Visiting Hours for Our Dearly Soon-Departed   Thursday, May 03, 2012



Before we get to the business at hand...

A dash of shameless self-promotion
regarding my book
Places and Spaces
(road poems)
has been uploaded to eBook retailers
and should begin to appear on virtual shelves
within a couple to several weeks
(or, in the case of Amazon, the earliest of the eBook birds -
in a couple of days)

My fifth book (fourth eBook)
available
for $3.99 or less




In the meantime, back to the business  of this post.









San Antonio  city government has been very proactive in finding and protecting wild areas, to the point of buying old ranches and setting them aside as protected natural areas. There best efforts, unfortunately, are not up to the challenge of exploding population and every-ready developers. The natural hills and meadows that surround the city are disappearing, sometimes it seems daily. If you driver around the city you can see it happening, often in just a few weeks. Where cattle grazed and wildflower bloomed there is, all of a sudden, another WalMart,  another McDonalds.

That's what my photos this week are about.

The anthology I've decided on is Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness. It was edited by Carolyn Forche and published  in 1993 by W.W. Norton & Company.







 
 
 
 
 

Last week was  mostly a pain-in-the butt, wore me out.

So this week, I'm starting slow, with this my first poem.



Saturday morning
Saturday morning
early
overcast sky
sun
in
slight bright
streamers
struggling
to break through
lethargic clouds

a day
of struggle promised
pushing
against the wind

dull
Saturday morning
slow-walking
to Saturday night








My first poet from the Against Forgetting anthology is Wislawa Szymborska, Polish poet, essayist, translator, and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in 1923, the poet died earlier this year.

Her poem was translated by Robert A. Maguire and Magnus Jan Krynski.



Still

In sealed box cars travel
names  across the land,
and how far they will travel so,
and will they ever get out,
don't ask, I won't say, I don't know.

The name Nathan strikes his fist against wall,
the name Isaac, demented, sings,
the name Sara calls out for water for
the name Aaron that's dying of thirst.

Don't jump while it's moving, name David.
You're a name that dooms to defeat,
give to no one, and homeless,
too heavy to  bear in this land.

Let your son have a Slavic name,
for here they count hairs on the head,
for here they tell good from evil
by names and by eyelids shape.

Don't jump while it's moving. Your son will be Lech.
don't jump  while it's moving. Not time yet.
Don't jump. The night echoes like laughter
mocking clatter of wheels upon tracks.

A cloud made of people moved over the land,
a big cloud gives a small rain,  one tear,
a small rain - one tear, a dry season.
Tracks lead off into black forest.

Co-rect, cor-rect, clicks the wheel. Gladless forest.
Cor-rect, cor-rect. Through the forest a convoy of clamors.
Cor-rect, cor-rect. Awakened in the night I hear
cor-rect, cor-rect, crash of silence on silence.











Another poem from last  week - the other half of the weekend.



Sunday morning
the scent of rain
that will not
fall

church folk
waiting
for the Risen

we seek,
all of us, for new life
as we define it

and so rarely
find it








The next poem is by Diane Glancy, from her book, Lone Dog's Winter Count, published by West End Press in 1991.

Glancy was born in 1941 in Kansas City, Missouri.  She is a Cherokee poet, author and playwright. Glancy was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in English literature  from the University of Missouri in 1964, then later continued her education at the University of Central Oklahoma, earning her a Masters Degree
in English in 1983.  In 1988, she was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. Glancy is an English professor and began teaching in 1989 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, teaching Native American literature and creative writing courses.



A Single Row  of  Pines

White  farmhouse,
barn sheds encloses off hounds
baying at the morning light,
the hanging of it inside your head.
The harvester spitting dried stalks into the truck,
the one part giving into the other.
The finely drawn lines the backbreaking work
leaning over fields,
the pencil & ruler never taking your
eyes off the ground the stubblerows
of mowed cornstalks.
It's where
you find you left a part of yourself
in the kernels husks now invisible in the field,
the roots even a clean eye cannot see
despite the closely drawn lines,
the careful laying of plots.
Beloved rows & mowers of them this is where
the naked soul cries in its room,
come out now you have
numberless roads up the slope of cornland.
Trembling, weak limbed,
after coaxing it sits at the feedstore
in the old stone Mississippi River blufftown.
You find a tomahawk in its head,
you pull it out with a thwarp.
Now your soul tetterers a moment
until you steady it.
Its eyes unused to the hanging light,
the crash of yellow hillsides in October,
you say here put on this silver bonnet of a silo,
you say here.







I grew up and spent a good part of my  life on the Texas gulf coast. There's something very clean and fresh about a beach after high tide.



after the very high tide
it feels
like the day
after
the very high tide

deck chairs
all topsy-turvy

sand castles
flat
on beaches surf-swept
clean

the puzzle
that is the past
to be recovered, or
not

as we choose






 



Next from the anthology, I have two short poems by Duoduo. Born Li Shizheng in Bejing in 1951, the poet trained as an opera singer. He began writing poetry during the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s and became prominent after the liberalization of Chinese politics in the late 70s. He has worked as a journalist in Bejing.

His poems were translated by Gregory Lee and John Cayley.



from Thoughts and Recollections

When the People Stand Up out of the Hard Cheese

The sound  of gunfire - dilutes the bloody terror of revolution.
August is stretched like a cruel bow.
The poisonous man-child has walked out of a peasant hovel
with tobacco and a parched throat.
The cattle have been brutally blinkered
and remains hang in the hair from their haunches, like swollen
     clappers.
Now even the sacrifice behind the bamboo fence is obscured:
far off, the troops heek coming through the cloud.

(1972)


Wishful  Thinking Is the Master of Reality

And we, are birds beak to beak
in time's story
with people
engaged in proving our differences from the  last time:

the key is turned in the ear,
shadows have broken away from us.
The key turns incessantly.
We have degenerated into people,
we have become unrecognizable people.

(1982)

 







My new poems this week have been quiet little things.

I'm thinking I can bring some light into the mix with a couple of poems from my first book, an actually print and paper production (with good art on every page), Seven Beats a Second, available through Amazon or directly from me.

Here's a poem from the book that ties in with my photo series for the week.



diminishing the stars

the city approaches

the lights
spread
across the hills
at sunset

breaking
the black serenity
of  night

diminishing the stars
that shine
in the virgin sky

sounds of the city
soon to follow

then heat

then haze
that blocks
the lights
and spread
across the hills
at sunset

the city approaches
darkly
in a fog
of its own detritus






 


Next, I have two poems by Maria Louisa B. Aguilar-Carino, from her book, Cartography: A Collection of Poetry of Baguio.

The poet is currently Associate Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program and Department of English, Old Dominion University. Previously, she was assistant professor of English and comparative literature at the University of the Philippines College Baguio. Recipient of numerous  international poetry awards, she was a Robert  Southwell fellow of the Ateneo University where she finished her MA in literature . An older  biography says that she won a Fulbright graduate study grant  in the United States where she intended to complete her Ph.D. in literary studies. Her more recent biography on Goodreads doesn't give any educational information.



Roses from the Sea

Would Gabriel Garcia
Have recognized their scent?
Up from the sea and floating
Into this vast, consuming dark,
As lights in windows flicker on.

In the city half-sprawled, half-imagined
As some great chiaroscuroed garden under glass,
Fingers stumble from under bedclothes,
Spring up from laps, drop
The encircled glass -
Uncertain still to thrill
Too strange new currents breaking
Through long-deadened air.

Their images emerge and then withdraw
Upon unceasing waves:
Icons of flowers and palms rustling,
Parting the damask air.
And in our sleep we dream
Of things reverting to what once
They were: cipher of sea and land,
Where, turning, we sense
A garden there
Whose foliage glistens
With the sun's cold,
Fleeting gold.


Picture-Taking in Besao

The toothless elder crouches
In the doorway's shadowed skirts.
He is afraid the strange, black
Meal amulet hanging heavy
From the stranger's neck
Will pleat his soul and paper his breath.
The children say it does not hurt;
They laugh to see how he persists
In holding converse with the ether
Of ideas from a trackless land.
"You live i the hollows
Of your cheeks. Come dance." they mock.
But no - it is enough for him
To sit within the doorway's shadowed frame
And feel the grim and brittle outlines
Of his soul press strange
Reassurance round his bones.
A wild bird, plumage red,
Connives to catch his rheumy eye
As it commits its body
To the wrinkled sky.







It's been some Super Bowls  past since the event that shook up the interest of  prurient far and wide about the time I was putting the book, Seven Beats a Second together. In fact, I think the FCC fine against the network responsible is  just now, years later, being settled.

If nothing else, it was an excellent opportunity for fun commentary on  the sexual perversions of the day. A real blast from the past, this poem.



late news

meanwhile...

in medical news
a loose boob
at the super  bowl
has apparently
spawned
a plague
of boobism
in legislatures
pulpits
and PTA's
across the nation
causing the
looking-out-for-us
powers that be
to  issue
an all
points
bulletin
for the five
carriers
who actually saw
said boob
at said televised
sporting event
and who are now
infiltrating
the bedrooms
of spinsters
pre-pubescent
pre-teens
and horny little
boyos
alone in their
bathrooms
imagining
what the wish
they'd seen
as only horny
can imagine
but remember
at the potential
cost of loss
of your miserable
luckless
fuckless
life
the infected
carriers
should be
approached
with
caution
because
innocent
as they may have
been before
exposure
they are now
primed with the
boobie plague
and liable  to
rape
maraud
and pillage
at the least
provocation

but it's all right
cause Jesus
loves me
Mel told
me so
and I know
where I can
get a picture
of that runaway
breast on the
Drudge Report
anyway
so I'm ok








From the anthology, here are several poems by Gertrude Stein.



from Scenes from the Door


The Ford

It is earnest.
Aunt Pauline is earnest.
We are earnest.
We are united.
Then we see.


Red Faces

Red flags the reason for pretty flags.
And ribbons.
Ribbons of flags
And wearing material
Reason for wearing material.
Give pleasure.
Can you give me the regions.
The regions and the land.
The regions and the wheels.
All wheels are perfect.
Enthusiasm.


What Is This

You can't say it's war.
I love conversation.

Do you like it printed.
I like it descriptive.
Not very descriptive.
Not very descriptive.
I like to come easily
Naturally
And then.
Crystal and cross.
Does not lie on moss.
The three ships.
You  mean washing the ships.
One was a lady.
A nun.
She begged meat
Two were husband and wife.
They had a rich father-in-law to the husband.
He did dry cleaning.
And the third one.
A woman.
She washed.
Clothes.
Then this is the way we were helped.
Not interested.
We are not very much interested.


Daughter

Why is the world at peace.
This may astonish you a little but when you realize how easily Mrs.
Charles Bianco sells the work of American painters to American mil-
lionaires you will recognise that authorities are constrained to be re-
lieved. Let  me tell you a story. A painter loved a woman. A musician did
not sing. A South African loved books. And American was a woman and
needed help. Are Americans the same as incubators. But this is the rest
of the story. He became an authority.


A Radical Expert

Can you please by asking what is expert.  And then we met one another.
I do not think it right. Marksmen. Expert. Loaf. Potato bread. Sugar
Card. Leaf. and mortar. What is the meaning of white wash. The upper
wall.
That sounds well.
And then we sinned.
A great many jews say so.


America

Once in English they said America.  Was  it  English to them.
Once they said Belgian.
We like a fog.
Do you for weather.
Are we brave.
Are we true.
Have we the national colour.
Can we stand ditches.
Can we mean well.
Do we talk together.
Have we red cross.
A great many people speak of feet.
And socks.








In 2005, when I was putting Seven Beats a Second I was pretty high on my anti-hypocrisy horse. I  have  since climbed down from the saddle, learning along the way that a little good-natured hypocrisy is not such a bad thing.

I think I may have offended just about every category of humanity, and one particular kind of obnoxious dog, with this poem, and if I didn't, it  wasn't because I wasn't trying.

But it was fun, and maybe even for a good cause.



my kind of people

fat girls
need not apply

no skinny
bucktoothed boys
who masturbate
while reading historical
romance novels

no krinkly, wrinkly
old people
drooly-chinned
babies
with foul smelling
diapers
no bankers
who count their  money
in a dark little  room
at midnight

no judges, no fire chiefs,
no social  workers,
no grocery store clerks,
barbers, bakers
or used car salesmen

also, no candlestick maker
if they're still around

none  of them either

no blonds
with dimples
and no swarthy-skinned
men with mustaches

no bald-headed men
with beards
nor women
with brittle hair
piled higher than
six and one half  inches

none too short
none too tall
none too big
none too small

and none too
in-between

no men in tangerine
bermuda shorts
and no women
in pedal pushers
(any color)

no arabs, no blacks,
no wops, or jews

no russians, maldavians,
limeys, frogs, kruats
poles, czechs, hunkies
greeks, swedes,
irish sots,
nor tight-fisted  scots

they just need not apply

and no chinamen either,
and none of their oriental
cousins

no africans
no egyptians
and damn sure no syrians

no mexicans,
peruvians, chilians,
panamanians,
pomeranians,
argentinians,
and canadians, too

and kansans,  californians,
new yorkers, iowa
porkers, nevadans
or any of the rest

all of them
just need not apply
all the riffraff
just need not apply
cause now we're
getting  down to
the right kind of people

my kind of people

me

and, maybe

you








Nick Carbo is my second Filipino poet this week. I have two poems from his book, El Gropo McDonalds, published in 1995 by Tia Chucha Press.

My first read of any of Carbo's work was a couple of weeks ago, in the fusion anthology I featured in "Here and Now." He was born in 1964 and received a MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. He has served as Resident Poet at Bucknell University and Writer-in-Residence at The American University.

This was the first of his three published collections of poetry.



On the Island of Mindoro

Around the towns of Calapan, Naujan, Pinamalayan,
and San Jose, the say a special mushroom grows
on the excrement of the water buffalo.

In a myth explained by the locals,
the water buffalo was sent to them
by the spirits of their land.

The carabao is worth more
than a car to a farmer, it takes three carabaos
to win a bride, the can never be killed for food.

The locals  have known
to harvest the mushrooms that grow
from the excrement of the carabao.

They believe it is a gift
to make them see and hear
the spirits of the field,

of forests,
of dark evenings.
They eat the mushrooms,

mix them with new rice and cane sugar.
They sit on their wooden porches
and stare at the darkness just after dusk.


Tuyo

"I just spoke to Villa on the phone last night and will see him before
the end of the week. He asked me to buy some live crabs and "tuyo"
in Chinatown for him. He loves the stuff."
        - Luis Cabalquinto
         (from a letter dated 24 March '94)


The fisherman at Rizal Beach sold us crabs that were as big
as the hubcaps of our '67 Pontiac. I remember
their coffee-colored claws were tied with abaca rope.

those pincers could have cut through my arm
if I had stuck my hand inside the salt-water bucket.
The fresh water in the large pot had to be boiling hard

before the crabs could be thrown in. I remember the hiss
and the slow dying whistle coming from inside the pot
and when I turned toward the ocean, I easily mistook

that sound as human screams carried by the Pacific wind.
That was in Bicol where  Mayon volcano first greets the sun
sent by our relatives in San Francisco and New York -

a pasalubong for every day.
The crabs you find in Chinatown will be smaller
than the fist  you made when you first heard

of your father's death. Despite their small size,
these crabs will hiss louder than the passing siren
on the EMS ambulance outside

your New York apartment window. I remember
the fisherman in Rizal Beach had two fingers missing.
It happened when he was still a boy

and he stuck his hand in a dark hole
under a coral reef. He said the crabs were even bigger
in those days. Nobody heard him scream.



 



Next, I have  poems by my friend, Alex Stolis. I like his work  and you have seen  it often  here.



Monday's child...

Monday's child is fair of face

I recognize you everywhere: you are a little
bird, your  bright wings, a melancholy quiver
that wakes the sky from a deep white sleep.
We walk to the river, after the flood; count
star trains. I play with the buttons on your coat.
You bite my lip, speak of moonlit crows, white
hot vigils; mourning and hymns. I tell you stories: 
my first car, bench seat and wing windows; a girl
without a name, hiked skirt, black heels; a shared
flask of schnapps. I climb to the top of the hill over
looking the water; throw stones at the devil.


 
Tuesday's child is full of grace

Her hands folded, as if in prayer; a neon shadow crosses
the bed, we’re a blur of drink and smoke and promises.
It’s a safe bet the river will flood soon; the bars will
empty and the all night girls will pretend to run from
the all night boys; someone gets lucky someone gets
lonely; someone always pays. I will not fuck us over,
won’t recreate heaven and earth. You are a confession,
a sacrament, keeper of faith; hands clasped as if in prayer.
Tonight the sky holds salvation. The difference between
what’s lost and what’s holy no longer matters.



Wednesday's child is full of woe

It was the first day of spring; like any other day but flatter;
a tight-chested-wait-for-the-shoe-to-drop day. We tried to
be good, tried to placate the part time gods. Parked cars
heat up on Main Street. She’s newly minted in her halter
top, sling backs and black tights; that buzz should be over
by now. I watch the sun fight shadows on the downtown
skyline; can’t keep anything, can’t imagine words anymore
without you in them. You play piano: soft, low; a prayer,
a processional song for saints and the forgotten. I have
to say everything twice; make sure I believe.



Thursday's child has far to go

That night I got arrested was star-spangled and dry; a blood
moon wrapped in white gauze. She had my coat. She had
to walk home. It was the last time I made her cry; she loved
me. We are armed and unmanned; too shy to have a childhood
worth remembering. That great lake swallowed us whole;
drowned our handsome voice. Our past lies in a city in a far
off land across an ocean buried in a hill. You’re in Chicago;
New York; you’re a winter’s kiss. We’re a made-up dialogue
on the curb; a secret waiting to be shared.


Friday's child is loving and giving

We were immortal and invisible; under influenced and loaded.
We surfed the rain on Superior Street; broke bottles and jumped
fences. We became whip-smart and motored up. She saw me
from a high windowed palace. She was a distracted miracle,
a ripened star; another one more chance. That summer is distant,
obscure; we climbed stones and buried sins. You put my hand
on your heart to keep it warm. The sky is a wheat field, fertile
and rich; we are home. In the scent of lilies, the crunch of leaves
we become an element that lives between water and fire.



Saturday's child works hard for a living

We sat on the ledge at the overlook [Skyline Boulevard];
crushed cans of Special X and Budweiser, contemplated
lengths of rope [right there; a flock of swans taking flight].
She told me she was a hand-me-down, she’d confess to
anyone’s sins; [a black V swings over the bridge heading
north]; at midnight in the middle of summer she became
the way the truth the light of my life [the V is a thin line,
a speck]. You tell me longing is a tree, rooted and heaven
-bound; say everything can be measured: sadness, silence;
the distance between loss and redemption. 



But the child born on the Sabbath Day is bonny, blithe, good and gay

 We were kaleidoscopes: splinters of glass and sand;
[she said she knew me]. Turned to the light we bled
into circles and squares; [moved her foot up my leg].
Rough grains slipping round a cylinder [it wasn’t even
close to last call]. We woke to the barely dawn, to
the barest of blues and naked pinks; became walking
talking shadows. You’re on your way away from me
[your side of the bed; still warm]. Your dress lies
guilty on the floor; a dog-eared paperback [marked
at a poem about Hopper]. Tonight bleeds all colors,
we’re alone, together; weightless and unwanting.  





 




Here are two poems from the anthology by Howard Nemerov.

Born in New York City in 1920, the poet enlisted in the Canadian air force in 1941, before the United States entered the war. As a pilot, he flew combat missions against German shipping in the North Sea, then, in 1943, joined the U.S. Army Air Forces.

A fiction writer as well as a poet, Nemerov taught at a number of universities in the United States and received numerous awards for his work, including appointment as United States Poet Laureate of the United States in 1990. He died in 1991.



Night Operations, Coastal Command RAF

Remembering that war, I'd near believe
We  didn't need the enemy, with whom
Our dark encounters were confused and few
And quickly done, so many of our lot
Did for themselves in folly and misfortune.

Some hit our own barrage balloons, and some
Tripped over power lines, coming in low;
Some swung on takeoff, others overshot,
And two or three forgot to lower the wheels.

There were those  that flew the bearing for the course
And flew away forever; and the happy few
That honed on Venus sinking beyond the sea
In fading certitude. For all the skill,
For all the time of training, you might take
The hundred steps in darkness, not the next.


Ultima Ratio Reagan

The reason we do not learn from history is
Because we are not the people who learned last time.

Because we are not the same people as them
That fed our sons and honor to Vietnam
And dropped the burning money on their trees.

We know that we know better than they knew,
And history will not blame us if once again
The light at the end of the tunnel is the train.







I wrote the next  poem in 2001, one of many not included in the 2005 book Seven Beats a Second. In  the case of this book it was left out  because I thought it  was mushy, overly-long and not good enough for my first shot at immortality.

The poem hasn't gotten any better in the years since, but it is a perfect fit for the theme of my photos this week, one of my first attempts at that theme.

I must admit though, however  good or bad the poem, I haven't shopped at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in the eleven or twelve years since I wrote it.


don't shop  at  Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse

high meadow...

gently-sloped hill
carpeted
with grass
wildflowers
at the very top
oak trees
the largest
as wide around as two
long-armed me could stretch

an old tree
tall  and sturdy
when the mission
in the valley below
fell to the army
of Santa Ana
bloody cries
of patriots
drifting in the wind
with the smoke
of musket
and cannon  fire

earlier
a sapling
with golden galleons sunk
in salty gulf waters to the east
sailors dying
on hot island sand
killed by summer storm
that swept
across tidal bays
pushed inland
dropping rain
to  feed the grass and wildflowers
to make the sapling grow

earlier still
a seedling
when Comanche
roamed the hills around
and white men
first  claimed
the green shores
for  God and King
casting the first  long shadows
of  death over the old life
of  earth and sky and spirits
making  all one with the other
fate  shifted
changes unimagined
but for an old wise man
who might have set on this hill
and seen the future, smelled
the stench of death
approaching

the same stench now

but no tree
shade five centuries
grown
gone
scars in the earth
where old roots
were pulled from the ground
paved over
gone
with the  grass and wildflowers

all
covered in asphalt

a graveyard
made
so that we might park

 









From my library,  I have several poems by Jack Myers, from his book OneOnOne, published in 1999 by Autumn House Press.

Born in 1941 in Massachusetts, Myers was Texas Poet Laureate in 2003, and served on the faculty of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas for more than 30 years. He was director of creative writing at SMU from 2001 through until his death in 2009.

I like the simple, good sense of these poems. The make me wish, for the very first time ever, that I had studied at Southern Methodist University, just for the pleasure of studying with the poet.

My creative writing teacher was Dr. Norm Peterson of Southwest Texas State University, gone now I'm sure since that was nearly 45 years ago, a short story writer who took such pleasure in the writing life that it illuminated his classroom from the minute he walked in the door. I took his class twice, first pre-military and then again four years later, post-military. I published my first poems while studying with him.



What We  Wish

for Jezy and Aniela Gregorek

When I read the poets  of Poland,
who seem to have nothing
but stones and rags and the toiling
of history to sew into poems,

I feel so American, so little
of a past to have come from
I have to face the future
to  figure out where I've been,

so minuscule my injustices I bemoaned
my lust for dragging off my soul
like a burdensome little sister
into some very risky business.

So all the cliches I scoffed at
were true, like The Good Old Days
I thought I was too good for when
a dose of Poland would've done me some good.

Well, now I'm not so stupid
as to curse what's left of my body
which, since the old ways are out of the question,
has become the little white flag of my wish.


Location, Location, Location

The little designer-placed apple tree on our balcony
is doubled over with the weight of its guarantee.

So the skeptic in me says this feels unreal compared to
the fire ants who've tunneled their way to light between bricks,
or the centipede who's wriggled  his way to our kitchen sink
through hundreds of feet of pipe. The well-being of the tree
seems nothing  compared to those  struggling out of darkness.

But the improved part of me
who's trying to improve me
asks in unison with the apple tree,
"What part of being well-fed and happy is unreal?"


The Rules

My son is playing baseball.
He misses a high pop-up
and feels bad.
Then he strikes out
and we both feel bad.

But since when has paying attention
and doing well always been good for me?
I ask my dog  who  looks up to me
as we walk through traffic
"How many tragedies have I escaped
by not paying attention?"

My son's errors at play
are moments of pure  air and light.
Isn't that what missing is?
That seems just as lovely and interesting
as getting it right.


Limits

I've  filled  the  raft
with little puffs of breath.
just enough so I can float.

If my soul had limits
so I could blow into it
I wouldn't need the raft.


On  Sitting

On the first day, the Master  said to his students,
"After you have considered the chair you will sit  in
as you have considered your life in relation to others -

who  will be more knowledgeable than you, who has less,
whose  life is better, whose is worse;
in other words, whether it would better to be
the nail,  the wood, the glue, or the varnish -
you may be seated."









This is a piece I did last week, a weird thing.

Way back, in high school, the annual showing of the gruesome car wreck pictures/film. Crumpled cars, bodies in every manner of mutilation at the crash scenes and on a table at a morgue. One of the wrecks was the one that decapitated Jayne Mansfield. The showed the car,  but not the body. Maybe she was too famous.



fear of falling
bizarre flashes,
visions,
like the saints,
imagined images
of death
based on images of death seen,
images
that make us break stride,
blink our eyes -
the head of Jayne Mansfield
separated from her lush and famous
body
and lying alone
among the bits and pieces
of crumpled metal
shining in the moonlight glow,
bits and pieces
that had been her Cadillac
convertible -
flashes that leap out of somewhere
coming and going, our brief
connection
to the reptile saint within us,
thoughts we wish we hadn’t
thought,
revelations of apocalyptic
days and nights,
images from somewhere behind
our eyelids that return
again and again,
even as we wish
we had not imagined to see them,
squeezing eyes tight so tight
together,
the eyes that even in our self-imposed dark
see
visions
like the saints

saints
twisted creatures, human/unhuman
in their contradictions,
horrible,
in their profane
holy grit,
horrible we too, like them,
being like them,
depraved angels, clay-bound,
goodness-seeking against our deeper self,
pining for goodness only because
we are terrified, frightened of what we are,
tentative angels, fragile,
not fallen, but feeling sometimes
too much in common with the one who
did









I may have to come back to this anthology in a week or two. There's just too much great stuff to feature in one, or even a dozen features.

Until I return to the anthology, here are two Americans with similar testimony.



The first is Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, peace and freedom activist, playwright, poet, frequent arrestee, and, for four years resident of a federal prison. A hero to many, though not necessarily one of mine (being a skeptic when it comes to all the professional religious who, as part of their job, assume a moral superiority that allows them to judge the rest of us).


Rehabilitative Report: We Can Still Laugh

In  prison you put on your clothes
and take them off again.
You jam your food down
and shit it out again.
You round  the compound right
to left and right again.
The year grows irretrievably old
so does your hear burn white.
The mood; one volt above
one volt below survival,
roughly per specimen, space
sufficient for decent burial.


The second poet is Galwa Kinnell.

Born in 1927, Kinnell served briefly in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II. He was arrested in Louisiana in 1963 while working for the Congress  of Racial Equality. In the late 1960s he actively protested the war in Vietnam. Later he received a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.

At the time the anthology was published, Kinnell was a professor of English at New York University.


Vapor Trail Reflected in the Frog Pond

I
The old watch: their
thick eyes
puff and foreclose by the moon. The young, heads
trailed by the beginnings  of necks,
shiver,
in the guarantee they shall be bodies.

In the fog pond
the vapor trail of a SAC bomber creeps,

I ear its drone, drifting, high up
in immaculate ozone.

II
And I hear,
coming over the hill, America singing,
the varied carols I hear:
crack of deputies' rifles practicing their aim on stray dogs at night,
sput of cattle prod,
TV groaning at he smells of the the human body,
curses of the soldier as poisons, burns, grinds, and stabs
the rice of the world,
with open mouth, crying strong, hysterical curses.

III
And by rice paddies in Asia
bones
where a few shadows
walk down a dirt road, smashed
bloodsuckers on their heel, knowing
the flesh a man throws down in the sunshine
dogs shall eat
and the flesh that is upthrown in the air
shall be seized by birds,
shoulder blades smooth, unmarked by old feather-holes,
hands rivered
by blue, erratic wanderings, of the blood,
eyes crinkled up
as the gaze up at the drifting sun that gives us our lives,
seed dazzled over the foot battered blaze of the earth.











Another new poem from last  week.

Summer is here all ready in the hill country, not hot, hot summer, but warm and humid days and cool damp nights.



osculant moon
haze over a
moon
three quarters full

damp
in the air,
tiny drifting drops
of heavy fog
inviting
bare embrace
of the primordial night
and
all its cool charms

I am
my grandfather’s grandfather’s
grandfather, 100
generations
back,
barefoot
and naked in all the dark
mysteries of
legend
told
beneath an osculant
moon

head thrown back
in silent, civilized howling







Although I said just before this that I was through for this post with the anthology, I found one more poet that I thought fit well with Berrigan and Kinnell.



The poet is Aleksander Wat.

Born in 1900 to a family of Polish, Wat studied philosophy at he University of Warsaw and published his first book of poems in 1919. An enthusiastic supporter of the Russian revolution and a committed leftist, he was arrested and jailed by the Polish government for editing a Communist magazine. In 1939, he fled Warsaw into the Soviet Zone. He was arrested by the Russians the following year and sent to a number of prisons in Poland and the Soviet Union, including Lubyanka in Moscow. After his release in 1941, he was reunited with his family, only to be arrested again for refusing to give up his Polish citizenship. He returned to Poland in 1946, but was silenced by the Communist government in 1949, until  the post-Stalinist thaw allowed him to publish a book of poems in 1957.

He lived in Italy, France, and the United States until his suicide in 1967.

He calculates in one of his poems that he spent time in fourteen prisons.

His poems here were translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan.



From Persian Parables

By a great, swift water
on a stony bank
a human skull was lying
and shouting:  Allah la  ilah.

And in that cry such horror
and such supplication
so great was its despair
that I asked the helmsman:

For what can it still  cry out? Of what is it still afraid?
What divine judgement could strike it yet again?

Suddenly there came a wave
took hold of the skull
and tossing it about
smashed it against the bank.

Nothing is ultimate
- the helmsman's voice was hollow -
and there is no bottom to evil.


Imagerie d'Epinal

On the death of Reik,Slansky and thousands of others.

The executioner yawned. From his axe the blood was  still dripping.
"Don't  cry, here's a lollipop, don't my child"

He took her in his arms. Caressed her. And she looked at the head.
At the sightless eyes. At the dumb lips.

It was the head of her father. Later on, embalmed,
sashed, it was put on a pole and nicely painted.

With that pole she marched in a parade on a sunny, populous road,
under her school placard:
                                         "Happiness to all - death to enemies..."

1949

 








My last poem for the week.

Watching school buses make their way through traffic in the barely-dawn morning, it occurred to me  that there must be something  better we can do for out children than  send them out in boxes to other boxes where they learn the parameters of the box  they will live in for the rest of their lives.



learning  the ropes
school buses
like long yellow slugs
creeping through the frantic crush
of early morning
worker ants, out to gather
a living for their queen

it’s early training
for our larval
offspring,
casting them in their yellow box
among the bare-dawn rush
of their worker-ant
future

like a pre-school
for the death
of life,
learning the ropes
they use
to hang us

pray for them
that their queen may be
merciful











The end. Everything  belongs to those  that  created it. You can have my stuff, except  for the books which you have to pay for (hey, I'd like to  at  least  break even on this poetry stuff).

I'm allen it, owner and producer of this blog, and,  as  usual pushing my books, the new one as well as the ones below.


Bookbaby (the publisher) has developed agreements with additional distributors since my last book. They are listed below. At this point, I know next to nothing about any of them.

Available at the major eBook retailers, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Appple ibookstore, as well as others I mostly never heard of before, including  Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, and eBookPie


Always to the Light



Goes Around, Comes Around
 



Pushing Clouds Against the Wind



And

For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon

Seven Beats a Second



 




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