Through My Back Door: Return to the Valley of the Garden Gnomes   Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Photo by Dora  Ramirez-Itz

My anthology this week is Spirits of the Age - Poets of Conscience, edited  by Mona Adilman and published in 1989 by Quarry Press. The book describes itself as a collection, in translation, of the best work of poets from around the world who have been imprisoned, tortured, exiled, or otherwise oppressed because of their writing.

I also have my regular library poets and my own work, new and old. (And a little homage in my title to the great, dirigible-loving movie maker, Russ Meyer.)


Mauricio Redoles
The Future Will Return

the best damn chili in Texas

Meg Kearney
Mrs. Plum, Outside the Library, with the Candlestick

a consideration of dreams

Iva Kotrla
Under the Skin
At Moments of Piety
Growing Up

I set out to write a poem

Kevin McCann
Answered an Ad
I Am the One

as true and clear as ever

Ahmad Shamlou
The Game Is Over

a man of faith

Ishle Yi Park
A Simple Bridge
Pool and Poetry

three pages of obituaries

Samih al-Qasim
A Homeland

every postman knows

Luis J. Rodriguez
Bethlehem No More

another yellow morning

Bui Hoang Cam
Six Years Old

take three stooges and call me in the morning

John Barr
Suburban Triptych

when a plan comes together

Roque Dalton
Jail again, dark fruit


Pablo Lopez Del Castillo
It Is Autumn

my fortune

Mang Key
from Jiumeng (Old Dream)

where does justice draw the line

Pablo Neruda
The Hurt
The Fickle One

a consideration of birdsong

From a couple of weeks ago, taking stock.

at my
10 digits
all in a
doing the
all in a
one after
the other
are these
and the feet
attached to
and the legs
and everything
all the way
to the run-about
white hairs
on the
of my

what a

My first poem from this weeks anthology is by Mauricio Redoles, from the Republic of Chile. The poem is translated by John Lyons.

Redoles was born in Santiago in 1953 and studied law in Valparaiso. After the 1973 coup he spent twenty months in prison, and was expelled from Chile in 1975. A poet, singer/songwriter, and musician, he returned to Chile in 1985.

The Future Will Return

The future will return
with a certainty of fire and stone
with a precision of spiders and rain

Leading sailor Ernesto  Zuniga
will again run half-naked from his cell
towards the showers
in Valparaiso Public Jail

Alicia Rios will again turn a corner
close to Finsbury Park, London, N.r

before dying blown to pieces
on a street in Santiago

The future will return
stubborn as a root, as bone
immaculate as the entire earth

The future will return
with the death of its young
vanquished through its surprise

restored to its plain
vulgarity will travel by out side
when the future returns

sharp as a cricket singing


in the silence/in the night of light

Don't anymore, but  used to drink more than some, a habit that made knowing  the following sort of stuff important.

I wrote the poem in 2007.

best damn chili in Texas
Something or Other 
was the name of the place 

best damn chili 
in Texas, 
the devil’s own 
hangover preventative 

pork and beef 
and three kinds of 
hot enough to defoliate 
your nose hairs 
and grease enough 
to coat your guts 
from inflow to the 
gotta go 

a bowl 
before you hit the bars 
and a bowl after 
and you’re be so damn 
at reveille your eyebrows 
stand and salute 
when old General Pushcart 
comes by on the back of his jeep 

I used to know a lot 
about this sort of 

I have two poems by Meg Kearney. The poems are from her book, An Unkindness of Ravens, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2001.

Kearney is Founding Director of the Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. For eleven years prior to joining Pine Manor, she was Associate Director of the National Book Foundation (sponsor of the National Book Awards) in New York City. She also taught poetry at the New School University.

Her most recent collection of poems, Home By Now, was winner of the 2010 PEN New England LL Winship Award; it was also a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year.

Mrs. Plum, Outside the Library, with the Candlestick

My life thus far was found outlined in chalk
on Seventh Avenue. I lay down between the blue

lines, hugged my knees to my chest to test if it was
really me, then stood back smoking a Chesterfield

while the crowd gathered. They weren't interested
in who I was, but in the rumor of a woman gone wrong,

good girl seduced by Johnnie Walker Black - then
wronged  again by a pimp without a profit, or a prophet

without a God. One thing we all knew; there's no
story without a body. I wanted to step into that

crowd, hold out my palms like Christ;  I wanted
to dance flamenco with a stem of chalk in my

mouth. But it was beginning to rain, so I ducked
into the Italian place on Bleeker, ordered a bottle

of Chianti, I toasted the background music: Once
Upon a Time in America I toasted the empty

woman on the sidewalk, and the rain that was,
at that  very moment, sweeping her out to sea.

Fortune Teller

The Gypsy hovers over her  crystal so  closely
her whorled face swims in votive light. "Here

is that little girl again, eating a bologna sandwich,"
she says. "It's summer, she's been swimming -

her braids drip like candles. Her tongue is orange"
Tang, I think. The drink of the astronauts. "With one

hand,the girl holds a towel around herself,  already
distrusting her body." "Who are you?" I ask. Yet

she continues: "The part in her hair is perfect."
"I could tell you a story about that," I offer, but

the Gypsy will not lift her face. "And here is a man,
swimming laps in the pool. The girl watches him

as she eats. His strokes are like a light beginning to
flicker. The girl is waiting for something to happen.

She wonders if she'll be strong enough to save him."
"Who are you," I demand. "The girl wants so much

to look like him," she whispers. "Her eyes are the right
color, but already she is too tall, And now her scalp is

beginning to burn." I leap to my feet and the gypsy,
startled, looks up at last. "Oh," I moan, "It's you."

I wrote this last week. I don't often have nightmares, but when I do they're more about tension than scary monsters. (Checking under the bed before I go to sleep takes care of the monster  nightmares.)

a consideration of dreams
a consideration of dreams
ensues -

mine usually involve
being late
to do something
I was supposed to do,
arriving for a test
I didn’t prepare for,
sitting down to play the piano
in a large auditorium
I really should have taken
those piano lessons,
standing on an empty stage
before a vast audience
expecting a speech
that I haven’t prepared,
not there to give a speech,
intending only to stop in
to use the restroom,
taking he wrong
ending up here
in front of all these people
waiting for my speech…

all of those rolled
together, miserable, hiding from
the rustle I hear
from behind
the curtain…

of course

Here are three short poems from the anthology written by Iva Kotrla, of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

Kotrla, is a poet and mother of five children. In 1984, just a few weeks after the birth of her fifth child, she was harassed and taken for interrogation by  the government for the offense of writing poetry. While still in the hospital, her home was searched and all her writings since 1966 was confiscated.

The information about here since 1989 is limited, though it appears she continues to work as a translator and write and publish her own work.

Under the Skin

Memories collect
like books laid on top of another
in a second-hand bookshop

So I think of love
I look
partly through your eyes

What you tell me
when you are alone

The room was motionless
reminding me of desire

That is no sin there are others
which have a name

At Moments of Piety

That lonely cross on Golgotha -
    A periscope
through which the Earth observes us.
Out of its dust
    we're  dust shedding tears
in adult unhappiness
when the Son in the arms of his
is the only password
opening the gates of Paradise...

Growing Up

    In the years
when the secret police
took down our faces
    as we left the church
we reached out
    into our dreams

Every evening
adulthood came, with a lamp,
to our bedside,
    quietly drew aside the curtains
and spoke to us
    gently, like a mother.

This is an old poem, written New Year's Day, 2008.

I set  out to write a poem 
i set out 
to write a poem 
right now, 
the first 
for the new year, 
it’s a bright 
and beautiful day 
and i’m as sleepy 
as a dog 
in a patch of winter sun 
so literary ambitions 
must be set away 

dream time calls 
and a mistress 
not to be 

Next, I have two poems, not from my library, but from my poet-friend, Kevin McCann.

Answered an Ad
Pulls the apartment door                       
Towards her, slowly clicks
It shut, picks up her bag
Packed for who knows,                        
Pads down backstairs, slips                       
On her shoes, clack-taps                       
Echoing the basement car                       
Park, finds her old Ford,                       
Still starts first time, drives                       
Up the ramp, checks right                       
And left, No traffic yet,                       
Re-reads the directions                       
That came with his note,                       
Rolls down her window,
Grips the wheel gulping,                       
At long last sets off,                       
Chalked my name
On the sidewalk,                       
Watched that night                       
As rain washed it away                       
Reaches the Freeway,                       
Still early, still quiet                       
But takes a Highway                        
Instead as her sister                       
Wakes up crying, makes                       
Coffee until it’s late enough
To phone A shower of stones                       
Cracked our roof tiles. Mother                       
Said it was neighbours who’ve                       
Never liked us at all Mid-morning                       
She stops at a diner, drinks coffee,
Has doughnuts for breakfast,                       
Smokes openly as she leaves
Brushing some man Beery breath                       
Who whistles And the wheels on                       
The car go round and round and                       
Past a cop, parked by some billboard,                       
Asleep Round and round and round
Overtakes a school bus, jaundiced,
Empty Round and reaches her turn off,
Checks herself in the mirror,                       
Smiles, practicing.

I am the one

Who set out that morning,
Instructions laid out
On the passenger seat.

 I am the one
Who, after driving all day,
Slowed through that town

But when I wound down my window
To ask last minute directions
Had my pardon me sir
Or ‘scuse me there mam
Get no more response
Than some panhandling bum.

I am the one
Who was last to arrive
(So the gatekeeper told me
Then smiled at his wife)
I am the one Who followed the slowly
Last curving stretch
And when the house pounced
As I rounded the curve
Just past the tree stump

Hung in a vacuum Head in a vice

Cold freshly scalped

I am the one whose mind changed right there.

 I am the one who turned back

This, from last week.

as true and clear as ever
somehow, when
it’s 50 years or more since
your 18th birthday,
50 years doesn’t seem
like such a long time
at all…

it is the personal
context that
fools us-
the time of our lives
not measured
in years, but in moments,
most that come and go,
some that stay with us always,
fresh as yesterday

it is how we deny
the passage of our life,
to believe our first
kiss was so long ago
when the smell of her hair
and the taste of her lips
as true and clear
as ever

The next  poem from the anthology is by Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou. He is a well-known poet in Iran, dismissed from the Ministry of Culture in 1980. When the anthology was published he was living in hiding. Born in 1925, he died in 2000.

The poem was published shortly before the fall of the Shah. Shamlou was no greater friend of the new order than he was of the old, and the new Islamic regime returned the enmity, considering him an anti-Islamist nationalist element, a traitor and a Westernised writer. Despite that, with a view to his popularity, the ruling clerics could not arrest him, but at the same time didn't allow publication of his works for many years.

His poem was translated by F. Safiri.

The Game Is Over

Lovers passed by, heads down
Awkward with their untimely songs

Murmurs and footsteps
Vanished from the streets

Soldiers passed by, battered and exhausted
Riding their mutilated horses
Their lowered bayonets
Smeared with bleached pride

What use flaunting your victory
to the universe
When every speck of dust
Whirls up, cursing you!

What are trees and gardens to you
When you always speak to the jasmine
With a scythe

wherever you step
the plants cease to grow
For you never had faith
In the holiness of earth and water

Our life-story
Was the hollow song
of your troops
Returning from their conquest of a whore-house

Black shrouded mothers
Demented by the loss
Of earth's precious children
Have not yet raised their heads
From their prayer-mats
See what fate awaits you
When demonic curses will descend on you.

Another old poem, this one from 2009.

a man of faith

around here
is like the
“Free Beer Tomorrow”
at the corner pub -
in the offing
two or three days out
but never poured

today is the day
that might be tomorrow

it is cold
and overcast
with a little bit of drizzle
that promises
to become rain any instant

i brought
my umbrella
for i am well-known
as a man of faith

in beer
in rain

My next two poems are by Korean-American poet Ishle Yi Park, from her book The Temperature of the Water, published in 2004 by Kaya Press. 

Park was  born in New  York in 1977. She is a recipient of a fiction grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts and has published widely. She has performed her work in the United States, Cuba, and Korea and was a featured poet in HBO's Def Poetry Jam.

A Simple Bridge

these days I feel out of touch with lightning,
fire, even the loneliness of wind.

My soul sings to itself
because it is alone.

And then, I think lightning,
fire, wind are all solitary forces;

they can't help but touch
things in their path. It is the reaching -

the space between the paper's edge,
the blue fingers of flame,

between the wind
and sharp, breathless laves,

between the whiteblue jolt,
the one bare tree,

branches open to the light
and burning -

it is a simultaneous distance
and longing my body recognizes.

A simple bridge inside me
waits to be crossed by lovers

in both directions - who meet
in the middle of the arc at four hours:

the pink hour, the pitch hour,
the starless hour, the soft, waking hour.

Pool and Poetry
     - for the CAAAV Sisters

We roll deep down Fordham  with a baby carriage
to Mr. Lee's pool hall. Kim,  Rothny, and Rothana
grace tables with the cool of black ravens.
Kim aims and shoots,

fingers arched over poolcloth
with mathematical precision,
slow  click of the cue ball against the nine
that rolls to its pocket
smooth and easy as fate.

It's a bet.  Teach me pool and I'll teach you
poetry In St. Mary's convent
we write quotes on our graffiti blackboard
like an eye for an eye leaves the world blind
and God grant me the serenity...

Through a stained-glass  Jesus,
D cops an ounce of Jekyll &
Hyde off young dealers on Briggs.
Rothana daily navigates sidewalks of left dog shit
and crumpled Wise bars.

Kim throws Rothny a handball across the pool room
right above the baby's curled forehead, and Rothny
catches it with swift, thoughtless precision.

From this, I know they hurl themselves in the air
like hawks - dip, swoop, fling, and soar.
They know how magic sings in their limbs
and how to play Bainsbridge at twilight -
girls sanding in position, ready to  leap
into the women they want to become.

Pride  goeth before the fall, I'm told. Seems likely.

three pages of obituaries
three pages
of obituaries
in the paper today,
at least half younger
than me, reminding me
that I agreed to play
tennis tonight
with a nephew, 13
years old, tall and thin
and agile while I’m large
and ungainly and old with bad
knees and, though I was good at
the game at one time,
I haven’t played in at least 40 years,
and though I’ve asked,
he won’t agree
not to hit ball
in a way that won’t
make me run, although
I’m sure he could
if he wanted to, and
I’m thinking there’s a game
afoot as the great
detective used to say
and that young nephew
might be under the influence
of his aunt who I saw
checking out my life insurance
policy last week and looking
at new cars when she didn’t think
I was watching, and a new wardrobe
for a trip to Paris
she hasn’t told me about yet
and then there was the email
from the “Gigolos R Us”
website and I’m thinking, for sure,
there’s a game afoot and I’m wondering
how much it would cost me to buy
young nephew off so that he would
hit the ball when we play tonight
to where I won’t have to run
which I know he could do
if he wanted to

Next from the anthology, I have this poem by Samih al-Quasim.

The poet is a Druse Arab born in Jordan in 1939. Committed to the idea of a  secular democratic state, he e has been jailed several times for his political activities that have involved advocacy for Palestinian rights and dissent against government policies, starting in 1960 for refusal to enlist in the Israeli army which is required of Israeli Druze. He has also been under house arrest. He joined the Israeli Communist party Hadash in 1967 and was detained along with other members of the party at the outbreak of the Six-Day War.

Al-Quasim, a very prolific writer, is well-known throughout the Arab world. He lives in Haifa, where he writes and works as a journalist.

A Homeland

So what,
When in my homeland
The sparrow dies of starvation,
In exile, without a shroud,
While the earthworm is satiated,
Devouring God's food!

So what,
When the yellow fields
Yield no more to their tillers
than memories of weariness,
While their rich harvest pours
Into the granaries of the usurper!

So what,
If the cement has diverted
The ancient springs,
causing them to forget their natural course,
When their owner calls,
They cry in his face: "Who are you?"

So what,
When the almond and the olive have turned to timber
Adorning tavern doorways,
And monuments
Whose nude  loveliness  beautifies halls and bars,
And is carried by tourists
To  the farthest corners of the earth,
while nothing remains before my eyes
But dry leaves and tinder!

So  what,
When my people's tragedy
Has turned to farce in other's eyes.
And my face is a poor bargain
The even the slave-trader gleefully disdains!

So  what,
When in barren space the satellites  spin,
And in the streets walks a beggar, holding a hat
And the song of autumn is heard!
Blow, East winds!
Our roots are still  alive!

I wrote this next poem in 2010, a year of politics almost as virulent as the politics of today. Won't  it be wonderful when it's over and we can either celebrate or check out the cost of a moderate hacienda in Costa Rica.

every postman knows

in the papers
that the Tea Party people
are having trouble
with their national convention,
speakers dropping out,
complaints about high registration fees,
concerns that someone
is making a whole bunch of money
off this thing

not a surprise
to me,
cranks and crybabies
have started many a political movement,
but they always fall in
on themselves,

as every postman knows,
will bite ankles, even if it has to be
their own

it is their nature

The next poem from my library is by Luis J. Rodriguez, from his book The Concrete River,  published in 1991 by Curbstone Press. Published twenty years ago, it is not labeled a political poem, but it's about what this year's election is about.

Rodriguez , born in El  Paso in 1954, is a poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and columnist. His work has won several awards and he is recognized as a major figure of contemporary Chicano literature. His best-known work, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang  Days in L.A., is the recipient of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, among others, and has been the subject of controversy when included on reading lists in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas schools due to its frank depictions of gang life. Rodriguez has also founded or co-founded numerous organizations, including the Tía Chucha Press, which publishes the work of unknown writers, Tia Chuca's  Centro  Cultural, a San Fernando  Valley cultural center, and the Chicago-based Youth Struggling for Survival, an organization for at-risk youth.

The poem reminds me of and makes me sad that, in these days when we need him and his fire for justice so much, no one  reads Carl Sandburg anymore.

Bethlehem No More
                      (for Bruce S.)

Bethlehem Steel's
shift-turn whistles
do not  blast our
in Maywood anymore.

Mill workers no longer congregate
Slauson Avenue bars
on pay day.

Bethlehem's soaking pits
are frigid now.

Mill families
once proud and comfortable,
now gather for unemployment checks
or food.

I never thought you would be missed.
When we toiled under the girders,
we cursed your name.

But you were bread on the table;
another tomorrow.

My babies were born
under the Bethlehem health plan.
My rent was paid
because of those long and humid
days and nights.

I recall being  lowered
into  oily and greasy pits
or standing unsteady
on two-inch beams
thirty feet in the air
and wondering if I would survive
to savor another weekend.

I recall my fellow workers
who did not survive -
burned alive from caved-in furnace roofs
or severed in two by burning red steel rods -
while making your production quotas.

But Bethlehem you are no more.
We have made you rich;
rich enough to take our toil
and invest it elsewhere.

Rich enough
to make us poor again. 

Another poem from last week.

another yellow morning
another yellow morning,
a trick of the season
and the slant
of the new-day light
still shining horizontal
from the west, filtered
through the bottom of clouds,
peach-pink on the east
old lace yellow here

makes the day glow
like a time-forgotten
dusty in a dim attic
where antique colors
like heirlooms gather
and wait a return to

Next from the anthology, I have a poem by Bui Hoang Cam.

Born in 1922 in the Hal-duong province of northern  Vietnam, Hoang Cam was an officer in the Vietnamese People's Army during the war against the French colonial power. He was known both among  the nationalists and the communists for his patriotic poems. But after North Vietnam's independence in 1954, he became increasingly critical  of the Communist government and the Party because of the lack of freedom, the corruption and the excesses during the land reform campaign of 1954-56.

Following a brief period of artistic freedom called the "Hundred Flowers Movement" in 1956-58, the government cracked down on writers, artists, and other intellectuals, sending many to long-term imprisonment or re-education camps. Initially, Hoang Cam was forbidden to write, but after years of harassment by authorities, he was arrested in Hanoi in 1982 for giving a manuscript of his new poems to a Vietnamese visitor from Canada. At the time  of the publication of the anthology, nothing was known of the poet's whereabouts since his arrest. The editors speculate that he was known to have a serious heart  disease and asthma, and that he might not have survived imprisonment.

Everything I could find on the web that might have clarified his status is in Vietnamese which would not be translated.

The poem, one of his best known, was written during the time of the "Hundred Flowers Movement" and speaks to the injustices of the land reform movement that was ongoing. It was translated by David McAree.

Six Years Old


Six-years old and all alone
He looks for something to eat.
His father, the village landlord,
Had paid his blood-debt to the peasants,
Abandoning him his mother had gone South.

His bore him,
He ate, slept on soft bedding,
Wore soft pretty clothes.
He never knew how happy he was.

Then came the storm;
Who could spare thought for such a tiny pawn?
Yet humans  will always care for humans;
There will always be compassion.

A wretched, hungry old man
Trembles and shuffles as he hunts for crabs;
He feels pity for this skinny child
Who has neither mother nor father;
He gives him a handful of rice.

Limbs like sticks,
Swollen stomach but scrawny neck the orphaned child
Surveys the world through round bloodshot eyes:
"I bow to you madam, I beg a bowl of gruel;
please, madam, some rice..."


A young cadre working outside the village
Looks down the road,
Hears the forlorn cry.

She trembles as she recalls
The hunger years of long ago;
just five-years-old and she must lick
Leaves  found in the marketplace.

She runs down the lane,
Takes him by the hand and into her house.
From yesterday's supper
She gives him a bowl of rice.

Another girl, a peasant stock
Aspiring  to Party membership,
Turns her back to hide her tears:
"A landlord's child, too young to know his fault;
I gave him a bowl of gruel
And they questioned me for three long days."

The land reform cadre recoiled
And gazed at the child, searching for a trace
Of the enemy.
She saw only the child,
The child ate its fill,
Lay down on the ground to sleep.
She thought of the husband she would have
And of their pink, milk-fat children.


She lost her job  because of it.
In a dark cold room by the light of a lamp
She wrote her confession.

The tongue has not strength
The  road  is crooked;
The eye is too small
There is no horizon;
The mind is lazy
The color of rusty iron.

Sleeping off years
On the page of a book;
The people are machines
Muscles but no heart.


"The relationship with reactionaries,"
"Loss of revolutionary vigilance,"
Night after night she weeps beside the lamp
and asks herself:
"How could I pity the enemy's child?
How happy I would be if I could have
Hated the child!"

This is another older poem, but not that old, written last year.

With my old poems this week, I'm tried to avoid poems that have appeared in my books. That's easy with 2011 poems since I haven't done that book yet. But I'm working on it. Having completed my first elimination round, I'm stuck with about twenty more poems than I need and struggling with a final cut. Also working on a book of very short, short stories that I want to put out before the next poetry book. A holdup with both books is I really need an editor (especially with the short stories) and proof reader and haven't been able to find one for the pitifully tiny amount I can pay for the help. May have to do it myself, despite being very bad at editing/proofing my own stuff.

But that's another story, having nothing to do with this 2011 poem.

take three stooges and call me in the morning
early Thursday morning
(never a good sign)
and I wait at the doctor’s

office, sit in an uncomfortable
plastic chair with a roomful
of other old people -

aches and pains and moans
and groans abide, decrepitude
our common condition, the

final dark horizon
within sight of all of us,
the end for all -

clear and bright
and sure for some,
semi-shrouded in the mists

of uncertain end
and time for others,
like me,

who know how we’re going
to die,
(as if that made a difference)

while the more important
is hidden somewhere in the fog


early Thursday morning
(usually not a good sign)
at the doctor’s office

a roomful to old people
hoping to push back their
check-out time

store-bought teeth
a-gleam in the florescent light

Three Stooges
on TV -
Larry, Moe and Shemp,

facing with brave farce
the insanities
of life ...

what matters death to them -

another pratfall
in the vaudeville of life

This poem is by John Barr.  It is from his book, The Hundred Fathom Curve, published in 1997 by Story Line Press.

Barr is president of the Poetry Foundation and has served on the boards of the Poetry Society of America, Yaddo, and Bennington College. During a quarter century career on Wall  Street, he founded three companies, including one of the country's largest energy marketing companies and a prominent investment banking boutique.

Suburban Triptych


No house outlasts its hill.
Here, especially, fifty years will see
bones, the basement scar,
something in its place.

But for now the half-moons of the hammer's miss
could have been carpentered yesterday;
kernels of resin sweated form joists,
still soft to the thumbnail shine.
In the room where the well probes the hill's heart
the tank, full of taking, sweats.
The furnace waits, on thing on its mind.


Excavating for a septic tank,
my father shovels a rock from eight feet down,
"That's never been touch by human hands."
I hole it aloft: for history,
the cold whit thing from genesis.

Green algae, heavy hair
we pitchfork from the pond by wagon-loads.
In a week it dries to nothing, to stink.
Too many turtles, my father hooks  one, clips
off its head with pruning shears, tosses
the astonished body on the compost heap.
Our garden yields a crop of trilobite
and sea-worm (already dreaming stone
when glaciers crushed their seabed into soil):
dead ringers for the fat tomato worms
we hunt. In the green immediate
they burst and soak into thirsty dirt.


Past grass, past banjo legs of insects
into loam; six inches down, moraine;
then, lodged in the towering clay,
deep in the hill's dome, be still:

You hear small gravel, Burrowing.
Then nothing.
a breathing other than  your won,
so slow
the breathing in
continues from one glacier to the next.

A new poem, from last  week.

when a plan comes together
the sky
is solid blue
horizon to horizon,
like the day
God invented clouds

and as I note the blue
unfinished sky
I also notice the couple
who are beginning to become
regulars here in the morning,
the small woman
who looks too young
to drink coffee
and her muscleman boy-
friend, so happy together
everyday, so happy everyday
with their breakfast,
leaving every morning talking
about their great breakfast,
smiling, laughing, such an unusual
couple so happy together
and today
a third at their booth,
the tiny young woman’s brother,
meeting the muscle
man boyfriend
for the first time
and a new arc on the circle
is laid and clouds,
puffy white like God’s
fingerprints on the blue
begin to complete
the sky
and things all over incomplete
begin to complete
and the three in the end booth,
laugh, the muscleman boyfriend
and the little woman and her brother
all laugh together,
and I am always so happy
to see it when a plan
comes together, when circles
complete their circling
and the plan of circle destiny
comes to its
perfect spherical completion
and puffy white clouds
come together
in a perfect blue sky

My next poet from the anthology is Roque Dalton.

Dalton was born in El Salvador in 1933. He studied law and anthropology. He was persecuted and imprisoned in his own country, and subsequently lived in exile in Guatemala, Mexico, Czechoslovakia and Cuba. He was murdered in 1975 after returning home to help organize the guerrilla struggle.

His poem was translated by Tim Reynolds.

"Jail again, dark fruit..."

     Jail again, dark fruit.
     In the streets and rooms of men,  someone at  this moment will be moaning in  love, will be making music or reading news  of a battle happening under the Asian night. In the rivers, fishes will sing of their disbelief in the sea, impossible dream, too good to be true. (I  speak of those fish, in reality blue, called Lily-Blacks, from whose spines violent and swift men extract perfumes of great durability.)
     And, in whatever place, the least of sunken or nailed down things will be less prisoner than I.
     (True, my having a piece of pencil and paper - and poetry - proves that some  puffed-up universal concept, born to be written in capitals - Truth, God, the Unknown - flooded me  one happy day, and that I have not fallen - fallen into this dark well - but into the hands of opportunity in order to give proper evidence of it before mankind.
     Nevertheless, I would prefer a walk in the country.
     Even without a dog.)

Here are two short poem from January of this year. I spent most of January doing my short stories, one a day, so I have few poems from that month.

But I did have fun with the ones  I did. The stories required much more discipline than poems, so I  was happy to get  away for a little ditty whenever I could.

like birds flying
where they please
on a warm summer breeze

like a stray dog
roaming wild
in green Missouri hills

like a fiddler
kicking high
at the Saturday dance

that’s how free
I am

getting back into
the daily poetry poppity-pop
frame of mind
requires a step back
from the maturity grind

time to put on
our play boots and
till the cows

your turn to do the milking
my turn to lick the

My next poet is Pablo Lopez del Castillo with a poem from his book, Memorial DelViento/Wind Memorial, published in 2005 by Orchard Press, a subsidiary of Pecan Grove Press of St. Mary's University in San Antonio. It is a bilingual edition and the poet's first book publication in the United States.

Lopez del Castillo was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and has published more than a dozen poetry books and reflections. He has been awarded the American Eagle Award as the most outstanding performer of poetry in Mexico.

The poems in the book were  translated by Rodrigo Lopez.

It Is Autumn

The cells we lose day after day
are the tiny bodies
and their infinitesimal souls
that constitute us.
Thus we scatter along the path
the infallible sign
by which we will make our return.

Somewhere in the wind
perhaps mixed up in memory
is the secret of love
that buried itself in the heart
in order to leave a constancy singing.
any autumn afternoon
(now I believe it was
ten thousand years ago)
I saw you vanish amidst the leaves.
How the senses deceive.
You were not love.
Not even the musical fragment
that installed it in my chest.

A presentiment hovers
like a gadfly around me.
I shall say it was you so as not disappoint you.
I know that fall.
I turn back around
and see my own life on the floor.
How many pieces must I pick up
and among them not distinguish yours.

Just behind me
a bit farther
we rest.
But we form a curious planet
in which life recycles itself.
Dynamic grind the remains
to renew the wine's quality.
From our own death
we drink again.

Vanity's failure
purifies Man again.
Nudity awaits new clothing.
It is autumn.

A poem from  last  week; kind of a crybaby poem.

my fortune
it is the thing
for which I am most
selfish - my time…

such a limited treasure
it is to have,
once gone
forever gone,
here today
gone tomorrow
except there is no tomorrow,
just today and today and today
until it is the black coal sack
of tonight
that stays forever,
less the stars
less the moon
less the dreams
that bridge our todays
one to the

I am selfish
with my time
for it is my only fortune,
my fortune

Next from the anthology, I have Chinese poet, Mang Ke.

Born in 1950, Mang was a Young Pioneer (the Communist Party's youth organization) when he was fifteen. He started to write poetry when he was twenty. During the Peking Spring of 1978-79 when there was some liberalisation of the arts and literature, he founded the literary magazine, Jinitian.

By mid-1979, most of the leaders of the Peking Spring had been arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Jinitian was banned at the end of 1980 and Mang and others involved with the journal went underground.

Up to this time,  his work has been ciruclated primarily as photocopies and  never officially recognized.

Later references to him indicate that he founded two additional non-governmental journals, one in 1988 and another in 1991. Living now in Beijing, he has been invited to a number of foreign countries for cultural exchanges and his works has been translated into many other languages. 

Following are three sections of a longer poem, Jiumeng (Old Dream), published in 1980 and translated by Elizabeth Rogers.


Here it is blackest night
walls on four sides
only above your head is there no roof
Above your head is a tapestry woven
    of the starlit sky
You often use it, when crying
to wipe the tears form your face
Here it is blackest night
this black night imprisons you within
    its walls
Frequently, on the edge of sleep, you
struggle to be free of the walls' rough
imploring he Heavens
Ah, the Heavens, the most she can give
are those eyes fixed upon you.


On  the window pane of your open eyes
I see the night
it's full, dense beard
nestled against your face
his moment you are terrified
Why do you still not sleep?
Whom do you await?
this moment suddenly the moon's
    sharp tongue
tears apart the layers of cloud
in a twinkling, I saw you smile
before your eyes, I see
that radiance reappear
like the beating of a white dove's wings
circling outside your window.


Land, my aged land
you have watched me grow from
    childhood, but now
when the merciless, setting sun
moves to drag me, as if its own
    radiance from your breast
How can my heart be so hard as
    to cast you aside
How can I bear in the dark to
    hear you cry
raised by your hands, so you I owe
    my heart
through thereafter my body ceases
    to exist
I still want to give you my soul
Have faith in me, my Land
should one day while still asleep
you hear Light's hand knock at
    your door
that could announce my return
Please, for my sake, for the
    coming of such light,
open your large door wide.

I wrote this near the end of the year, 2007, a meditation on justice after a rash in the city of children murdered by their parents.

where does justice draw the line?

i want to write 
about the four 
by their parents 
in this city 
in the last two weeks, 
to memorialize them 
but cannot 

i don’t have the language 
to say what i want to say 
and my mind drifts 
to other things 
to evil, 
for example 

i don’t believe 
in God 
but i do believe 
in evil, 
the diabolic 
of mass murders 
and the casual 
evil of parents 
who kill 
their children - 
the mother who 
smothered her baby 
because it would not 
stop crying, 
the father, 
angered to madness 
by his wife, 
who shoots their 
two daughters, 
age 10 and 5, 
in the head, 
then kills 
the woman 
who swings her 
baby like a baseball bat 
to strike her lover - 
what do we do 
with these people? 

i’m a believer 
in capital punishment, 
i believe humanity 
has the right and obligation 
to protect itself against 
the most evil among us, 
some born that way, 
i am convinced, evil 
from the moment 
they leave their mothers’ 
womb, others who learn 
their evil from the circumstances 
of their life, but
born or made, i don’t care, 
it is the consequence 
of their act 
not the consequences 
of their lives that matter, 
as a consequence 
of their act 
they do not deserve 
our solicitude, 
maintaining the life of 
Charles Manson 
for a year 
costs as much as or more 
than sending a needy 
student through a year 
of college - 
I say kill the bloody 
son of a bitch 
and send the money 
to the kid 

but that’s an easy case 

it’s the drawing of the line 
that makes these questions hard 

three parents killed four children 
in this city in the last two weeks 

where do we draw the line 
for them? 

where does justice 
draw the line 
for these four 

Next, the pleasure of Pablo Neruda and his love poems, these taken from The Captain's Verses, published by New Directions in 2004. It's a bilingual book, with translation by Donald D. Walsh.

The Hurt

I have hurt you, my dear,
I have torn your soul.

Understand me.
Everyone knows who I am,
but that "I am"
is besides a man
for your.

In you I waver, fall
and rise up burning.
You among all beings
have the right
to see me weak.
And your little hand
or bread and guitar
must touch my breast
when it goes off to fight.

That's why I seek in you the firm stone.
Harsh hands I sink in your blood
seeking your firmness
and the depth that I need,
and if I find
only your metallic laughter, if I find
nothing on which to support my harsh steps
adored one, accept
my sadness and my anger,
my enemy hands
destroying you a little
so that you may rise from the clay
refashioned for my struggles.


All of love in a goblet
as wide as the earth, all
of love with stars and thorns
I gave you, but you walked
with little feet, with dirty heels
upon the fire, putting it out.

Ah great love, small beloved!

I did not stop in the struggle.
I did not stop marching toward life,
toward peace, toward bread for all,
but I lifted you in my arms
and I nailed you to my kisses
and I looked at never
again will human eyes look at you.

Ah great love, small beloved!

You did not then measure my stature,
and the man who for you put aside
blood, wheat, water,
you confused him
with the little insect that fell onto your skirt.

Ah great love, small beloved!

Do not expect that I will look back at you
in the distance, stay
with what I left you , walk about
with my betrayed photograph.

I shall go on marching,
opening broad  roads against he shadow, making
the earth smooth, spreading
the star for those who come.

Stay on that road.
Night has fallen for you.
Perhaps at dawn
We shall see each other again.

Ah great love, small beloved.

The two poems above seem to me to be attempting to resolve the contradiction between the love of is private live and his public life as a radical political activist and, for a while, public official.

This third piece is more of a traditional love poem, with a little twist that even the most ardent lover can't stop looking elsewhere if only to look.

The Fickle One

My eyes went away from me
following a dark girl who went by.

She was made of black mother-of-pearl,
made of dark-purple grapes,
and she lashed my blood
with her tail of fire.

After them all
I go.

A pale blond went by
like a golden plant
swaying her gifts.
And my mouth went
like a wave
discharging on her beast
lighting bolts of blood.

After them all
I go.

But to you, without my moving,
without seeing you, distant you,
go my blood and my kisses,
my dark one and my fair one,
my tall one and my little one,
my broad one and my slender one,
my ugly one, my beauty,
made of all the gold
and of  all  the silver,
made of all the wheat
and of  all the earth,
made of all the water
of the sea waves,
made for my arms,
made for my kisses,
made for my soul.

I finish up this week with a nod to our tweety-pie friends.

a consideration of birdsong
a consideration of
leads me to want
to make it clear
that I’m in favour
of birds singing,
in the early morning
when the sun
and I
need encouragement
to get on with our day

the soft low
of the doves
the trills
and whistles
of the other feathered
things that habituate in my
(whatever they are),
even, to get slightly
off the subject,
the bark of the squirrels
as the cats eye
the bushy-tailed rodent’s nut-strewn

all that is wonderful
as I take my naked, sleep-logged
body out to the patio
for a prelim-view
of the next chapter in my life,
another twenty-four hours
in the saga of me coming
round the bend, welcomed
by the tweets and whistles
of my bird-kind friend,
like a damn Disney movie
with all the little birdies
going tweet, tweet, tweet…

but not the pre-dawn
“weee-ger, weee-ger, weee-ger”
that comes from the neighbour’s tree -
this screeching does not a Disney-morning
and if I hadn’t pawned my shotgun
I’d shoot that mother right out
its feathers

and go right back to sleep
with a Disney-smile
and a contented curl of my

So here's another fine mess I've gotten myself  out of.

Everything here belongs to those who created it. You're welcome to my stuff, just remember to properly credit me and "Here and Now."

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Always to the Light

Goes Around, Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind


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