of random passion
I don't even want to consider
and yet here I've invited
all of us into the present tense
as though it were a garden party
exploding with gladiolas
and polite sipping and pained
concern for the lacerated kidneys
of someone distant, half-known but in that light
assigned a measure off imminence
which seems proper
to everyone in accord
before the pain is exhausted
as pain always is
and everyone begins to shimmer
in their own pains
and knees in name only,
spines full of wire, fused bone and pain management,
vein stripped
from the arm
like a black weed,
and wherever I am in all of this
or wherever all of this is within me,
through the gate into dusk you've gone like the day.


My Past

I was young and needed the pron but not
the money or the long season
of shame or whatever was the burning
sensation I felt in my head
trying to sleep or pretend
I was  dead  as kids pelted me
with gravel or home-brewed napalm
that I could not deny,
even in the invidious gravity of such pain,
was impressive. Skin
grew back like the grass
in which I slept with all my green
dreams, all my terror
and my pockets full
of stolen salt and crushed acorns,
which are poisonous
to humans. There are things
I know of  so little worth
I resent  them their place
in this pot of meat my head is.
Saying it needs a hat. Or a scented pillow
stuffed with the extravagance
of goose flight. Once I wanted wings.
And once a getaway car,
not to mention
the jet pack cobbled from a leaf blower
or the millions needed
for bon voyage
in my own  manned luxury submersible
or a zeppelin parked
above our heads and
wavering n the air like escape.












Another weather poem - lots of weather  in San Antonio this  week. In San Antonio, the word weather means  either ice or rain. Everything else is same-o hot and nasty. This week it was rain, not  ice.



stars between storms
the sky at midnight
is clear
and the stars
brilliant
as the moon passes
serenely over

an hour ago
trees whipped in the wind
like galley slaves

thunder crashed

rattled windows

set off car alarms
around the neighborhood

lightning pierced
the earth
with spears of fiery light

it’s the calm between the storms,
right now, and it too
will pass,
as the last storm
passed

while a rising tide
of red and yellow bands
on the Doppler radar
rushes toward us from the
west

for now, though
a brief
unveiling
of stars between
storms








I took my next  three poems from the anthology american diaspora, published by The University of Iowa Press in 2001.



The first poet from the anthology is Luis Rodriguez.

Born in El Paso in 1954, Rodriguez is a multiple-award-winning poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and columnist. His work 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, Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural, a San Fernando Valley cultural center, and the Chicago-based Youth Struggling for Survival, an organization for at-risk youth.

I've used the poet's work often on "Here and Now," especially from his lengthy autobiographical poems poems that I like very much.


Running to America

They are night shadows
Violating borders.
Fingers curled through chain-link fences,
Hiding from infra-red eyes,
Dodging 30-30 bullets,
They leave familiar smells,
Warmth and sounds,
As ancient as the trampled stones.

Running to America.

there is a woman in her finest
Border-crossing wear:
A purple blouse from an older sister,
A pair of worn shoes
From a church bazaar,
A tattered coat from a former lover.

There is a child dressed in black,
Fear sparkling from dark Indian eyes,
Clinging to a headless Barbie doll.

And the men, some hardened, quiet,
Others young and loud -
You see something like this in prisons.

Some  will  cross on their bellies,
Kissing black earth,
Then run to America.


My next poet from the anthology is Halvard Johnson.

Currently making his home in Mexico, Johnson formerly taught at UMBC (Univ. of MD at Baltimore County)  for a number of years. He was born in New York and educated at Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Chicago.


Guide to the Tokyo Subway

At Shinuku Station
one entrance is haunted

by the spirit of a lost traveler
one who missed her train

and never found her way
around or through

that incredibly
personal disaster

passing by, I lower my head -
I who am lost  every day -

feeling I ought to
have met her

*

how many foreigners
dream of walking where we do now
along the place moat
speaking of this and that
- keep moving, keep moving -
not even wondering
where the next bottle
of beer  will come  from

*

There 's a circle line
around the central city
on which you could ride forever
for  a one-stop fare

but the trains here don't
run all night long
so you must get off somewhere
- be quiet, be quiet -
don't ask me where

*

in dreams
we wander through
mazes of tunnels

and passageways
underground
 - hush, hush -
in the dark corridors

turnings
stairways
and escalators  smoothly

sliding downward

*

coming up  from below
my eyes take their time
adjusting to daylight

a crowd of commuters surge
past me down the steps
at a trot, at a trot

suddenly a woman stands before me
who has walked a long way
just to meet me

we have sandwiches
and tea together
before deciding to separate

leaving to others
the end of our
carefully rehearsed story

*

I know that at  Ueno
a long time coming
cherry blossoms
glisten in lamplight
- go under, go under -
and nighttime's the best time
for viewing sakura, sipping sake

*

what I said
there in the station
was not what I
meant to

meanings stretch out
in all directions
turn back, turn back
on themselves

on their central
unmeaning

*

I'd always thought
that if I positioned myself
just so,
    as the train pulled
into the station
certain forces would come
into play, changing
my outlook on things
in surprising ways

the train would transport me
to a distant station
with an unfamiliar name
in an unfamiliar script
and I would get off
happy to be alive
not knowing which way to turn


My last poem this week from the anthology is William Baer.

Born in New York in 1948, Baer is a writer, editor, translator, and academic. The author of sixteen books, he's a former Fulbright and a Guggenheim fellow, as well as the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing grant.


Breaking and Entering

When he was done, he sat in their living room:
as always, he'd made certain they'd be away,
and checked for dogs, alarms, and nosy neighbors,
then glass-cut through a window in the back -
ready with the knife he'd never used
(but would) - and quickly packed her gold and stones,
their small antiques, and the "knock-out" Tiffany lamp -
which these dull bastards certainly didn't deserve.

But he liked their quiet house, just as he'd liked
his parents' best when they were sound asleep,
no nagging, fighting, or banging him about.
Some "sneaks" enjoy the breaking in - "like sex"
they say - while others crave the risks, or just the goods,
but he liked sitting in their living rooms,
until, at last, he'd slit their couches open, and leave.
Too bad. He liked it here; it felt like home.











Another weather poem from last week.



only us Israelites and armadillos
tornado
and flash flood warnings
north and south of us

my city
in a corridor 100 miles wide
between the
tempests
that surround us,
like Moses
parted the sea,
sunshine
and a small breeze
that ruffles tree tops
like a mother caressing
the soft down her baby’s head…

a former Texas politician,
won, by some fluke,
one term as the state’s
Agricultural Commissioner -
a journalist
and liberal activist, he exhorted
the more moderate
of his cohort
to political action
by proclaiming
“there ain’t nothing in the middle
of the road in Texas
but squashed armadillos…”

he lost
the next election, of course,
and went back to journalizing
and agitizing
and hasn’t hardly been heard of
since…

this time,
it looks
like it’s only us Israelites
and armadillos
in the middle
of our clear-weather corridor
that won’t get our asses blown
all to hell before
this afternoon
is over









Last from my library this week, I have four Texas  poets from A Quartet - Texas Poets in Concert.

Second in a series, the book was published by The University of North Texas (Denton) Press in 1990.


The first poet is R.S. Gwynn, at the time of publication, Associate Professor of English at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.


Body Bags

I

Let's hear it for Dwayne Coburn, who was small
And mean without a single saving grace
Except for stealing - home from second base
Or out of teammates' lockers, it was  all
The same to Dwayne. The Pep Club candy sale,
However, proved his downfall. He was held
Briefly on various charges, then expelled
And give a choice: enlist or go to jail.

He finished basic and came home from Bragg
For Christmas on his reassignment leave
With one prize in his pack he thought unique,
Which went off prematurely New Year's Eve.
The student body got the folded flag
And flew it in his memory for a week.

II

Good pulling guards were scarce in high school ball.
The ones who had the weight were usually slow
as lumber trucks.  A scaled-down wild man,  though,
Like Dennis "Wampus" Peterson, could haul
His ass around right end for me to slip
Behind his blocks. Played college  ball a year -
Red-shirted when they yanked  his scholarship
Because he majored, so he claimed, in Beer.

I saw him one last time. He'd added weight
Around the neck,  used words  like "grunt" and "slope,"
And said he'd  swap his Harley and his dope
And both balls for a 4-F knee like  mine.
This happened in the spring of '68.
He hanged himself in 1969.

III

Jay Swinney did a great Roy Orbison
Impersonation once at Lyn-Rock  Park,
Lip-synching to "It's Over" in his dark
Glasses beside the jukebox. He was one
Who'd want no better for an epitaph
Than that he was good with girls and charmed them by
Opening his billfold to a photograph: 
Big brother. The Marine. Who didn't die.

He comes to mind, years from that summer night,
In class for no good reason while I talk
About Thoreau's remark that one injustice
Makes prisoners of us all. the piece of chalk
Splinters and flakes in fragments as I write
To settle in the tray, where all the dust ins.


The next poet from the Texas collection of four poets is Jan Epton Seale.

At the time of publication, the poet, who also wrote essays, plays, short stories, had published two volumes of poetry. She lived in McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, near from whence I came.


Rain Dance

It's like  this in Texas:
Get your hopes up

over high silver-cake clouds
finally climb out ot the pool

go in rejoicing you made it
before the lightning struck

I say rejoicing because
it's still a judgement of God
here in Texas

get dried off and think
of the  irony

of being caught in a pool
when the wild thunderstorm hits

on the hottest day of the year.
Bring in the crying dog.

Close the windows at the first
nasty splats.

Thank God the breeze
is coming off the storm cloud

and then nothing.

                          It's you're under
the dress of the biggest mama

in the circus. It's you're
with Poe in the pit.

It's you're in an iron lung
but too healthy for polio.

The clouds, they move
from east to west

always just north of you.
The clouds, they belch a little
like a school boy on request.

The sun, it comes back grinning
like a satisfied lecher.

cicadas wind up so sly
you don't know what  is

that's winding you up crazy
standing looking out the back door
at where it's not raining.


William Virgil Davis is the third poet of my Texas quartet.

At the time of publication, he was Writer-in-Residence at Baylor University in Waco.


Windows

The light on the apple is a small window
reflecting the room In it
I see you staring out over  the mountain
covered with first snow.
Here,  where summer never ends,
where the world is flat, little changes.
Nothing without notice. I know
you would understand the attention
to detail.  I remember you said
you had memorized the mountain, the route
you would take to the top, step
by step. I imagine the snow falling
and you sitting beside your window,
waiting for the precise moment
to begin. When I turn to the window
behind me, only my face reflects
in the fading light.


October: With Rain

for my son

The way the light lasts longest on a single spot
of windowpane, some small distortion in the glass
that keeps its final clasp of wind and rain as well,
has caught my eye again. M son has grown so fast
toward man I marvel at my own age, try to sort out all

the years, run the film as far forward as I dare.
We sit together at the table, this wintry day with rain,
and do not speak, although I think we think the same
things out, muse on  the rain  and the windowpane,
and in our own ways try to fill the final outline.


Now, last from The Quartet, from San Antonio and one of my favorite poets, Texan or otherwise, Naomi  Shihab Nye.


Debris

A woman  phones to say she found two of my poems
in the parking lot at the university. "They were
in a parking space," she says, "all damp and messy.
For some reason I stopped to pick them up. Do
you want  them back?" I tell her I haven't taught
at the university in two years, they must have
dropped from someone's notebook, thanks for noticing,
and what are they, by the way?

A week later, I'm out front watering oregano plants
and a thin bearded man, hesitates across the street.
A little girl with him carrying letters. They
cross over and he asks my name, then says he found
one of y poems in the gutter in front of his house
a few days ago and has grown fond of it. "It
must  have fallen out of your trashcan," he says,
pointing to the very spot where we place our cans.
"It was about India," He offers that a  few lines
were crossed out, so I know it must have been an
earlier draft of a recent poem. do I want it back?
We shake hands and he goes off with his radiant
daughter.

Later I think of these two unexpected readers and
feel  grateful for their downcast eyes as they walked,
strolled, as they went about their daily business.
I think maybe I should lose more things:  surely
there are more ways to publish than we have heard
of, more ways to make a living, stay awake. Even
today almond  trees are showing white petals across
the road from  my grandmother's village and the men
who walk through them, the men and women who walk
through them, sometimes step gently and sometimes
pause.








My last poem for the week, ending on an upbeat note.



has there ever been a better day?
has there ever been
a more beautiful
day
then this?

a foolish question -
like asking
has there ever been
a better-looking woman
then this or a better book
or a better sonata,
or a better swim in the river
or walk in the park,
or a better plate
of calabasa
con pollo…

all those silly questions,
answers dependent
on so many extraneous factors,
when, where,
what came before,
what comes next, all factors
of mood and intellect
that can change
the best of times
to the worst of times

it is the moment
that makes better and
best, and we, in our human
obsessions, dependencies, capacities
of and for the moment
that inform all our judgments,
are creatures
of the circumstances
of our moment…

still, the sky is clear
today
and blue,
and the sun is shinning
bright and sharp and
the temperature is mild
and pleasant
and I have met no one but
nice and friendly people so far
today, so, all in all,
in whatever context,
it really is one hell’uv a nice
day

all things considered









Another week done and done.

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As I continue to try to upgrade my poetry habit from expensive hobby to non-profit enterprise, I hope  you'll  buy one  (of  each). If you do, please rate the book, or if you want, review  it.

Prices for the eBooks range from $3.49, to $5.99, depending on book and seller. The print book, also available on Amazon, is priced at $15 new and $4.99 used. I get nothing out of sales of the print book  on Amazon. If you want to buy directly from me, send me an email (allen.itz@gmail.com) and I'll ship a copy to you, same price as Amazon. (And I  get the money).

Here's what I have out, and where.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Apple iBookstore for iPad,iPhone, ietc, as well as  Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, and eBookPie



Places and Spaces





Always to the Light







 

Goes Around, Comes Around

 
 
 

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind



And

For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon (both new and used)

Seven Beats a Second


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