End of Days   Wednesday, June 20, 2012






Now for something  entirely different:

I was reading an  interesting piece last week about The Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible, and its author and its history.

It is thought that the author  was  a Jewish Christian living and writing near the middle of the First century after the birth of Christ, a period when both Jews and Christians were under intense attack from Rome, a period when, among other events, the Temple in Jerusalem and Jerusalem itself were destroyed. This leads to the speculation that the author was neither the divinely inspired prophet that believers envision nor the whacked-out mystic that others of us usually assume. Instead, the article suggests, the author was a citizen of his time watching in despair as the world he has  known comes to an end and writing the history of its passage, reporting on it, in most extreme and highly symbolic language (symbolism being the better part  of valor during those harsh times).

So what many today, and have for generations, read as a prophecy of Apocalypse, can be read as more likely a contemporaneous record, a history lesson, told in unusually vivid terms.  I've credited the work to "John" because there are several different Johns consider to be the likely author, including John the Disciple of Jesus, which seems unlikely since he would have to have been more than a hundred years old at the time of writing. There is also speculation that it might have been someone else entirely, or a collection of writers.

But authorship is not really important. No matter who or how many hands were involved in the writing, it is an important part of Western literary tradition.

And the point of  that whole  explanation is that I'm going to  use some of the most  striking parts of The Book this week,  along with some the darker poems I have in library.

It might be interesting, maybe.

My selections from The Book of Revelation are from the International Children's Bible, New Century Version, published by Word  Bibles in 1986. (PG-13 version, I suppose) Though there have been hundreds of translators and editors and (and politicians) involved in creating the publication known as the Holy Bible, people we will never know or whose ends they served, I wish I knew who, or what committee of who, prepared this version. It is really very well done, as you will read later.

I suppose some will find it strange that I would present this in my poetry blog, especially considering my generally anti-religious views, but I think we ought to know and give due attention and credit to the literature of our western heritage. So...

And, in addition to that something different, my other something different this week is that I'm holding all my new poems from future posts. Instead, I'm going strictly with old poems from my folder, "Poems, Volume 3, Q to Z" - to which nothing new has been added in about six years, or, since discovery of the thumb drive.

Love poems, of a sort, because, of a sort, is the only kind of love poems I did/don't do much anymore.



Me
rain on gray water

”John”
from The Book of Revelation

Me -
Saturday Night Fever

Various
from Japanese Death Poems

Me
so sorry

Tino Villanueva 
Now, Suns Later

Me
Sonya

"John"
from The Book of Revelation
Me
social obligations

Ted Kooser
Mourners
Skater
Dishwater

Me
scenes from an Italian restaurant
sweet ashes
true romance
the cruelty of cats at play

”John”
from The Book of Revelation

Me
Reba
walking Reba at midnight
thunder

Linda Dove
Milagro
Bloodletting

Me
sunflowers in flight

”John”
from The Book of Revelation

Me
tears in public places

Valarie Berry
dead man in a Greek restaurant

Me
trolling

”John”
from The Book  of Revelation

Me
the sheen of Geena’s hair

D.K. Jones
The Downlook
Cuba  Rico

Me
flying a kite with Katie

”John” 
from The Book of Revelation

Me
dusk

”John” 
from The Book of Revelation

Me
flambeau

Me
what do we know of the end of days?











Here's the first of my old kinda-like love poems, a poem of love lost. But isn't that what most love poems are about, loneliness or the threat of loneliness?

I wrote this in 2003. This is possibly it's first exposure to the world.



rain on gray water

day begins
in the light shadows
of dawn

the wind is strong this morning
from the northwest
blowing hard against the tide
whipping up a surface froth
as it pushes toward the open gulf

there's a small squall
about a mile out
like a curtain across the bay
with rain falling hard on gray water
and choppy waves churned
by the wind and counter-tidal push

I'm out early
watching the day begin
waiting for the sun to rise
over the squall and isolate the storm
like a gray stain on the orange
then red fabric of the climbing sun

blue skies will come today
the sun will come
and the curtain of rain will fall
and wind and tides will turn
and the bay and beaches will sparkle
in the white summer light

but I will spend the day alone,
a shadow in the light










This, from the beginning of Revelations, where "John" gets his charge.



     On the Lord's day the Spirit took control of me. I heard a loud voice behind me that sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, "Write what you see and send that book to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyma, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
     I turned to see who was talking to me.  When  I turned I saw seven golden lampstands. I saw someone among the lampstands who was like "a son of man." He was dressed in a long robe. He had a  gold band  around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow.  His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like bronze that glows hot in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of flooding water. He held seven stars in his right hand. A  sharp two-edged sword came out  of his mouth. He looked like the sun shining at its brightest time.
     When I saw him, I fell down at his feet  like a dead man. He put his right hand on me and said, "Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the one who lives. I  was  dead, but look: I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and where the dead are. So write the things you see, what is  now and what will happen later.







Here's  another kind of love, a secret, guilty lusting.

The poem was written in 2000,  and appeared that year in a local web-zine.



Saturday Night Fever

Sonny comes into the room
knowing he shouldn't be here,
but, God help him, he loves it so,
not just the sin, but the idea
of sinning.

He checks the merchandise
arrayed against the wall,
mind racing, eyes stuttering
as the shift across the display
of succulent pleasures laid out
before him, a sensuous offering
of voluptuous indulgence
waiting for him to choose.

"Take meeeee...Take meeee..."

The sly, silent cries entice,
but he holds back, bracing himself
as if against a strong wind. Until,
overcome by anticipatory passions,
he surrenders to his true nature.

Saturday-night feet push aside
Sunday morning apprehensions and
he crosses the room. Weak before
overriding temptation, his heart
jumps as he sniffs the air. Then
the battle lost, he licks his lips
and makes his decision...

"I'll take two of the chocolate eclairs,
he says, "and a pint of skim milk to go."










Here are some "death poems" by Japanese Zen monks and Haiku poets.

Death poems, written  supposedly in the last hours of a poet's life  were a part of the Japanese poetic convention for many years. I'm thinking most of the poets might have cheated and had  something  available  for the event early.

The poems are taken from the anthology, Japanese Death Poems,  published in 1986 by Tuttle Publishing.





By Daido Ichi'i, died in 1370 at the age of seventy-nine.

A tune of non-being
Filling the void:
Spring sun
Snow whiteness
Bright clouds
Clear  wind.


By Ingo, died in 1281 at the age of  seventy-two

Three and seventy years
I've drawn pure water from the fire -
Now  I become a tiny bug.
With a touch of my body
I shatter all the worlds.


By Zosan Junku, died  in 1308 at the age of seventy-six

You must play
That tune of non-being yourself -
Nine summits collapse
Eight oceans  go dry


By Gokei, died in 1769 at the age of fifty-three

Fields  dying off:
the underside of grasses frozen
hour off my death.


By Hakukin, died 1817 at  the age of sixty-two

Pampas grass, all dry
crumbles apart
water and sky...


By Basho,  died in 1694 at the  age of fifty-one

On a journey, ill:
my dream goes  wandering
over withered  field


By Mitoku, died in 1669  at the age  of eighty-two

the foam on the last water
has dissolved
my mind is clear


By Seisa, died in 1722 at the age of forty-seven

My body, useless
as the last persimmon
on the tree.


By Sodo, died in 1716 at the age of seventy-five

Full  autumn moon:
my shadow takes me with him
and returns.


By Soa, died in 1742 at the age of sixty-six

Whether or not  a paradise
awaits in the far reaches
of the west...












I wrote this next thing in 2003, still deep in the period of the AIDS panic. I think  of it  as a "love the one you hate" or, maybe, "hate the one you love" poem. 

It's meant as a comment on the hypocrisy of the unaflicted (yet so highly sympathetic). Think of all the religeosos and their "hate the sin; love the sinner" bullshit.



so sorry

so sorry to hear
you've been ill

and
so sorry to hear
you're going to hell
for the illness
that is God's punishment
for the sin
that is sending you to hell
when you die
from this illness

so,
sorry,
but don't get too close










Next I have a poem by Texas poet, Tino Villanueva, from his book Shaking off the Dark, published in 1998 by Bilingual  Press/Editoria Bilingue.

Villanueva was  among the Chicano poets who emerged between the late 1960s and the early 1980s to write in both English and Spanish, often, as in this book, switching between the two languages in the same poem. He graduated from Texas State University, on the G.I. Bill, from the State University of New York with an M.A. in 1971, and from Boston University with a doctorate in Spanish in 1981. He taught at Wellesley College and currently serves as Senior Lecturer in Spanish, Department of Romance Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University.

A  beautiful tribute, as often with such, a remembrance of from where comes out strength.



Now, Suns Later

       For my grandmother,  Clara Soland Rios,
       Eagle Pass, Texas (1885) - San Marcos, Texas (1965)

The century heaved a turn
and seven years later  she  took him
for the life of her.

She made sure granddad arose for the love of her:
that yielding belly put nine screaming mouths
at a simple table.
She left no one unweaned, unwanted,
was up before the sun struck dawn,
kneading tortillas
to  keep  a race going.

And when dawn's colors flooded the lasting fields,
she walked into light
finding her place in the arrogant sun:
she too went tilling the yielding earth.
And to the blazing wind sparks flew
from sun-struck stones
scraped by her quick-thinning hoe.
Her lean, strong digging round the first juices
of cotton: life seeds smothered
in mean temperatures of a hundred.
And after the timely rain she picked it by the baleful,
and when it came back to her,
her threads like rainbows gave shape to warmth.
From ready remnants, she patterned light glowing quilts;
from remnants of remnants, she braided a rug.
And pillows, high and ruffled, came from feathers
of Sunday chickens.

                               ***

The 30s brought her into the city,
but not to rest yet.
How could she, with a family following the sun
round a farm still?
Arm-weary, that solitary washer  stooped
because she had to
over  her  only washboard.
Her slim life bending like a corn stalk,
fragile, in the middle of a spring wind;
her wringing fingers making clean a family
of wet-wash, freeing it again from earth.
And having hardly rested , before supper,
she rinsed clear the outdoors on window panes.
Then, because everyday was a God,
we assembled at her feet in Bible-black nights
and heard in Spanish
the Presbyterian prophets speak with clarity:
we lingered in her words, and we believed her faith.

When asked about torn history,
she'd squint past your through wrinkles
into that imaginary distance of infinite cotton fields,
recalling her favorite dawns
                the drought of '25
                the Christmas of '48, when her three quick sons
                marched out of the distant seas.

I see her garden, fresh turned in an hour's time:
how under the falling light
she goes trimming the twilight of leaves,
caressing buds almost afire,
making a Spring bloom year-round from flowerpots,
her cupped hands kindling a wilting flower back to light.

                               ***

I saw her last in '64.
when the army took me to its cold bivouacs.
Her eyes were sharp with pain.
and  she sighed more than usual: Au que afant!, she ached
"Oh, what a chore!"

A year later, the letter emailed from Texas
in mid-march sprouting warm,
spoke of how still our garden had become,
how the quick of the sun came up no more
one sudden-gray and absent morning.

Now, suns later,
on this dawn near freezing with a promise of sure snow,
I am sustained
thinking back how much she strained in radiant need
and wonder why it had to be that way,
why no Movement  pushed to slow down
the strides of the sun for her, that woman,
moving always in rhythms of labor in Texas sprawling days.
Still her memory warms the day for me.
And I endure,
for patience must have been her only strength,
her only movement, truly private.
Lonely. 

                                               Boston, winter 1974-1975









This next thing is very old, from the mid-60s.

The poem was ultimately published in 2003, in Poet's Canvas, a very fine poetry eZine.



Sonya

s
o
n
y
a
so  small
and thin
and happyeyed
you dance
soquickly
across
the floor
and backtome
who do you tell of your child
and scars and tired feet
s
o
n
y
a









The next section from Revelations tells of the things "John" saw in Heaven.



    After this I looked,and there before me was an open door in heaven.And I heard the same voice that spoke to me before. It was the  voice that sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this." Then  the Spirit took control of me. There before me was a throne in heaven.Someone was sitting on the throne. The One who sat on the throne looked like precious stones like jasper and carnelian.  All around the throne was a rainbow the color of an emerald. Around the throne there were 24 other thrones. There were 24 elders sitting on the 24 thrones. The elders were  dressed in white, and they had golden crowns  on their heads. Lightning flashes and noises of thunder came from the throne. Before the throne  there were seven lambs burning. These amps are the seven spirits of God.Also before the throne there was something that looked like a sea of glass. It was  clear like crystal.
     Around the throne, on each side, there were four living things. These living things had eyes all over them, in front and in back. The first living thing thing was like a lion. the second was like a calf.  The third had a face like a man. The fourth was  like a flying eagle. Each of these four living things had six wings. the living things  were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day and night they never stop saying:
    "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God
                All-Powerful.
    He was, he is, and he is
                coming."













I wrote this next thing in the early 2000s.

I'm not an especially social creature, not good at small talk, definitely not a party animal. In this kind of setting, I always slink over to a corner of the room and try to pretend I'm a bookcase or a very tall lamp, or such.



social obligations

I wade clumsily
through the crowd
unsteady,
like an alien
from a watery world
bewildered
by the arid airfullness
of earth,
all around me
people talking,
muted, mumbling,
chatter
to fill the void
of the where they are not

in a corner I see you,
pinned against the wall
by an ivy league type
in a paisley coat
who leans in close to you,
talking into your ear,
so close
his lips almost touch you,
so close
his breath brushes your hair,
telling you something,
what I don't know,
but in your eyes
the same glazed look
I know is in mine,
another fish out of water,
another alien stuck
with a one way ticket
to the wrong place
and the wrong time










Here are three  poems by Ted Kooser, from his book Delights & Shadows, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004.

Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa in 1939. He received his B.A. from Iowa State and his M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is the author of ten collections of poetry, as well as books of fiction and non-fiction. His honors include two NEA fellowships in poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia, and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. In the fall of 2004, Kooser was appointed the Library of Congress's thirteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

He is a poet of the small moment, the kind of poet I like best.



Mourners

After the funeral, the mourners gather
under the rustling churchyard maples
and talk softly, like clusters of leaves.
White shirt cuffs and collars flash in the shade:
highlights on deep green water.
They came this afternoon to say goodbye,
but now they keep  saying hello and hello,
peering into each other's faces,
slow to let go of each other's hands.


Skater

She was in black but for a yellow ponytail
that trailed from her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that  broadened
into a meadow of curls,Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leaped into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at trhe woman she'd been just an instant before.


Dishwater

Slap of the screen door, flat knock
of my grandmother's boxy black shoes
on the wooden stoop, the hush and sweep
of her knob-kneed, cotton-aproned stride
out to the edge and then, toed in
with a furious twist and heave,
a bridge that leaps from her hot red hands
and hangs there shining for fifty years
over the mystified chickens,
over the swaying nettles, the ragweed,
the clay slope down to the creek,
over the redwing blackbirds in the tops
of the willows, a glorious rainbow
with an empty dishpan swinging at one end.







I wrote the next piece in 2000, in response to a "bag word" challenge on a poetry forum. For those who don't frequent poetry forums, a "bag word" challenge is when you're give a certain number of arbitrarily selected words (five in this instance) and you're supposed to write a poem using each of the given words at least once, but no more than once. It's a great way to stretch your imagination and practice the craft of writing.

The  poem got published somewhere, but I don't remember where, a local, long-gone eZine, I think.

I have no idea what the bag words were here.



scenes from an Italian restaurant

the scene is set
candlelight reflected
in glittering crystal,
your face shaded
in flickering shadows.

the extras are in their
places.

your lip curls,
trembles,
and you eyes
look away.

how beautiful you were
on the night
you said goodbye.


The next piece was  written about the same time and I think was in response to another challenge.

But I don't remember the details.


sweet ashes

in the coldest  hours  of these long nights,
I trace my life
through the corkscrew path of fate and fashion
and, in the freezing dark, hold close
those hours I spent with you.

our love was a might burning fire;
it's sweet  ashes warm me still.


And here's a third. This one from the 60s and not the product of any kind of challenge, other than the challenge to not get too drunk, late at night on the banks of Lake Travis, near Austin, with a long and winding road to drive still to drive home.


true romance

crick-et
crick-et
crick-et

cricking  love songs
to a crotchety moon

po-et
po-et
po-et



Crashing love affairs, like plane wrecks, are always bad; some can be really, really bad.

Back when I was doing submissions, I sent this out to a lot of places. Never got it accepted anywhere.

I always thought it was worth publishing. Still do.


the cruelty of cats at play

her black smile
cut like a dagger through the dark,
     unseen
     slicing cleanly to the heart

"I have something to tell you,"
     she whispered.











Next, from Revelations, "John's" in Heaven, watches the opening of the seven seals. Earlier, a lamb is sacrificed and declared worthy to open the seals, and does so.



     Then I watched as while the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. I heard one of the four living things speak with a voice like thunder. It said, "Come!" I looked and there before me was a white horse. The rider on the horse held a bow and he was given a crown. And he rode out, defeating the enemy. H rode out to win the victory.
     The Lamb opened the second seal. then I heard the second living thing say, "Come!" Then another horse came out. This was a red horse. Its rider was given power to take away peace from the earth. He was given the power to make people kill each other. Ad he was given a  big sword.
     The Lamb opened the third seal. The I heard the third living thing say, "Come!" I looked, there there before me was a black horse. Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand...
     The Lamb opened the fourth seal. Then I heard the voice of the fourth living thing say, "Come!" I looked, and there before was a pale horse. It's rider was named death. Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth. They were given power to kill people by war, by starving them, by disease, and by the wild animals of the earth.











Anyone who says that the relationship  between man and his best companion, his dog, isn't a love story suffers from an insufficiency of soul.


Reba

Reba's at my bed
paws dancing on the carpet
ardent for the day


walking Reba at midnight

moon so bright
    sky
    charcoal  gray
candy puff clouds
    like lace
    in the trees


thunder

great thunder crashes
shake  the house and scare the dog -
she cries in my arms










Next, I have  two poems by Linda Dove, from her book, In Defense of Objects, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, of 2009, published that year by Bear Star Press.

Dove retired from fifteen years of college teaching in 2004 to take up  ranching in Skull Valley,  Arizona. She holds a PhD in Renaissance  literature and taught most recently at Prescott College and
Yavapai College in Arizona, where she briefly directed the creative writing program.



Milagro

When my tongue's tip found out the hollow
back, I said the word milagro, and the charm
filled with my flesh and wouldn't stop. It beat
full into the night, above the dark bed
of the river, its water line low and struggling
to be heard. It danced and drank and sang
beyond its means, beyond the veins it opened
in the first  place. El corazon, caught on a string
of time that's not  indifferent, so near the place
where you keep your voice, the cupped tin
prone and waiting like another ear. I asked it
would you start this prayer with my name.


Bloodletting

It  slides  easily away: under the leeches prolonged gnaw,
the stub of a toe, the unborn's sudden revolt. Surprising,

how much facility it has for going. It stains in the most
unlikely places - the sidewalk, for instance. My father,

a boy of ten, watches his mother float by at eye level,
the gurney and street below red with what fell

from her  center. Strange that we are built like a beaker,
for holding things in, yet this blood turns us libertine:

skins open like purses, coins spilling in the gutter,
on No Man's  Land, across sheets of a virgin bride.

We smear it in the hand of another, vow of faith against
some larger letting. Raised to the surface, it is the color

of curtains pulled close on a night when the cold passes
through glass. It slips by the body, the newly autonomous,

the way fog forgoes water through it is of water.
We see this blood outside us, beneath us, beside us:

over doorways, or spoiling on clothing.










This next piece has nothing to do with my "love poem" thing, but, due to recent changes here by the blog host, I can do this not without spending hours struggling with my very limited HTML skills.



sunflowers in flight


    u          e                        s
b          t                        e
        t                f       i
                    r        l

little wings so soft

          so soft

like a mother's kiss 
                               brush

against the thick

      summer
          air

yellow/black/yellow/black/yellow

                   a cloud of

                             w           s
s              f       o        e
           n       l                 r
    u

                   in flight






Continuing with the opening of  the seven seals from  Revelations.



The Lamb  opened the fifth seal. Then I saw some souls under the altar. They were the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to God's message....Then each of those souls was given a white robe. They were told to wait a short time longer. There were still some of their brothers in the service of Christ who must e killed as they were. They were told to wait until all of the killing was finished.
      Then I watched while the Lamb opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun became black like rough black cloth. The full moon became red with blood. The stars in the sky fell to earth like figs falling from a fig tree when the wind blows. The sky disappeared. It was rolled up like a scroll. and every mountain and island was moved  from its place.
     Then all the people hid in caves and behind the rocks on the mountains. these were the kings of the earth, the rulers,the generals, the rich people and the powerful  people. Everyone, slave and free hid himself.













More bad love, this I wrote in 2003.



tears in public places

she sobs,
once,
then looks away
damp-eyed

he sits beside her
frozen still  at  first
then leans back
and looks at her
watches her
like a bystander
like he doesn't know
how he got there
why he got there

he says something
moves closer to her
seems to say it again

she nods
looks down
to her hand lying
flat on the table
inches from his
trembling

his hand lifts, fingers
barely off the table
and it appears he might
take her hand, but
he draws back
speaks softly to her again
rises from his chair
and starts toward the door

she follows, wiping
her sunglasses
and the sun through
the open door
is like a flash of fire








Here's a longer  poem by Valerie Berry, from her book Difficult News, published  in 2001 by Sixteen River's Press.

Originally from Indiana, Berry is a physician practicing community medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area and author of several books of poetry.



dead man in a Greek restaurant

1
He is quiet and polite, no  one noticing he's  turned the
blue of  a man not  breathing. He'd settled his bill, left an
adequate tip on the table before slipping away,  slumping
across two cafe chairs on his trip to the door, near an old
woman with small eyes, pulling on a cigarette between
bites of pita bread, her table next to mine where I sit
counting my dissatisfaction's: baklava with more  pista-
chios than I prefer and too little honey, wishing the
woman would take her cigarette outside, her eyes crazy
enough that I know  better than to call a waiter and make
a  scene

2
someonmygodcallanambulancejesushelp

3
No one expects  a dead man to show up between bites of
baklava - the kind off thing guaranteed to change the
direction of your day, if not your  life. I'm ashamed to  say
that  later I'll try to make a poem of it,  telling myself that
he is my dead man, my stiffening muse. I'll lean on the
memory of his dusky face as if on a sharpened stick, try
to make the words flow. I'll take him walking over hills
wet with late rain, float his blue face high up  into a
shredded eucalyptus,  where a raven will perch, croaking,
and I'll watch myself take ownership of  it, glad as hell it
showed up in the  poem,  the first lines  forming:

                 there has always been a raven
                 waiting for the  day I walk
                 a dead man up the hill

But it won't work,  and I'll know it,  feeling desperate and
stupid as the poem starts to fail, but then the raven will
tilt its head like a lover begging to be kissed, and I'll
clutch at that image, at the chance to write a different
poem - one beginning the raven tilts its head like a lover
begging to be  kissed - leaving the dead man up a tree while
I scout around for what might shine next to a black bird
I've just declared the embodiment of  love, pausing to see
what  I can make of  cursive  slug  slime at my feet, the
cracked-heart hoof marks  of  deer,  the scented, disrobing
trees. I'll discover - even though he's here only in my
imagination and refusing to fit into my poem - that a
dead man in a Greek restaurant is a hard thing to not
write about.

4
Because I could do something, I had to do something.
Later, I'll remember  the brown stains on his teeth, the
orange sauce in his beard, the line of sun freckles below
the collar I unzipped, looking for a tag saying he just
might want, or not, to stay dead. I'll remember the piss
stains on his trousers - sure sign of something dying
inside - the tickle of mustache against my lip, how hard
it was  to  tilt his head on his fat neck, the pounding we
gave him.  Someone helped me but I won't remember her
name, distracted by the arrival of something that wasn't
there, the dead man going and something coming, some-
thing with a pink, mobile face - peacefully dazed at the
fuss - saying his name was Frank,  that all he needed was
a glass of water, really,just a glass of water.

5
Out of the poems I cannot write - and shouldn't -
words that fail as only words can fail, their imperfection
a reminder that life is more than what crafted phrase I
can make of one dead man in a Greek restaurant, felled
on a spring day among my silent bitching about ciga-
rette smoke and the quantity of nuts in a dry baklava. He
said I saved his life - searching words, meant in grati-
tude and something else, something he looked for in my
face, an unasked question I don't know how to answer,
unless to say, This is not a question. It was Friday, Frank, too
many pistachios but good coffee, an old woman with crazy eyes
gnawing on pita bread, a raven I hadn't yet met, late rain yet
to fall, one more glass  of water, a gesture in each moment that
is all there is - your good luck, maybe, that there was some-
thing I could do, and my better luck, maybe,  that your dying
and return were just in time, and just enough, to remind me of
the uses and limits of words.








For a period of time in the early 2000s I  was doing a lot of observations stuff, like this poem, written in 2001. Not a love poem so much as a love-vacuum poem, a person  desperately searching for something to fill the void.



trolling

the woman
with very large hair sits
in the bookstore coffee shop

middle-aged
with a thin, upturned nose
and pouchy cheeks red
with a puff of rouge,
she and her brown tweed
suit out of place
among the pre-meds
in their reeboks
and sweat shirts, bent
over the anatomy texts,  sipping
their mochaberries and chai
while the Brazilian and the Arab
at table six replay
the world's greatest chess games,
laughing loudly with delight at every move

she sits in a corner
where she can  see everyone
in the room, crossing her legs
over and over again,
right leg over left leg,
then left over right,
knees swinging
in wider and wider arcs
with every shift,
eyes flickering up from her book
with each shift,
watching for someone
to be  watching her

and I'm thinking about her hair








Opening the seventh seal,  from Revelation.



     The Lamb  opened the seventh seal. then there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God. They were given seven trumpets.

----

     Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
     The first angel blew his trumpet. then hail and fire mixed with blood was pouring down on the earth. and a third of the earth and all the green grass and a third o the trees were burned up.
     The second angel blew his trumpet. Then something that looked like a big mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea. And a third of the sea became blood. And a third of living things in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
     The third angel blew his trumpet.  Then a star, burning like a torch, fell from the sky. It fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of  the star is Wormwood. and a third of all the water became bitter. Many people died from drinking the water that was bitter.
     The fourth angel blew his trumpet, then a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were hit. So a third of them became dark. A third of the day was without light.
     Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet. And I saw a star fall from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the deep hole that leads down to the bottomless pit. The it opened  the bottomless pit. Smoke came up  from the hole like smoke from a big furnace. The sun and the sky became dark because because of the smoke from the hole. Then locusts came down to the earth out of the smoke. They were given the power to to sting like scorpions. ?They were told not to harm the grass on the earth or any plant or tree. They could harm only people who did not have the sign of God on their forehead. These locusts were given the power to cause pain to the people for five months. But they were not given the power to kill anyone. They the pain they felt was like the pain that a scorpion gives when it stings a person. During those days people will look  for a way to die, but they will not find it. they will want to die, but death will run away from them.
     The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their head they wore things that looked like crowns of gold. Their faces looked like human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. Their chests looked like iron breastplates. the sound their wings made was like the noise of many horses and chariots hurrying into battle.

----

     The first great trouble is past. There are still two great troubles to come.
     The sixth angel blew his trumpet. Then I heard a voice coming from the horns on the golden altar that is before God. The voice said...."Free the four angels who are tied at the great river Euphrates."....They were freed to kill a third of all the people on the earth I heard how many troops on horses were in their army. There were 200,000,000.
     In my vision I saw the horses and their riders. The looked like this: They had breastplates that were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow like sulfur. The heads of the horses looked like heads of lions. The horses had fire, smoke, and sulfur coming out of the horses mouths....The horses power was in their mouths and also in their  tails...tails that were like snakes that have heads to bite and hurt people.

....

     The the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And there were loud voices in heaven.









I  wrote this next thing in 2003, in the middle of the delusion that it would be really terrific if I would write twenty-six poems about twenty-six women each of whose name began with one of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. This is the kind of idea that comes to one in mid-poem-a-day mode, desperate for something  to  start  your creative engine running.

I think I got as far  as  Katie (which was actually a pretty good poem) before I decided it wasn't such a good idea after all.

This one, not so bad, got me my "G."



the sheen of Geena's hair

a warm
summer beach
on a balmy
gulf night
  
    soft
    breeze
    teasing

    surf
    rising
    blood
    rising

hearts beating
to the rhythm
of the tide

the sheen
of Geena's hair
in moonlight

like a new star cluster
in the midnight
sky












Next, two poems by D.K. Jones, also known to his many friends ad Don, Pablo Cane, and Papa. The poems are from his book Next of Kin.

I've used  Jones' work  before,  both times noting I could find  no information about him except for a short note in the book's back cover flap. Several readers commented, letting me know that the poet passed on in April, 2011, at the age of 77.

He apparently left behind many who knew and loved him. Some noted  that his financial situation did not  allow  self -publishing, limiting exposure  of his fine poems. This makes my point again of the wonder  of eBook publishing, a chance at a wide audience of readers (that  is only going to grow) at a very limited  cost. (I started  to say investment, but anyone who thinks of publishing a book of poetry as  an "investment" is living on a  planet other than mine.)



The Downlook

For the  last four minutes,  the retiring full moon empire
looks down on the first chirping robins  -
nothing lovelier than waking to find
the woman's breathing body in my bed...
half covered  at daybreak like myself,
half caught in my arms.

I never  understood why we find
safety in nearness.

Now the downlook, the downlook - no fuss
nothing that could earn a line or picture
in the respectable daily paper we'll be reading,
an anthology of the unredeeemable world.

It's all about the war in...
every one's lost track,  then
page after page of passing fancy,
reminded how fools and photo-ops
go together.
The ball clubs lost or they won,
those unheard from in a long rain delay,
trying hard to hold my antic tongue
which now and then goes astray,
animated, inventing news out loud.
Checking once, checking twice, my name
is not among the obituaries,
a mixed feeling of cheer and  disappointment.
What if  the omission is  cruel and deliberate?
Expertly, I roll the thing  and throw it
not very far,
aiming at  a random object, missing by a mile,
the old paperboy's golden arm gone dead.


Cuba Rico

Viejo San Juan may be ancient but
The entire island is a scarred lived in face.
Seaside acts of  living are jubilant sensuality.
Mornings yawn after midnight mood indigo.

I enter buildings where antique rifles once hung
Cocked  beneath ceilings of stamped tin.
Ceilings now sheetrocked, revolution
No  longer sleeping in the basements.

Oh, look there. A girl  in stiletto heels
wearing  a flowered hat circa 1945.
Old men humming something -
Cigarillos lit with flair and flick of  the wrist

All this must be Habana  nearby.
The Cuba Fidel forbid to me.
Good thing - No? If ever  I had been there...
I would have less to long for.










Since I mentioned flying a kite with Katie, here it is, written in 2001 and included in the very fine eZine, Eclectica, late in 2002. I think I might have also used it in my first book, Seven Beats a Second, in 2005.



flying a kite with Katie

swirls
and dives
and swoops
and loops the loop,
a blue and white kite
against a blue and white  sky

Katie
beside me,
brown on brown
with white teeth
flashing in laughter
at the glory of the day

she holds the string,
pulls as the kite begins to stall,
lets loose when a gust of summer wind
lifts the kite and takes it toward the clouds

and I hold her,
not so tight, she says
this is hard to do,  she says,
back off so I can concentrate, she says

and I back away
as a great flurry of wind comes,
billows her dress against her back and legs
and she seems to fly like  the kite away from me








And then Revelations recounts the troubles continue to the end and a new promise and a new beginning for those who survive the judgement.


     Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels,  "Go and pour out  the seven bowls  of God's anger on the earth."
     The first angel....poured out his bowl on the land. Then ugly and painful  sores came upon all those  who  had the mar of the beast and who worshiped his idol.
     The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea. Then the sea became blood like that of a dead man. Every living thing in the sea died.
     The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and the springs of water. And they became blood.
     The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun. The sun was given power to burn the people with fire.
     The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the bowl of the beast. And darkness covered the beast's kingdom. People bit their tongues because of the pain. They cursed the God of Heaven....
     The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates. The water in the river was dried up. this prepared the way for the kings of the east to come. I saw evil spirits that looked like frogs. They came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
     The seventh angel poured out his bowl in the air. Then a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne. The voice said, "It is finished!" Then there were flashes of lightning, noises, thunder, and a big earthquake. This was the worst earthquake that has ever happened since people have been on the earth. The great city split into three parts. The cities of the nations were destroyed. And God did not forget to punish Babylon the Great. He gave that city the cup filled with the wine off his terrible anger.

....

     Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first  heaven and the first earth had disappeared. Now there was no sea. And I saw the holy city coming down out of the heaven from God. This holy city is the new  Jerusalem.

....

     "Listen! I am coming  soon! I will bring rewards with me. I will repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
     "Those who wash their robes will be blessed. They will have the right to eat the fruit from the tree of life."








This poem has nothing to do with anything else, but I ran across it and decided to use it.

I wrote it in the mid-sixties, never did anything with it. It has a couple of good points, I think, a couple of maybe two or three lines I like.



dusk

the mid-summer lake
heaves and rustles
like some great animal
shuttering
in the gathering dark

under pins of
white and yellow light
crickets chip
the soft stone of night

smoke and the smell
of campfires
rise

quiet
falls with the sun







The final revelation of John, after the judging.



     One of the seven angels came to me....showed me the holy city, Jerusalem...coming down out of heaven from God.
     It  was shining with the glory of God. It was shining bright like a very expensive jewel, like a jasper. It was clear as crystal. The city had a great high wall with 12 gates. There were 12 angels at the gates. On each gate was written the name of 1 of the 12 tribes of Israel...The walls of the city were built on 12 foundation stones. On the stones were written the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb.
     The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod made of gold. He had this rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city was built in square. Its length was equal to its width...The city was 12,000 stadia long, 12,000 stadia wide, and 12,000 stadia high....
     The wall was made of jasper. The city was made  of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundation stones of  the city walls had every kind of jewel in them. The first cornerstone was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third  was chalcedony, the fourth was emerald, the fifth was  onyx, the sixth was  carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, the eight was beryl, the ninth was topaz, the tenth was   chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst. The 12 gates were 12 pearls. Each gate was made from a single pear.. The street of the city was made of pure gold. The gold was clear as glass.

....

     Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life. The river was shining like crystal. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street of the city. The tree of  life was on each side of the river. It produces fruit 12 times a year, once each month. The leaves of the tree are for healing. Nothing that God judges guilty will be in that city.The throne of God and of the lamb will  be there. And God's servants will worship him. They will  see his face, and his name will  be written on their foreheads. There will never  be night again. They will  not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun. The Lord God will give them light. And they will  rule like kings forever and ever.

....

     I am John. I am the one who heard and saw these things.
    
    








I thought this was kind of sweet, but I guess it actually is a pretty weird for a love poem. I went back to Vol. I, Numeric through G, of my old poems to get it.

I wrote it in 2002, submitted it around, but no one wanted it. Never found the right weird eZine for it.



flambeau

no moldering
in a dank and dismal box
for me

I want to go out
in a fiery flash,
consumed in flames
and heat
until all that's  left
of used-to-be me
is ash
and bits
of charred and brittle bone

mix this little remainder
of me with water
and cement base
and shiny river pebbles
and a poem or two
cut in paper strips
to weave through the mix
like my love for you
has been woven through
the better part of my life

make a little concrete bowl
that, set on a pedestal
in a sunny place
will make a place
for birds to bathe and drink
and preen their feathers
in the morning light

keep it full of water
in the heat of summer
and in the dry winter
break the ice every day
so that, even in the harshest time,
the birds can come
where you can see them
from the kitchen window
and sometimes think of me






And that's the end of the road for this week.

Except that:

These days, records or CDs or whatever they're calling collections of music now, often have a "bonus track." So  the next poem is my "bonus track" for this post.

I begin each post about two weeks before I post  it, selecting photos,trying to decide on a title, etc. The poem are the last thing I do, my poems, the very last.

So two weeks ago I settled on these apocalyptic-looking photos (as I imagine them anyway) and on the title "End of Days." This has led over the past couple of weeks to my thinking a lot about the apocalypse and end of days myths, which,  of course, led to several of my daily poems on the subject.

Having completed this  post, I decided I should have at least  one poem on the subject, so here it is, the bonus track.


what do we know of the end of days?
legend and most religions
imagine a time
when a creator returns
and either because
he is pleased or displeased
with the product of his creation
he destroys it,
reward or punishment, it depends
again on the deity you worship,
but for whatever reason
it will be the end
of all days and nights
as the sun and all the stars
wink out and are dark
and cold and our kind becomes
something different,
better or worse, again,
depending on the deity you worship…

the more scientifically-inclined set,
including me and others like
me to whom science
is a process, the end of that process
as poorly understood, if understood at all,
as the child understands
who stays awake
on Christmas eve to catch Santa
in his annual toy dispensing,
gravity and the unlikely prospect
of sleighs and reindeer landing
on rooftops which would not
crash to the ground under
the weight
of all that sleigh and deerflesh
dismissed…

in such a sense of faith
we share much with the god-worshipers;
the difference being
they believe in the end
and we believe in the way to the end...

it is to the science of reason we
pledge
our faith,
not any particular product
of that reasoning, but
confident that those
who practice the habit of reason
can be counted upon in whatever
they tentatively
and reasonably propose…

so we do not propose to blame
a returning deity
for our demise, but a sun,
grown ancient,
exploding in unimaginable fire
destroying all its orbiting
fellow-travellers, then dying
a slow and extinguishing death,
creating eternal dark
and the end of all days here…

but
even that
I am not prepared to accept
as the final end of days, for I believe
we are creatures not just of one star
but of all stars and that the end
of days lies in some time beyond time
when all the stars explode
and our true home, the universe
of time and space and all creation,
folds in upon itself
and the deepest dark of nothing descends
upon all, a void devoid even of
a void until
another day begins…

we will be there
when
it happens,
you and I,
for until the very end
we are indestructible,
eternal until eternity ends,
tiny atomic sparks
blinking out, finally, with the suns...

that will be the true end of days
clearing the way
for the next new day
to begin



And, now, that really is the end.

All normal cautions  apply as usual this week. All material presented is still the property of it's creators. My stuff, such as it is, is available if you want to use it. Just credit "Here and Now" and me if you do.

I am allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, still pitching books.

I have a couple of additional projects (another book of poetry and a small book of short stories) in progress for next year or later this year, but, until then, below  are the books I am pitching now and where you can run out to get them. Actually, you don't have to run out anywhere, everything is on line.


Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Apple iBookstore for iPad,iPhone, i-everythingelse, as well as  Kobo, Copia, Gardner's, 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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