Having Seen Better Days   Wednesday, July 04, 2012





I'm  featuring our new United States Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, this week, with poems from her book, Native Guard, published in 2007 by the Mariner Books edition of Houghton Mifflin.
Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966. She earned an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University and M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. Her honors include the Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She is Professor of English at Emory University where she holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.

Much of her poetry in the book concerns the South and her experiences as a mixed-race child (her mother black and her father Canadian) in a society still tightly bound by and to its historic racism.

Also, I have a few new and old poems of mine and other poems from my library.



Me
what did we think

Natasha Trethewey
Southern Gothic

Me
I know an artist

Brooke Bergan
To Bellocq in Heaven

Me
I don’t know where

Natasha Trethewey
What the Body Can Say

Me
outtakes from the first day of the war

William Meredith
For Guillaume Apollinaire
Five Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire - (Translations)

Me
five minutes in the fire with Fiona
lying in the sun with Susan

Natasha Trethewey
Incident

Me
negative vibes

Ricardo  Pau-Llosa
Edge  of  the Storm
Key Biscayne

Me
Imogene  gets away clean
running in  the rain with Ramona
why not Wynona?

Natasha Trethewey
Graveyard Blues

Me
about time-shift  issues

John Koethe
Pining Away

Me
rainy day

Natasha Trethewey
Again, the Fields

Me
in the soup

Robert Bly
Digging  Worms
Late Moon
Night of First Snow

Me
you just have to take my word for it

Natasha Trethewey
Southern History

Me
ain’t no friends of mine














Continuing with a train  of thought begun last week with news of the re-dating of cave art in Europe back to Neanderthal days.




what did we  think?
what
did we think,
I wonder, when we were
the new-comers,
the new-kind-comers,
as we roamed, straggled
with our hairless kind
across new landscapes
the always-new landscapes that
welcome travellers
with every new sun, the roamers
who sleep every night
on new ground, under new trees…

what did we think,
our restless kind, when we met
the old-timers, the settled kind,
did we recognize
them
as family
or were they just another beast
of prey, beasts of our racial
burden -
what did we think
when we met a stranger almost
like our self, so close
yet so different - a defective copy
we think, black where I am white, short
where I am tall, squat where I am thin,
an almost me, but not, an almost
me not good enough to be me, not me
but close enough to me to be
incomplete, the spark of me missing,
close enough to me to be considered, not
close enough to be consequential
to my concern or conscience…

what did we think of these
inadequate versions of ourselves, these
beasts who lived in caves
and knew not
the arts of
war…

and what did we
who had no art but survival
think when we took their caves
and found their souls
painted
on the rocky walls











This is the first of my poems by Natasha Trethewey, recently appointed Poet  Laureate of the United States. As explained earlier, this poem and all of Trethewey's poems in this post are from her book, Native Guard.



Southern Gothic

I have lain down into 1970, into  the bed
my parents will share for only a few more years.
Early evening, they have  not yet turned from each other
in sleep, their bodies curved - parentheses
framing the separate lives they['ll wake to. Dreaming,
I am again the child with too many questions -
the endless why and why and why
my mother cannot answer,  her mouth closed, a gesture
toward her future: cold  lips  stitched shut.
the lines in my young father's face deepen
toward and expression of grief. I have come home
from the schoolyard with the words that shadow us
in this small  Southern town - peckerwood and nigger
lover, half-breed and  zebra -  words that take shape
outside us.  We're huddled on the tiny island of bed,  quiet
in the language of  blood: the house,  unsteady
on its cinder block  haunches, sinking deeper
into the muck of ancestry. Oil lamps flicker
around us - our shadows, dark glyphs  on the wall,
bigger and stranger than we are.









I continue to think of the mystery of the Neanderthal and his art.


I know an artist
I know an
artist
devoted
to his paints
works hard
at what he does
produces
large canvases of
swirling
dark colors
like night on a
dark planet

I don’t like
what he does
but find fine human
value
in his devotion to doing
it

thinking -

how much better
our world
if all our captains
of industry
cared as much
about their ships
as he does
about his
art...

I have been
writing
about the arts
of the Neanderthal
and in my struggling
artist
I see the glory and the fate
of all Neanderthals
among us, past and
present,
while they paint their
caves
the rest of us
take the world, maybe
if we have the soul for it,
taking a moment
to appreciate the folly
of our betters

….

meanwhile,

I know a
poet….









My next poem is from Storyville - A Hidden Mirror, a collection by Brooke  Bergan.

It is the story, much like Trethewey's book, Bellocq's Ophelia, the story of  E. J. Bellocq, the commercial photographer who,  almost by accident, recorded the story of New Orlean's red light district, Storyville, and the prostitute who worked there.

Bergan has an MA and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has taught writing classes and workshops for nearly twenty years in grade schools, high schools, libraries, colleges and universities to widely diverse audiences around the country.

Her publications include three books of poetry as well as fiction, reviews, essays, translations and a play. She has given numerous readings and performances; appeared on radio, television and video programs about literature; and made presentations at national conferences. Dr. Bergan has also served as a literary editor for several journals, is the founding editor of Persiflage Press and was the director of publications at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The first part of the poem refers to Pretty Baby, a 1978 film directed by Louis Malle. Although the film was mostly praised by critics, it was quite controversial at the time, especially for its scenes of the nude pre-teen Brooke Shields.

In addition to Shields, the movie stars Susan Sarandon as Shields' mother and a prostitute in Storyville and Keith Carradine as Bellocq.

I  enjoyed the movie.



To Bellocq in Heaven
          Bellocq, E(rnest) J(ames: American; 1873-1949;
          photographer, nudes, social documentary

Some people think you are
a movie star seducer/
protector of a teenage
girl, Papa Bellocq
impassioned only
about your photographs.

The man who played you
learned the ways of your
big view camera quickly
"producing decent portraits
in a day," as he had learned to
ride and shoot for someone else
or sing a country-western song.

For just that once,
you got to be romantic,
not the mincing "waterhead"
who "waddled...like a duck"
the printmaker thought he knew,
photography's Toulouse-Lautrec,
Jose Ferrer on his knees
in a top hat, impotent
without a camera.

In a novel, hydrocephalic
again, corrupt, it is you
who defiles the plates,
"making and destroying
...from the same source."
Light-absorbed, you ring
yourself in fire, dying
decades before you really
did, probably of diabetes
from those orange jelly
slices that you loved.

To the critic, you are
a pornographer, turned artist
only the rumble of wear
you had no hand in, because
your "harsh, unmediated" image
of a nude prostitute is "exposed,
facing the viewer," as she faced you,
unflinching.

Your friends deny
you were misshapen,
say you were "rotund
and balding," spoke
with a thick French accent,
or Teutonic, or New Orleans,
always carried a camera, and
hated having your picture taken.

Malle, Ondaaje, Friedlander,
Joe Sanarens, Johnny Wiggs, Adel
(movie director, novelist, ,printmaker
photographer, cornetist, prostitute)
those who knew you, or thought they could
from a drawerful of glass plates, a handful
of memories, make you the homosexual-pederast-
voyeur-pornographer-sentimentalist they want to see.

Denied  by chance to crop or choose
explain the gashed out face or re-
touch it, you leave  us only 89
8x10 glass plates, bright
flecks of a world you saw
as whole. What you did not show:

open cisterns breeding yellow fever
mosquitoes thick as gauze mattress
whores like gray mist shadow plague's
living corpses out of graves in high
water moccasin ashes photograph
buried face down purple permanganate
clap squeeze ten cent a fuck heat
hazed air black vomit in

summer you sometimes took pictures
of pretty girls at the Pontchartrain beach.











I mean, this was one ugly damn bug.



I don’t know where
so
my neighbour
knocked on my door
and said
help!
help!
there’s a great big
spider
on my front door
and I can’t get into
my house
and I grabbed a broom
and said
I’ll get that dang
spider
and we went
next door
and she was right
it was a great big spider
the size of the palm
of my hand
almost
the ugliest
bristle-legged
evil-eyed
and pinchie-jawed
spider
I’ve ever seen
hanging on to the screen
of her front door
and I swatted it with
my broom
and it fell to the
floor
goddamn ugly spider
I said
and whaapp whaapp whaapp
smashed smashed
smashed
it with my broom
until yellow stuff came out
its insides
goddamn ugly
spider
I said, serves you right
and now I can’t
sleep
because where there’s
one great big ugly
bristle-legged
evil-eyed
pinchie-jawed
spider
there’s probably more
and I don’t know
where
maybe under my
chair
maybe
right down
there
where it’s
too
dark
to see








Here's my second poem from  Native Guard by U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey.



What the Body Can Say

Even in stone the gesture is unmistakable -
the man upright, though on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and, covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face. I think

grief, and since he's here, in the courtyard
of the divinity school, what he might ask of God.

How easy it is to read this body's language,
or those gestures we've come  to know - the raised thumb

that is both a symbol of agreement and the request
for a ride, the two fingers held up that once meant

victory, then peace. But what  was my mother saying
that day not long before her death - her face tilted up

at me, her mouth falling open, wordless, just as
we open our mouths in church to take in the wafer,

meaning communion? What matters most is context -
the side of the road, or that my mother wanted

something I still can't  name: what, kneeling,
my face behind my hands, I might ask of God.








This is my 9-11 poem, written before the end of that month.

It is not a eulogy, it is not  a celebration of heroism by firemen and the police, it is not a statement of planned revenge for the treachery. Others have done those poems.

This is just my  attempt to represent what we all saw on television that  day, pictures from hell, images of confusion and panic.

Maybe there's some benefit to that, but I doubt it.

I have not been able to use this piece in the past because of the hours of html I would have had to do, mostly incorrectly. Changes by the blog host eliminate the need for html and make the piece useful to me here.

That this is  now an html-free  zone means I  have some other stuff  I can post  now as well.

Here's this one.



outtakes from the first day of the war

                                                   nothing

leads to anything

                                                                                                   short bursts
                                                                                                      of thought

                                                     smoke
                                                billowing gray

                                                      down
                                                        city
                                                     streets

no                     connections

broken

                                                    gray streets awash
                                                      in a gray tide

      dreams
      bro
           ken

smaller
smaller

           i
       p            c
               e                 s

                           e

                                                    graypeopleghosts
                                                         gray ghosts

                                                                                              running

                      mind bro
                      ken

smaller
smaller

          e                   s
p
     i            c       
                        e   
                         
                    crashing down
in silence
                    flowing 
                          like  water
                          down

riverwide
  riverlong
    riverdeep
      riverstrong
        riverflows
          riverlives
            rivertakes
              rivergives

                                                                         puddling gray
                                                                    in concrete and steel

              t
              h
              r
              e
              a
              d

thread

                    l
                    i
                    m
                    p

                      lick it
                      so it stays
                       straight

                                                                             lick  it
so it doesn't
flop down
like an old man's  

           d
              i
              c
                k
     make  it straight  

                                                                          s t r a i g h t

through
the eye

                        tight
             pull

in    and     out

                                                                                                          push in
                                                                                                                      push out 

                                                                                                                         push in

                                                                     push out

                           through weaving
                                                        patterns
                                                  
                                                                                                                of our lives

bring the pieces
together

                                                                             smoke

                                                                               ash

                                                                   ghosts surfing
                                                                    gray tide
                                                                  eyes wide

eyes wide
red rimmed
in a gray mask

eyes   wide
                  in
            disco                   nect






Next, I  have two poems by William Meredith,  from his  collection, Effort at Speech, published by TriQuartely Books of Northwestern University Press in 1997.

The first poem is an homage to Guillaume Apollinaire, one of my two favorite French poets (I only really have two French poets; the other is Blaise Cendrars) and the second is a collection of translations of five of Apollinaire's short poems. I've read (and used here) one of the five previously. I prefer this translation to the one I used before.



For  Guillaume Apollinaire

The day is colorless like Swiss characters in a novel
And I sit at a desk in an old house left to the arts
Teaching your poems English.
I have read the French words in the dictionary starting with "W."
They are borrowings, too: wesleyen, wigwam, wisigoth
and wattman, an archaic electrical-tram driver.
If you were alive this summer you'd be 82.

The fourth floor of the mansion, just less than an acre,
Is servants' country. For years it was settled -
Chambermaids, kitchenmaids, footmen, a butler, a cook.
Somewhere there must be almost an acre of them now
Laid out in hte Romanesque floor plan under the sod,
And the lady who rang for them.
The house is a good place to work. But these poems -
How quickly the strangeness would pass from things if it were
      not for them.


Five Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire (Translations)

1. Autumn Crocuses
In fall the  fields are poisonous but fair
Where, slowly poisoning, the cattle graze
The meadow saffron, colchicum, thrives there,
Color of lilac and the circles under eyes.
My life pastures so on the the autumn hue
Of your eyes and slowly poisons itself too.
Children in queer jackets come and play
Harmonicas and pick the purple flowers
Which are like mothers, their own daughters' daughters
When you saffron eyelids raise and lower
They are like flowers that a crazy wind flutters.
The shepherd sings the cattle on their way
As slowly and lowingly and for all time,they pass
From the broad evil-flowered autumn grass.

II. Annie
Between Mobile and Galveston
On the seacoast of Texas
There's a big garden full of rosebushes
And a house like a big rose.

Often there is a woman
Walking alone in the garden
And when I pass on the lime-boarded highway
We look at one another.

She is a Mennonite, this woman,
And her  rosebushes and her clothes are buttonless.
I see that two buttons are missing from my jacket.
The lady and I observe  almost the same rite.

III. Mountebanks
The mountebanks appear like smoke
And passing through the churchless village walk
Passing the door of the gray inn
And off like smoke across the plain.
The children run  in front and mime
Their elders follow on in a dream
Fruit trees resign themselves to pillage
Once this music wakes the village.

They carry odd-shaped weights and props
And thumping drums and gilded hoops
And beasts with cups interpret where
They pass, a monkey and a bear.

IV. Autumn
In the fog  a farmer with a hobbled leg
And his ox pass slowly by, in  the  autumn fog
That hides the villages, beggared and dumb;
And  as he passes you hear the farmer hum
A song  about love and a lover forsaken.
It tells of a ring and a heart that gets broken.
Oh, autumn, autumn has made the summer die.
In the fog two gray silhouettes pass by.

V. Rhenish Night
My glass  is filled with a wine  that  trembles like  flame.
Listen,  a boatman is singing a slow  song
About a moonlight night when seven women came
Out of the river and their  hair was  green and long.

Now  sing and dance until the terrace whirls
And the boatman's slow song fades
And bring me all the pretty blond-haired girls
With the still gaze and the coiled braids.

The  Rhine flows  drunk, its vine-leaves trailing after,
The trembling gold of night is mirrored there.
Like  a death rattle the slow  song  grows softer
About the nymphs who bewitched the summer with their green hair -

My glass has shattered like a peal of laughter.








I mentioned a week or so ago, the project I set for myself to write a series of poems about women, with their names in the title, each name beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. It was kind of a stupid idea, but, this being 2001, and though i wasn't yet involved in the poem-a-day discipline, it's the kind of thing a poem-a-day-poet likes to have in reserve. It's not so much writing a poem a day that's so tough, it's coming up with an idea for a poem every day that's the challenge. Having some pre-canned ideas on the shelf, give a great sense of security.

I found some more of those poems. Although I didn't come close to completely covering the alphabet, I came up with more than I remembered.

Here's a couple of them.



five minutes in the fire with Fiona

under the table
     her leg
     against mine
     moves
     slowly
     up and down

reaching for a paper clip
     her hand
     brushes mine
     long red nail
     leaving a trail
     of fire a scar
     smoldering

peering intently
     at the paperclip
     turns it over
     passes
     her fingertip
     slowly  over
     the rounded
     end tongue
     pink against
     her lip in
     concentration

     does she
     sneak a
     sidelong
     glance
     at me....

I hear my name called

for the third time
I realize
and look to the end
of the table  past
the double row
of staring eyes

yes sir
     I ask

your report
     he says

my report
     I ask

your report
     he says
     we're waiting
for your report

a low laugh beside me
          like a whisper
          like a breath of
          warm air in a
          frigid room

               later
               she said

or

          was it just
          another
          laugh....


The next poem was the first of the series written; in fact, I didn't get the idea for the series until afterward. The poem was published in Poems Niederngasse late in 2001. I also used it in my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.

I  think I  may have used this piece here recently; publishing weekly, it all becomes a blur pretty quickly.


lying in the sun with Susan

quiet bay

no sound but the light rustle
of marsh grass in the gulf breeze

she
lies on the deck
legs spread
as if to thrust herself
at the summer sun

sweat glistens
on  the inside of her thigh
and my tongue aches
for the taste of her



I have  a couple more of these. I'll  use them later in the post if I can find them.











Here's another poem  by Natasha Trethewey, from her book Native Guard.



Incident

We tell the story every year -
how  we peered from the window, shades  drawn -
though nothing really happened,
the charred grass now green again.

We  peered from the windows, shades  drawn
at the cross trussed  like  a Christmas tree,
the charred grass  still   green. Then
we  darkened our rooms, lit the hurricane lamps.

At the cross trussed like a Christmas tree,
a few men gathered, white as angels  in their gowns.
We  darkened our rooms and lit hurricane lamps,
the wicks trembling  in their fonts of oil.

It  seemed  angels  had gathered,  white  me  in their gowns.
When they were done, they left quietly. No one  came.
The wicks  trembled all night in their fonts of oil;
by morning the flames had  all dimmed.

When they were done, the men left quietly. No one  came.
Nothing really happened.
By morning all the flames had  dimmed.
We tell the story every year.








Some days just seem strange, like a fella with his hat on backwards is watching you from around the corner.



negative vibes
negative vibes
today

everything
everyone…

the old priest
in the next booth
short little guy, thin
as a toothpick, fastidiously
black-suited, Batman in his dotage,
as if the man can
be retired, but the costume
never, narrow face, parchment pink
skin, sparse white hair parted
as if drawn on a cartoon

evil purpose
in this man, I can sense it,
would probably burn my Playboy collection
if he knew where to find them
(under the bed, of course, I wonder
what he hides under
his bed)….

and the little man
who takes tiny little steps
and always waits to be seated
even though the restaurant is empty
except for me, two dozen
available tables
and he always waits for Janice -
happy Janice with Popeye arms
from years off carrying trays
laden with grits and scrambled eggs
and pancakes and waffles
and biscuits and gravy
and gallons of coffee -
working alone, this early in the morning
as always, waiting for busy Janice
to come out from wrapping
silverware in the kitchen
to escort him to the booth where
he always sits

who’s he trying
to fool…

and the tall, white-haired fellow
who always sits
in the booth by the wall, on the side
facing the wall, like there’s some secret
invisible on wall,
if only he could figure
it out, he could rule the world,
oh, what terrible, bloody secrets he seeks
on that innocent looking wall, or maybe it’s
not that bad, maybe he’s just
some absconded serial killer, caught
by the brilliant detective, picture in the paper,
escaped, slipped through the bars in a jail
not built for skinny men like him, on the lam
afraid to face the rest of us, fear of recognition,
lynch mobs with no Matt Dillon to protect
his serial-killing ass

I’ll be keeping my eye
on him…

and the middle-aged fellow
with the same mullet he’s worn
since he was fourteen years old, probably
has a disco ball in the back of his pick-
up, liable to break into sixteen choruses
of Y.M.C.A. without a moment’s
notice

this one
especially
needs to be watched…

Six forty three in the A.M.
and bad vibes all
around,
everyone
everything
shrouded in a cloud of
dismal intent,
such days….such
days as when skinny little black-clad priests
or wall-staring serial killers
or polite little mice
or mullet-headed
delayed adolescents
pull a double-X-437 street sweeper
out of their back pocket
and blow innocent bystanders
like me
right into the next county where
cowboys wear big hats, ride bigger horses,
and sing yippi-ky-yay all day
while shooting rattlesnakes and sarsaparilla-sipping
tenderfeet
like
me










I  have two poems, now,  by Ricardo Pau-Llosa. I took the poems from his book Bread of the Imagined, published in 1992 by Bilingual Press/Editorial  Bilingue.

Born in 1954, Pau-Llosa was born into a working-class family in Havana. In 1960 he fled Cuba with his parents, older sister, and maternal grandmother. He graduated from Belén Jesuit Preparatory High School in Miami in 1971, and went on to major in English (literature) at various universities, among them Florida International University (BA, 1974), Florida Atlantic University (MA, 1976), and the University of Florida (1978–1981).



Edge of the Storm

A life may pass without
one having ever seen, not once,
a street halved  by the border
of  a storm, one side  still dry
and the other cloaked in a torrent.
Surely there are phenomena
which are both contained
and diffuse, clean in their emblems -
rain, thunder, lightning,
the leafy breeze before and after -
while imprecise  in their boundaries.

I have seen the edge of many storms.
The first time on a street in Havana
along with other children holding out
hands into thick rain, caps brimming.
We pushed the group  weakling into the rain
and we laughed to see him caged in water,
enclosed in what we  had barely touched.
I thought of jumping in with others,
but the rain stopped and we scattered home.

Years later I saw the edge of a snowfall.
The brick house dimmed as if inside
a paperweight souvenir blizzard.
Alone, a war had shoved me  north.
A boundary opened within me -
on one side reaction to the world,
on the other hope. The snowfall
lost its shape then,  passed over me,
tried to include me
in its white project of innocence.


Key Biscayne

Between two coconut palms
we see towers shattered
on the water's skin, novas
swallowed by Miami's scales.

Sipping Cointreau,  we search
the bay for two kinds of refuge.
I am the fisher of metaphors
that bind the layered water
to bark and fronds.
Layers everywhere, see the squinting
condos and banks across the bay,
clothes and traffic, tiles,
patterns of which city and flesh are made.

You see better. If I had a camera, you say,
I'd shoot the base of the palm's crown. The spades
from which the fronds spring  are smooth against
the knots and fibers surrounding them. It tells
me as much about the tree as about the world,
the city and us. A world of patterns that by sheer
number and intersection becomes a world of randomness.
It tells me that chaos is a blizzard of order,
and I stave it off by gazing at one thing
and its dignity reigning in my mind at  that moment.

I test what I have learned from you later
at a red light. My pane is a drop lit sky.
I behold the simplest circles
of rain in a puddle, how to echoes
enter each other, become each other
yet stay two rings, not one.










I found three more of the female name series. It never really worked out.

Here they are. I was still submitting and publishing when I was writing these. The first one below was published in Scope Journal. The truth is I remember nothing at all about that zine. The second was published in Tryst, a very fine zine web-based journal which belongs in the elite company of places where I have been published that still exist. The third one  I don't think I ever sent out anywhere.


Imogen gets away clean

Imogene
comes and goes
in a swirl of sex
and musky intrigue
leaving men of every age
to  twist
in the vapors
of her libidinous wake

copulatory
imaginings burn
like a fever in their softened
brains -
brains 
made irrelevant
by that lower consciousness
that hangs between  their legs,
rising like a divining rod
rising
as those very night fantasizes
that have nurtured the growth
of a thousand fancied dissatisfactions
pass in the flesh

Imogene
comes and goes
leaving a path of  wreckage
like a summer storm
across the green and golden
pastures of well-ordered  lives

wreckage
she leaves behind
like the wind leaves behind
a broken tree, like a flood
leaves behind sodden fields

unaffected & untouched

Imogene gets away clean
every time.


running in the rain with Ramona

Naked and natural,
she runs through the rain
across an open field

I  lumber along behind
until  she stops
under a large  cottonwood
to wait

I catch up,
so out of breath
I can only stand,
breathing hard,
taking in dark hair
pulled back to frame
her strong face
and ebony eyes,
beaded rain droplets
on her cheeks
on her shoulders
on her breasts
gleaming in the bright
moonlight

this is what entrances me
beyond my better judgment,
what bedraggles me
only makes her shine

this is nuts,
I say

yes, isn't it,
reaching down for me
with her wet hand
kissing me
hard
on the mouth



why not Wynona?

Wynona's the one
for me,
that's for sure

I mean,
you're a good friend
(probably the best I ever had)

loyal, kind,
thoughtful

pretty,  too,
in your own way

and smart,
jeez, you scare me sometimes
the way you see right through me

you listen to me
when no one else will
and tell me
the things I don't want
but need to know

so what's wrong with me?

how come
Wynona won't love me
like you do?










Another by Natasha Trethewey, from Native Guard.



Graveyard Blues

It rained the whole time  we were  laying her down;
Rained from church to  grave where  we  put her down.
The suck  of mud at our feet was a hollow sound.

When the preacher called out I held up my hand;
When he called for a witness I raised my hand -
Death stops the body's work, the soul's a journeyman.

The sun came out when I turned to walk away,
Glared down on me as I turned and walked away -
My back to my mother, leaving her where she lay.

The road  going home was pocked with hoes,
That home-going road's always full of holes;
Though  we slow down, time's wheel  still  rolls.

          I wander now among  names of the dead:
          My mother's name, stone pillow for my head.








Here's another new poem from last week.



about time-shift issues
the TV
weather-guesser
says triple digit temps
for the next five days, beginning
at 101 today, topping
at 105 day after tomorrow

it seems
a time-shift must have occurred
as I slept -
I went to bed in June
and woke up in August

I can’t say I’m entirely
surprised
since these holes
in the space-time continuum
have happened to me in the past

usually small dislocations,
working away at nine thirty-five,
not getting much done,
and I look up and it's eleven forty-three,
approximately two hours
down the well
and I don’t see any consequence
or evidence of its passage
except maybe I’m a little bit hungrier
than I would have thought - something
about the shift affects your digestive system
apparently, cause after I’ve slipped over to the other
side it seems I’m always hungry,
such time slips must explain, I think, why
it seems so impossible to lose
any significant weight - it’s not my fault,
I just time shifted again and really need those
extra mashed potatoes…

I have a similar experience
driving sometimes, especially on the long lonely
roads of deep South Texas
where the roads are straight and the center stripe
unwavering and all the spiky nopales and mesquite look the same
mile after mile after mile, and
every cow sticking it’s bovine nose through
the barbed wire fence
looks exactly
just like every other cow smacking it’s big rubbery lips at
the fence, mooing, feed me, feed me, lazy lay-about cows,
little do they know why the cowboys work so hard
to keep them so fat and happy,
nothing to with love, that’s for sure -
and there I’ll be, driving
under a blazing coastal sun and against the winds
always blowing hard from the Gulf,
leaving Falfurrias after a stop at the local
Dairy Queen franchise, then passing
through Norias, fifty miles down the road
a minute later, no memory of the road
other than from the several hundred times earlier
that I’ve driven down it,
no memory, even of the ice cream cone
which I apparently enjoyed while in the
time-slip wormhole because
my hands are all
sticky…

but all those are minor inconveniences
compared to the big one,
the night I went to bed fourteen years old
preparing to enjoy my favourite
recurring dream
about me and Sally Mae - waking up
on my forty-fifth birthday, no dreams, no
Sally Mae, just me and sore feet, a bad back
and a little pot belly, just another middle-aged wreck -

I'm still recovering from that
one










Next,  I have a poem by John Koethe, from his book, The Constructor, published in 1999 by HarperCollins.

Born in San Diego in 1945, Koethe is a poet and essayist. He was educated at Princeton University and Harvard University, and is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.



Pining Away

It was suspiciously easy, with no place to hide and,
At the same time, no  one to hide  from. No one wondered
Where anything went, for it seemed impossible to imagine
A greater form of happiness, content just to  let things go
But wondering nevertheless, in those  first expansive
Speculations  of self-consciousness, what the face meant,
And whether anything other than its own companionable
Intelligence might be discovered there. The answer came
Evasively, and with averted eyes, as the half-remembered
Promises that time had murmured to disguise its emptiness
Began to seem like vestiges of something still indubitably
Real, which time and memory would instinctively recover
Sooner or later, as the minutes  slid relentlessly away
And the memories sank into unconsciousness, like myths.

So  this is how the genius of reflection came to feel,
Imprisoned in its self-consuming enterprise that still
Continues to reverberate throughout the universe, now
Of the contracting kind, and incapable of withstanding
The hole in its own imagination. But it stays there
In a small room, where a style of diffidence
Allows it to negotiate each day without the fear
Of  being deflected from its predetermined course
Around the deserted library,  steadily getting nearer,
Asymptotically approaching its interior destination
Until suddenly arrested on the verge of misunderstanding
By those syllables erupting like quick flashes from a mind
Like a sputtering lamp, throwing the collapsing shadows
Into stark relief, while Echo hesitates as the brief
Disruption fades, the scattering rays are gathered
In the nick of time, and the hourglass is inverted.









Here's another thing I haven't  used here before because of, to me, insurmountable html requirements.



rainy day

r         r          r          r         r          r
  a        a          a          a         a         a
     i        i           i           i         i          i
        n       n          n          n         n          n

at last at last at last at last at last at last at last

r
  u
    n
      n
         i
           n
              g

off the roof in gallons and gushes of wet wet wet

                              r  e  l  i  e  f

                let's all  go out and play in the  r
                                                                   a
                                                                     i
                                                                       n
 







Here's another poem of the South and southern history by Natasha Trethewey, from her book, Native Guard.



Again, the Fields

     After  Winslow Homer
     the dead they lay long the lines like sheaves of Wheat I could have
     walked the boddes all most from one end to the other

No more muskets, the bone-drag
weariness of marching, the trampled
grass, soaked earth red as the wind

of sacrament. Now, the veteran
turns toward a new field, bright
as domes of the republic. Here,

he has shrugged off the past - his jacket
and canteen flung down in the corner.
At the center of the painting, he anchors

the trinity, joining earth and sky.
The wheat falls beneath is scythe -
a language of bounty - the swaths

like scripture on the field's open page.
Boundless,  the wheat stretches beyond
the frame, as if toward a distant field -

the white canvas where the sky and cotton
meet, where another veteran toils
his hands the color of dark soil.









Here's another piece I previously couldn't post here.

It was published in 2004 in Mitochondria's First Anthology of Rarities & Loose Ends.



in the soup

what's this fly doing in my soup
                                     she said

the back stroke
              I said

And there you have it
                             the
                             nub
      of our relationship

She found flies &
I laughed them off

                         until
                      
                      one

                  day

she invited a

s
  p
    i
      d
         e
            r

to sit down

b
   e
      s
         i
           d
              e
                 r

and I was in the soup










Here are three poems by Robert Bly, from his Selected Poems, published in 1986 by HarperCollins.



Digging Worms

Here I am, digging worms behind the chickenhouse,
The clods fall open when I hit
Them with a tine, worms fall out....

Dreams press us on all sides, we  stagger
Along a wire, our children balance us
On their shoulders, we balance their graves
On ours.

Their graves are light.  And we unwind
From some kind for cocoon made by lovers....
The old tires we used to swing on,
Going faster, around and around until

With one lurch we grow still and look  down at our
     shoes.
Last night I dreamt my carelessness started stones
     dislodging near a castle.  The stones
Did not hurt my shoulders when they hit and went
     through,
But the wall of the castle fell.


Late Moon

The third-week moon reaches its lights over my father's
     farm,
Half  of  it dark now, in the east that eats it away
The earth has rocks in it that hum at early dawn.
As I turn to go in, I see my shadow reach for the latch.


Night of First Snow

Night of first snow.
I stand, my back against  a board fence.
The fir tree is black at the trunk, white out at the edges.
The earth balances all around my feet.

The trunk joins the white ground with what is above.
Fir branches balance the snow.
I too am a dark shape vertical to the earth.
All over the sky, the gray color that pleases the snow
     mother.

Between boards I see three hairs a rabbit left behind
As he scooted under the fence.
A woman walks out toward the wicker basket
rocking in darkening reeds.
The Bride is inside the basket where Moses sleeps.
What is human lies in the way the baset is rocking.








From last week.



you just  have  to take my word for it
Sunday
morning, my thoughts far away
from any creative impulse

absorbed
in detail that goes nowhere

the girls
pushing two tables together
for the large party
coming across the parking lot

not a single interesting face
among them, fat old lady
to skinny little
kid
skipping along
behind

is there such a thing
as Wal-Mart faces?

I think so, this posse
evidence for the affirmative…

and there’s the big guy,
been here a couple of mornings
now, comes and goes on a motorcycle,
accent, sounds French, has a Frenchy looking
face

and what, you’re probably asking yourself,
is the difference between a Wal-Mart-looking face
and a Frenchy-looking face and I can’t tell you -
I know what I know, you know,
and you just have to take my word for it,
accept the fact that when dealing
with poets
sometimes you just have to take their word
for it cause their minds work in such
wondrously mysterious ways,
the path to their truth not always so straight
and narrow, and sometimes, you know,
you just have to grab hold and hang on for the
ride, like the fellow across the room, big, bald-headed
guy with a wispy beard, an Argentine gaucho,
I’m pretty sure, rides
and ropes and herds stampeding
cattle into box canyons on the pampas, singing,
in Spanish, of course, whoopee ty yay, whoopee
ty yo around the campfire at night,
telling jokes about Nebraska
and writing cowboy
poetry…

like I said,
you just have to take my word
for it








Here's my last poem by U.S. Poet  Laureate Natasha Trethewey for this post, from, as all the others, her book, Native Guard.

Quite  a bite to this poem, for all those still (yes, still) apologists for the old South.

I could make a couple of political remarks here about the racist basis of the Republicanism here in the South, but I'll bite my tongue instead. They are so much more subtle than they used to be.



Southern History

Before the war they were happy, he said,
quoting our textbook. (This was senior-year

history class.) The slaves were clothed, fed,
and better off under a master's care.

I watched the words blur on the page. No one
raised a hand, disagreed. Not even me.

It was late; we still had Reconstruction
to cover before the test, and - luckily -

three hours of watching Gone with the Wind.
History, the teacher said, of the old South -

a true account of how things were back then,
On screen a slave stood big as life: big mouth,

bucked eyes, our textbook's grinning proof - a lie
my teacher guarded. Silent, so did I.










Here's my last new poem for the week.



ain’t no friends of mine
I don’t know how come
they call it
the “dog days of summer”

because
if you look out the back door
and see my dogs
laid out on the patio
like fuzzy bacon
on a griddle
it’s clear
summer wasn’t their idea…

and I’m thinking
wow!
what a great idea for a poem
this is, dogs and heat, and, well,
the problem is I have nothing more
to say about heat except it’s too damn hot
and the dogs, having appeared
in a number of my poems, would just as well
like to be left out of this one...

goddamn, they say (being salty dogs)
if you really want to do something for us,
forget the fucking poem
and let us into the air conditioning

dumbass poets,
blind to the reality of the world,
lost in their diddly little world of words
and oh so precious insights,
while their dogs are burning in the hellfire
of South Texas summer

give us a break,
dipshit,
and open the door…

I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re
saying, in their own particular dog language
of growls and snuffles, which kind of kills
any desire I might have to include them
in any of my preciously insightful
poetry…

no gratitude at all, freeloading
dogs,
never caught a rabbit;
ain’t no friends of mine









Although it's still too damn hot to go  through all the usual stuff, I think I such repeat the usual part of the usual stuff where I remind everyone that the material presented in this post remains the property of its creators, including my stuff which you can have, what the heck, for the price off a proper credit for "Here and Now" and me, me being allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, all of  which actually works  out to the usual stuff which I said it was too hot to include, which I did anyway because I am a servant my art and sometimes obsessive.
 
So, to simplify, simplify - these are my books. Buy one. Or more. Here.
 
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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