To the Edge   Wednesday, July 18, 2012






I'm treating myself with photos of a trip about four years ago up the Pacific Coast.

A train from San Antonio to  Los Angeles and, from there,  a rental car carried us along the rim of the Pacific to Vancouver. It was a wonderful drive and a wonderful trip.

It's a longer than usual post this week, because I got carried away with my photos. On the other hand, I came home after two weeks of travel with over 900 photos, so my selections  this week could properly be seen as a very tight winnowing.

It was a great trip.

My anthology this week  is  Hotel Amerika, a periodic publication of the Department of English of Ohio University. The poems are from the Fall 2006 issue.

I don't think the publication is still being published, at  least not under that name.



Me
we will find our way

Ginny Wiehardt
Mourning

Jennifer Chang
Memoir of a Meadow

Me
coming and going,  again

Erica Funkhouser
Day Work
Night Work
The Pianist Upstairs

Me
between clouds

Jennifer Chapis
My Father’s Tumor

Geri Rosenzweig
Pastoral

Me
star bright

David Gwilym Anthony
Bird’s Eye View
Crossing the Border
To My Muse

Me
let us all praise Saturday

Angie Hogan
Self-Portrait with Geese

Michael Gushue
Norman and Mrs. Gates Speak of America

Me
Life Origins Get Murkier & Messier

Joanna Klink
Paraphrase of Several Guesses
The Graves

Me
chance of rain

Roy Seeger
Dedication to the Art of Pain

Me
red planet rebirth

Vandana Khanna
Against Vallejo
Two Women
Twentieth Century Sita

Me
what happens when you’re sixteen years old and your car catches fire in whoretown

Susan Mishler
Ghosts

Me
meanwhile, in the Hydra Constellation

Osip Mandelstam -
Poems from Stone

Me
true to our tree

Cynthia Struloeff
Black Bear

Me
brotherhood of the forever spreading stars

Susan Griffin
Chance Meeting

Me
the magnetosphere is running down

Brian Swann
Pity Me

Me
before you were flesh

Simon J.  Ortiz
Cherry Pie
Teeth
Superchief
Along the Arkansas River

Me
bullfrog morning

Wendell Berry
Let Us Pledge
The Reassurer
Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Men

Me
our place in the story of space and time

Bruce Weigl
Breakdown
The Forms of Eleventh Avenue

Me
the man in the moon

Paul Kane
Widower
The Night Heron
In Vida’s Garden

Me
hymnal
how it all comes about




It is raining, by the way, as it has done here for the past couple of afteroons at about this time. I mention that so that you will appreciate what a great effort is required to be sitting inside doing this instead of sitting outside in the middle of it.







My first poem for the week, written a couple of weeks ago.


we will find our way
trying for a mind
meld
with the one
on the other side
of the curtain
I call the
poet

I
have been
pushing the envelope
lately
and the fatigue
and mind fugue
have filtered through the shadow
of days
without dimension
to him and
he does not respond
when I call

it
is moments like this
that I fear
I have lost my dear friend
forever

but I have been
here,
circled by this dark,
before
and know
what I have to do
is watch for the light
and wait

we
will find our
way









I start with two poets from the anthology, Hotel Amerika.



The first  poet is Ginny Wiehardt, whose work has appeared in a number of well-know and respected journals. She was a Michener Fellow at the Cichebner Center  for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin from 1998 to 2001. Her  2005 collection of poems, Compulsion of the Unlocked Thing was a finalist for the Ohio State  University/The Journal poetry contest.

At the time of this publication, she lived in Brooklyn, New York.


Mourning

"If white is the color of mourning in Andalusia,
it is the proper custom."
              --Abu l-Hasan al-Husri

...

If I could take dawn
in my hands,
as tangible as breakfast

I could cease
the practice of despair,
throw off my white cloak,
a house opened for summer.

...

I have burned my suppers,
made a desert of my garden,
pigeons of my feet.

...

The first sign of redemption:
hunger for birdsong.

...

Comfortless alphabet.
Not even a sign
in a lock of my lover's hair
as he turns to go.


Jennifer Chang is another poet from the anthology. She is the Communications Director of Kundiman, a non-profit Asian American poetry organization whose work appears frequently in quality journals. At the time of this publication, she lived in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I know I should remember, but with weekly publication I tend to lose track of whose work I've used and when. That excuse given, I think I may have used several of Chang's poems in a recent post.

Well, I like her work so that's fine with me. (I just hope it's not the same poem I may have used before.)


Memoir of a Meadow

When the fireweed bloomed
from stem to tip, it released
pollen clouds we mistook for snow.
In my hands,  a piece  of bark,
twelve years fallen and damp,
lathered like soap. Some said
winter would arrive first
in the higher meadow, where
inches of pigmentless lichen
measured the lightless days.
to taste the world's coldest  rotation,
we opened ourselves like doors,
called this ardor. You said
I was good as the mist. I was.










My Independence Day poem.


coming and going, again
behind
a weak puff of cloud cover,
a full moon
shines bright through
a filigree of leaves
and
small branches
restless
in the fresh early-morning
breeze

it is early,
the sun, up soon,
will shine on Independence Day,
The Fourth of July, a celebratory day,
a day, it is our misfortune,
for remembering the past,
not a celebration
this day
of this day

that earlier day,
a day of noble aspiration
and intent, fallen,
like the angel Satan
from his lofty position
to stoke the fires
of hell,
like we are fallen
into the degradation
and debauchery of special interest
and liars and thieves
and power-mongers, like whoremongers,
who lust for the favours
of the favoured,
the rewards of position and favourable attention…

such a disgrace
we have become, an insult
to those who first formed us, their
shame were they here to see
us…

but
what has gone will come again,
and what has come
will go,
and time’s undeniable
passage brings both decay
and rebirth, is the cure for all ills,
the bringer of justice
to all who presume too much
for themselves
and a promise for those
who hope for a better time

and in the meantime
the moon shines bright
in the mid-summer night and cool
breezes rejuvenate
all tired souls as they did
all those summers ago, as they do
today and will again when
the wicked have fallen, again,
and the good takes it’s days and nights
of triumph, again, until the wicked
rises again, as it always will, as the good
rises again, as it always will, all under a moon,
that as required by the nature of things
comes and goes as well,
unseen on some dark nights,
but never so far away that it will not
return









I have three pieces by Erica Funkhouser. They are the concluding three pieces to  her  book Earthly. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008.

Funkhouser is a lecturer in the Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This  is her fifth book of poems.


Day Work

Alone. I love to be alone. Against
the numberless infinities. Or for
the re-creation of the little chores
that roof my world: embellished emptiness.

A round peg in a square hole will find
its four  corners - within, without - and fill
them with its private tyrannies. Be still
and see if solitude will make you kind.

Contained. I love to be contained. The air,
a pair of trees that rise in unison,
the shade that lends my day abundant edge:
inventions, all. The other world's a cage.
the body scatters and is never done.
Small teeth and claws await us everywhere.


Night Work

To capture crabs, Cezanne crept out at night
to hang  a lantern over Aix's little  stream.
Blinded by the light, the sweet crustaceans dreamed
their way into his hands, each one a bite

of cobalt blue, peach black, burnt crimson lake.
Reviewing canvases by candlelight,
he felt a gust of colors sparked with fright.
the apple's culmunation made his shake.

Quickly, to bed beside the grumpy wife,
a slice of marzipan to ease her  hunger.
All day he'd hunted for flickering color
of object touching object, proof of life.

At night there's only intervening blue:
two cylinders marooned inside one cube.


The Pianist Upstairs

The world's at war and he breaks into Brahms
tonight - an intermezzo one might hum
to  lull a child or coax to  life numb
nerves after a round of deafening bombs.

the stairwell's dark and cold. and still I sit
and listen as the music circulates.
I don't know what to do; the day's debates
don't change a thing. We hit. They hit. We hit.

My country's ruin'd choir resounds with lies,
and still my song will only come from words.
Upstairs a man devotes a tender hour
to teasing out sweet hidden  harmonies
that populate the hallway with white birds.
How wasted here, their pure expressive power.








More from me.


between clouds
the clouds
are thicker
this morning,
the white disc of the moon,
like old memories,
fading in and out
between them…

memories,
like the moon,
half-remembered fiction
we make of only the parts
we can bear to see…

for millions of years
the moon’s dark side
hidden from us, seen, finally
through the shadows of
eternal
night
by our mechanical eyes
only in my lifetime
and yours;
maybe
some day,
in my lifetime
or yours,
our own dark faces
will bring us to the truth
of memories
we choose not to
recall…

until then,
like the moon this morning,
it is only in our
passing
between clouds
that we begin see the true shape
of ourselves...

and remember ourselves
as we truly were









Here are two more poets from Hotel Amerika.



The first poet is Jennifer Chapis, and alumni of the Graduate Creative Writing Program at NYU and an editor with Nightboat Books. She lives in California and has published extensively.


My Father's Tumor

Did he have it  two summers ago in Maine
when our family rented that tri-level guesthouse on Wells Beach -
his mother baking decadent desserts and refusing to eat,
his sister on the back of her husband's motorcycle, flying
a kite from the road, and Aunt Edna
scouring he North Atlantic shoreline for a select strain of beach rose?
Each morning, my mother and sister went into town
to buy Christmas gifts six months early,
while Dad and I walked the length of the five-mile beach, twice -
our bare feet rifling wet sand, treasures unsettled
and tossed back to sea.
The only man on the beach with a scientific calculator,
he depressed the keys swiftly. How much will it cost to retire comfortably?
How many years before affordable civilian space travel?
He was so many numbers,
the figures kicking up  sand in his head like wild gulls.
I wonder if it was there
even six months ago -
his bladder housing a cancerous planet, encapsulated sea.
How man miles is it to Mars?
This counting always terrified me.
The unknown
poised to rush the shore.


The second  poet is Geri Rosenzweig,  who worked as an RN before becoming to New York from Ireland where she was born. Widely published, her awards include the BBC Wildlife Magazine  Poet of the Year Award, Visions  Israel's Ruben Rose Award, and the Machlchan Award from the Walt Whitman Poetry Society of Long Island, New  York.


Pastoral

Snow and grass welcomes
us  into the world.
We live for a while

in the house of the mother's
breath moving over us.
Couchant on green hills

we watch the sky
flutter its white pinafore
until spring brings

the separation of the lambs
from the mothers.
So  long, we won't be back

except in memory's
tweed jacket.
Even then, we won't be back.

Keep the stub of our horn
as a memento of spring.
Not one of us is safe

from the butcher hurrying
over the fields
in his long apron.








This is a poem from my first book, Seven Beats a Second, published in 2005.


star bright

imagine the stars
on cold desert nights,
spread  across the wide black sky,
beyond the desert and high mesas,
past prairies where trickster Coyote calls,
past the land of mortal men
to the place where no man goes,
the place where spirits hung
ghosts of buffalo

imagine sleeping
with this blaze of night around you,
black stars bright
with cold unchallenged light

imagine
how you must fear the starless night,
when clouds close the sky around you
and bind you prisoner to the dark










Next, I have three  poems by my poet friend, David Gwilym Anthony, form his new book, Passing Through the Woods, just published by Troubadour Publishing.

David was born in Festiniog, North Wales and currently lives with his wife in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, a stone's throw from the churchyard where Thomas Gray is buried.


Bird's Eye View


As if I work for him - how could he know
the weight of  all my cares? - a robin hops
towards me from the border; then he stops
to  watch me push my mower to and fro.
He looks for worms  along the fresh-cut line,
while I seek inspiration for a gem
to  stun my critics - how I"ll dazzle them!
The bird has his agenda; I have mine.

My chore complete, I  settle  down to wring
some essence from our interaction. Now
a sharp  deflating insight has unfurled
its wings. (I had been contemplating how
absurd it was for such a little thing
to think himself the centre of the world.)


Crossing the Border

Fences are never  needed:  Herdwich sheep,
waking the Lakeland hills with wistful bleating,
have learned the boundaries they are to keep.
Fierce Viking settlers recognized the greeting
of each flock heafted to its native fell,
and cared for them through hardship, knowing well
how troubles pass and all revives with spring.
Now come the slaughter men, their guns depleting
ancient herds, and old ways are retreating:
can thought deny the soul's remembering?
May we return some part of all we take,
and so reclaim the wisdom, lost to man,
to know our bounds; then nature shall remake
the truer borderline  than fences can.

The poet explains: Herdwichs: specific to the hills of Cumbria, near the England/Scotland border, with a homing instinct, knows as "heafting" in Cumbrian dialect, which was  nearly destroyed by mass slaughter during the foot and mouth epidemic.


To My Muse

Unpin your long tresses and let them unfurl;
unfasten your brassiere too.
Then put on these tassels and give them a twirl:
I'm planning to...contemplate you.

I see your attention is drawn to my jeans:
my pocket conceals a big pen.
I'll whip it our gladly. You know what that means:
I'm happy to see you again.

I tend to forget what goes where, when and how:
it's been a long time, you can tell.
But it's all flooding back in a torrent right now,
so take off your knickers as well.











This is a poem from two weeks ago.


let us all praise Saturday
Saturday
is the day for the setting aside
of any delusion we have
of someday, some-
how
amounting to something

and
I’m okay with that -

pleased that Saturday
is a recurring
event
since by Wednesday
the insidious illusion has usually
reinserted itself back into my psyche
and another dose of Saturday is required
to bring me back to the reality
of myself
and my accoutrements,
primarily
a limited attention span
and a general disposition toward
investigating the shelf-life
of cheese and potato salad in a 1936
General Defective
ice box

(it’s a long running study, you
understand, a project I check on,
religiously,
at least once a month,
the completion of which
I will leave to my son so that
he may someday amount to something)

---

it’s a delicate equilibrium
to be maintained, retaining
some balance in life regarding
the probability of amounting to something
in the larger, long-term
scope of things
when the larger, long-term
scope of things never
heard of you
and surely
never
will…

and that’s why Saturdays
are so crucial to
the prospect
of our ever amounting
to a happy
well-balanced human being,
safe from the daily
urge to butt
our bloody heads
against the rough rocky ledge
of something
to be amounted to…

let us all praise
Saturday,
dawn’s light to night’s
first dark









Two more poets from Hotel Amerika


The first is Angie Hogan.

Originally from Tennessee, Hogan earned her BA from Vanderbilt University and her MFA from the University of Virginia. She works in the acquisitions department at the University of Virginia Press and serves on the Poetry Board for The Virginia Quarterly Review. She is widely published.


Self-Portrait with Geese

I  light the candles and ask
we sit,  sip  and grade caught fish
according to preparation.

Do  you know what I see
over the mountain without trying?
Clouds, clouds
and now (with effort)
the wine-filled pedestal,
patio sprinkled liberally with minnow
and seeds.

Let's just whisper, but
imagine a whole flock stopping.

They may not care, you say,
for fancy baths, prix fixe.

Come  closer, though,
beneath my boa. See
the miles I have flown.


The second poet is Michael Gushue, poetry editor for the Washington  Spark and coordinator of the Brookland Poetry Series. His day job is in international development and  his home is in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington  D.C.


Norman and Mrs. Bates Speak of America

It's all highways and automobiles
these days, each car like an iron lung
of speed, each driver floating inside with
no thought but go, unaware that the roads
are like flames: they hold you in. You're not
getting away. On either side you move
where the road wants. You can't turn off,
not really. If you try, you'll disappear.

Nobody understands taxidermy,
how sawdust  becomes pure substance
and fills the body cavity like light,
how a glass eye looks into your soul.
It's all about  arrangement,  order,
the truth of skin, gestures of fight or flight
that turn into your whole life. since nothing's
deeper than surface, you are what  you look like.

What's freedom? Being yourself or
becoming who you are? We metamorphose
from one to the other, start out as a Clemens,
end up as Twain. Changing your name is no
better than running away or being rich.
Money answers a question you ask when
you've forgotten how to be free. Your name
slows how much thread to use, where to suture.

Television is  like a road, a friend,
you gulp it down like milk before bed.
Let it lull you to sleep, that jellied gray
eye, then click yourself off until morning.
When you check in I see your  deprivation.
I can smell it on you like musty clothes:
I'm nervous, you're nervous. Everybody's
nervous. But nobody is nervous enough.








This is another poem from my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.


Life Origins Get Murkier & Messier

(headline: New York Times, 6/13/00)

Things keep getting
    so damned complicated,
    a frayed string of knots and tangles,
at a time when, in my heart and mind
    I begin each morning
    with a cry for simplicity
    clarity, surety,
    simple lucidity.

I don't need any more intricate
    swirls of color and abstract design
    in my life right now,
I want some plain old
    black and white,
    straight lines,
    clean choices,
    clear horizons.

I keep trying to simplify life
and life keeps fighting back.









My next poet is Joanna Klink. I have two poems from her book, Raptus, published in 2010 by Penguin Press.

Klink teaches at Harvard University. She is author of two previous books of poetry, They Are Sleeping  and Circadian.


Paraphrase of Several Guesses

Were there tares in the field?
                 There were tares.

Were you wide-awake in the nicknames?
                  In the nicknames, the walks, the curve of the moon.

So you were blind?
                   Neither blind nor skilled.

Had you turned -
                    With no one else would I have been willing to turn.

And you condemned him?
                      He was my ice-light slow star weaving toward me -
                       a breeze a relief a hush-carried home

But you keep your own counsel.
                       He keeps his own counsel.
                       Insouciant,  he'd say, unaware of my own comportment.

And you let him be.
                        I did not let him be. Had I turned -

Had you turned -
                        Earlier - and known -

What  was gathering in the drawers
                         And papers -

Vagaries -
                         In the cupboards and nooks -

And he said the words?
                          Parts of my self sealed away -

Neither sweet nor brutal.
                          Neither steadfast nor free.

And the day-sleep?
                           And the night-sleep.

And the deep  content, the centering of help?
                           Not doomed,  not  grievous.
                           And ardor maddened and greened and full of form's light.

And the spites and faults?
                           Called so in haste.

Called so  in confusion?
                           Having slept -

Having woken
                           Called so in carelessness -

Devastation -
                           Called so  in haste -

Like a children's  game,  where  what hurts -
                            Is destroyed -

What leaves you to be -
                            Blessed -

So the matchsticks flared then went dead -
                             They did not go dead -


The Graves

WHAT HAPPENED TO US
happened because we could not

stop.  Needing belief in un-
inhabited wilderness,

in the twelve hours of
thunder over the hills.

Hope is a place
held for the unknown,

where your are beyond
anything I can say. Like animals

who for a quiet lake in the grass
long before scattering.













Hotdamn,  summer in the city.


chance of rain
a chance of rain
today
they say
which means,
when they say that here,
a tiny chance, a chance like finding
a particular grain of sand
on a sandy, seaside beach, a chance
like winning the lottery, like you know
someone’s gonna win someday, like someone’s
going get rained on someday, but don’t go buying
that new Mercedes until the check comes
in the mail, like you might as well leave that umbrella
in the closet when it’s been, lo these many
months, because it’s like almost a 100 per cent
probability you’re not going to win nothing
and you’re not going to get rained on either, that’s
what they mean in these parts
when they say there’s
a chance of rain…

but
we take what we can get…

my grass,
turned to flaky dust
by last year’s drought, was on the rebound
after rain early in the year, green patches
among the brown, like putting salt
in an empty pepper shaker
by accident, and, no matter how empty
the pepper shaker looked, your salt for at least
three shaker fillings is going to have little black pepper
dots in it, nothing you can do, nature abhors
a vacuum and puts pepper in it
so that pepper dots persist and prevail
like the green spots growing in the cracks of my sidewalk,
generating false hopes of ground-grown grass
where the brown spots persist and prevail,
false hopes from
momentary spats of rain, crushed, as the dry returns,
and the dots of green shrivel again
and turn yellow again,
except for the grass in the cracks in sidewalk,
put there by God to remind us
that He’s in charge of grass and rain
in this world and if we don’t like it we can leave it,
move to a rain forest where He puts
all the rain to bedevil all those who don’t like rain
and fungi and mildew, a real joker, this God guy,
difficult and contrary, just for the hell of it,
like in the military when they asked me where
I wanted to go and I said Vietnam because I knew
God was in charge of military assignments
and never gave people what they wanted, because
that’s just the way He is, and, sure enough, the possibility
that I might go to Vietnam disappeared immediately
and He sent me to Pakistan instead, a place
much like the place where I am today that doesn’t hardly
ever rain except all at once and camels float
away and mud house disappear in the deluge,
all of this after He tells everyone there’s no chance
of rain, because He’s like that, you know,
wouldn’t have made us in the first place if He hadn’t
been looking forward to an eternity
of fucking with us…

but that’s another story for another poem,
this poem is about the chances
for rain
today
which, despite what you hear,
is non-existent

cause, that’s the way He is,
you know,
tossing around chances of rain
just for the hell of it









This is a poem by Roy Seeger from Hotel  Amerika.

The poet recently received his MFA at Western Michigan University where he was poetry co-editor for Third Coast.


Dedication to the Art of Pain

On taking it, on accepting
the twisted
hopeful pleasure of it -
I am not better
than you. I wake
up with no real pain
to  speak of, I struggle
with the most rudimentary
of gods: the god
of parallel
parking: the god
of shuffle, step, shuffle;
I struggle with
the god of exact
change. Then I am
done. And so are you.
Done in the same way we
imagine mites
on our skin done in - we
scratch our arm
and civilizations end;
there is pleasure
in that, in the raised
skin that is someone
else's landscape.
And with these nails
I make you sacred,
with this pain
an accomplice. I
place you in the context
of gladiolas
and chrysanthemums,
the context of funerals
and gardens - some-
thing is buried
and then we wait
for next season's
rebirth, how
it might manifest.
But always the sharp edge
peeling the dull
skin from the finger;
always the moment
before blood wells
to the surface and
we must acknowledge
the pain we hoped
was imagination. Only
after we resign
ourselves to the pain
do we run
our good finger
along the parted skin
to test its day by
day ability to hurt.
And what becomes
clear by daylight - it is
what we fear of ourselves
that gives us hope,
the terrible kind,
the kind that reminds us
we don't have to  be as we are.










I am a science fiction and space exploration fan; have been since I could see the night sky. The success of our Mars Rovers inspired the next poem, another one from Seven Beats a Second.



red planet rebirth

oxidized remains of cathedrals and commerce
brought to dust by the savage rug of time

red dust so fine it spreads like a cloud
across the plains and hills all around

virgin bride again

ready for life again after millennia
alone in the cold, black crypt of space








Next, I have three poems by Vandana Khanna, from  her  book Train to Agra, published in 2001 by the Crab Orchard Review and Southern Illinois University Press.

Khanna, a fiction writer and poet, was born in New Delhi and has lived most  of her life in the United States. She attended the University of Virginia and received her MFA from Indiana University where she was recipient of the Yellen Fellowship in poetry. This book, her first, won the Crab Orchard Review First Book Prize. Khanna's work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Crazyhorse, Callaloo, The Indiana Review, and The Atlanta Review, among others.

She lives in Los Angeles and is  an instructor  in  the UCLA Extension Writer's Program.


Against Vallejo

I will die  in Ireland on a cold day on the coast
when the sea burns against darkening rock
and the mist hangs low over the hills. It will be
a Sunday because Sundays are the day of rest
and worship and because I have worked
a lifetime only to have my spine ready to snap.

I have never  seen Ireland, and my family
will not understand my longing for swift wind
smarting my skin, my fingernails turning
the blue of cornflowers. I will want to be burned
like a true Hindu, my soul set free of this jaded
body, this broken vase - so my skin can  mist
and my bones  crack, a splinter like burning wood.

Vandana Khanna is dead. They will not understand
me far away from the heat and dust of Delhi, cloistered
in a damp room, my fingers stiff from writing.
This after years of thirst, years shivering under woolen
shawls brought back from Kashmir. They will not
understand you, feverish, whispering Spanish words
into my mouth because I love the way
vowels sound against your lips.

Or rather, I will die in Spain on a Sunday afternoon
when the stores have  closed for the sun, men sitting
in the shade of a magnolia outside my window,
sipping from cold oranges, cut and soaked in sugar
water. I have never been to Spain but will want
that heat, reminding me of my home. I will die
from the inside out, a fever turning my veins gray,
thighs bruising easily like fruit.

And you will  spread my body out like a cool sheet,
cover my hands with henna, thread my body with beads,
and no one will understand but you, because I
have worked a lifetime, and today I am tired of metaphors,
of empty leaves that rain like ash.


Two Women

We squat in the cool grass gnawing
sugar cane. Brackish water brushes

the soles of our feet - your hair smells
of cloves - skin the color of sandalwood.

We talk of our men lost
in wars, lost in other women,

and of the children we gained:
sons, grandsons, daughters.

The sahib's wife calls, the green shutters
are open, and Verdi drifts

in the air around us.
It is time to shake out

the dust-clogged rug,
clean the brandy glasses,

and feed the remains
to the waiting dogs.



Twentieth Century Sita


1.

I never learned about sex from my mother,
a woman who didn't know what the word
whore meant in english, or from Hindi movies
with all their thrust and grind but no kisses,
no nudity - the camera hovering over parted
lips that never seemed to touch. I never learned
the first time with Charles in the back room
of my house. We were just tongue-heavy mouths
and that was it. No fevered breath in my ear,
no one breaking into song.


2.

The second time was after midnight
under an apple tree. He said, the first time
I saw you, I thought you were white, and leaned
in. He was the last Indian I ever kissed,
but once, another read me from the Kuma Sutra
by lamplight, pointed out the diagrams.

3.

My mother speaks of broken teacups, half moons
of regret, and I am never sure if she means sex
or spilling tea. She spends Saturdays fingering
classifieds in the back of India Today for a suitable
suitor. The stats say it all in fifteen words or less
(read as Indian, Hindu, Punjabi).

Now, I've thrown off the purdah for good,
and it's nothing but banishment for me. She hopes
some Ram will ask me to walk through the wedding fire
like a modern day Sita in blue jeans to prove my purity,
too  prove I didn't want anything but a monkey god to save me.














Ah, memories, the sweet birds of youth.


what happens when you’re sixteen years old and your car catches fire in whoretown
this is what happens
when you’re sixteen years old
and your car catches on fire in whoretown

and the fire department comes
in a tiny little fire truck
and all the whores hang out the windows
to laugh at you
and you are embarrassed, hoping
nobody notices you’re sixteen years old,
even though it makes no difference
to the whores or to the fireman
in his little fire truck that you’re sixteen
years old and the fire department leaves and
you’re left all alone on the dusty street
with the whores hanging out the window
and you’re saying oh, my, oh, my
how am I doing to explain to my parents
why their new ’56 Chevy Bel Aire
is parked on a street in whoretown
with all the whores hanging out the windows
until, profane prayers are answered,
and all the whores under 50 come out
their window and help push your car down the street
to a mechanic who agrees to fix your car
for all the money you have, and all your clothes
but for you shirts and pants and shoes, and the new
wristwatch your grandma gave you for Christmas, and he does
and gets your car running again and being a charitable
fellow leaves you with thirty-five cents to pay
the fare for getting you back across
the bridge
which you do and since the cost at the bridge is only twelve cents,
you’re left with twenty three cents,
enough to buy a Coca Cola to share, declaring
with each sip what an interesting Sunday afternoon
this has turned out to be, except the one fella curled
in the corner in the back seat who keeps whispering
“thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus” which he has
been whispering since the mechanic
said he could fix the car

this is how it is when you’re sixteen years old
and your car catches fire
in whoretown
on a Sunday afternoon









Another poet from Hotel Amerika is Susanna Mishler from Anchorage, Alaska. She has published her work in a number of journals.


Ghosts

It comes to me at home while I'm scrubbing
the bathtub, for instance, and pull up
a fingerfull of wet hair. Or  when
I'm thumbing through a book and the page pales,
becomes a crease of skin under my fingers.

Or sometimes gazing out my window at
the dirt lot and thinking nothing, I'll see
purple lips, his cut knee, the half-lidded
eye. Each time they come resurfacing
as if to breathe, a pod of whales in calm.

How disappointed you must feel to come
around to this - so aloof once life
discarded you - to come around to strangers
who only know you for your last mistake,
who brated in your anonymous, dumb mouth,

and thrust our hands on your shallow chest.
It's easy being a stranger: sometimes
I see you elbow angled on sand,
but never knew the grace of how it moved.
Strangers, though, must think of how to watch

your covered body recede from us again,
bumping in a pickup bed down the one-lane
dirt road;  we must stand and wonder what
we are supposed to say to each other,
and think of what to do now with our hands.








More from the science fiction geek that I am. This story I picked up from the New York Times Thursday Science Section. The story about the cataclysm in progress far above our head. Great for the scientist to study; hard on anyone who happens to live in the neighborhood.

The poem also from Seven Beats a Second.



meanwhile, in the Hydra Constellation

a storm of stars
passes through the void,
crossing unimaginable distances
to meet, to crash in a flash
of exploding suns and primordial fire
stretching across a billion years,
a furnace unlike any
since the first great eruption
that came from less than nothing
to  blast a cosmos into being

and around these speeding suns,
orbiters like our own earth home,
and on some of them, creatures
like ourselves, products of an evolutionary
trail from muck to self-discovered glory,
inventions of their own histories, periods dark
and light, times of cruelty, death and genius flowering,
people like we are people, struggling through life,
seeking grace, forgiveness, the salvation of love,
seeking honorable  life and an honorable end 

the end comes for them now, across the void
in a gale of stars colliding, an end ablaze
with the light of creation deconstructing








Next, I have several poems by Osip Mandelstam, from his book Stone, a collection of 81 numbered  poems written from 1909 to 1915. The book, a Russian/English bilingual book, was published in the United States in 1981 by The Harvill Press of London.

Mandelstam was born in and died in 1938. He was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union.  He was arrested by Joseph Stalin's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voronezh in southwestern Russia. In 1938, Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to a camp in Siberia. He died at a transit camp.

The poems were translated from Russian by Robert Tracy.


5.

More delicate than delicacy
Your face,
Whiter than purity
Your hand,
Living as distantly
from the world as you can
And everything about you
As it must be.

It must be like this:
Your sorrow
And your touch
Never cooling,
And the quiet catch
Of not complaining
In the things you say,
And your eyes
Looking far away.

1909


16.

Like the shadow sudden clouds cast,
A guest  drifted in,  the sea
And glided mumurously
Along the uneasy coast.

A huge sail rigidly soars;
A wave breaks deadly white and then
Rears backwards and rears again
Not daring to touch shore;

In the breakers a boat is rustling
Like foliage...

1910


27.

Oh sky,sky,I'm going  to dream about you!
It can't be that  you''ve gone completely blind,
That the day, like a sheet of blank paper, has burnt through
Leaving only a little smoke and ash behind!

1911


40.

We cannot stand the strain of awkward silence -
After all, it annoys us when a soul is not right.
And in the general confusion, a man stepped out to recite;
They welcomed him with joyful cries: "Commence!"

An invisible man was standing there - I knew  him:
A nightmare man was reading "Ulalume."
Meaning is vanity and words mere sound
When phonetics are handmaid to the seraphim.

Edgar sang of the House of Usher on his harp,
The madman drank water, came to himself, stood dumb.
I was out on the street. The silken whistle of autumn -
And warm round my throat, a tickle of  silken scarf...

1912


49.

A gang of thieves in a tavern
Played dominoes until dawn.
The hostess brought an omelet in,
Monks were  drinking wine.

Gargoyles argued up on the tower -
Which was most frightful of all?
In the morning a stupid preacher
Summoned the folk to his stall.

On the square the dogs are playful,
The click of the coin-changer's key;
Eternity is plundered by all
But eternity is like sand from the sea,

Trickling down at  a wagon's tail -
Too few mats to wrap the bags right;
A monk tells a slanderous tale
Oh how  poorly he lodged last night.

1913


52. An American Girl

An American girl, aged twenty,
She has to go to Egypt,
Ignoring he Titanic's warning
Asleep on the  bottom, darker than a crypt.

In America, factory whistles hoot
And red skyscraper stacks
Offer cold clouds a salute
With lips that are smoked black.

And in the Louvre Ocean's daughter
Is standing, fair as a poplar;
She runs a squirrel-like Acropolis to  loiter
Over  marble that looks like  sugar.

Understanding nothing at all
She reads  Faust on the train
And it  saddens her to recall
That King Louis no longer reigns.

1913


59. [Akhmatova]

Oh sorrow - she half turned around
And eyed the indifferent throng.
Her shawl, almost classical, hung
From her shoulders and turned to stone.

Drunk with pain - voice foreboding to say
Things that burst from her deepest soul:
Acting angry Phedre's role
Rachel used to stand that way.

1914


80.

Grazing horse herds joyfully neigh,
The valley has gone red with Roman rust;
Time's  clear  torrents  are bearing away

Treading down oak leaves  in fall
Thick  on pathways whee nobody goes
I will remember Caesar's perfect features -
Effeminate profile, crafty curving nose.

Here, amid the quiet fading of nature
Far from the Forum and the Capitol
I hear  Augustus, and on the earth's rim I hear
The years rolling, like the sovereign apple.

When I am old, then let my sorrows shine:
I was born in Rome and Rome has come back to me;
The autumn was my she-wolf and was kind
And August - the month of Caesar - smiled on me.










Yep, it's true, another rain poem. This one from a couple of weeks ago.


true to our tree
enough rain
early
to leave a mirror sheen
on the pavement
while the asphalt under
parked cars
stays as dry as that longhorn skull
you bought with the black Lash La Rue
bullwhip
at the tourist market
in Cuidad Acuna…

rain,
and bad on
me,
slept though this month’s rain
again…

this is a problem
and, as luck would have it,
I’m a problem-solver,
that being the way I made my living
back in the day, and I think, out of practice
as I am, I can fix this problem as well…

like this -

we had a system for hurricanes
years ago when I lived were
hurricanes came and
went,
set up to insure
that everyone had a chance
to run for higher
ground,
night clothes aflutter
(or, in you were one of those
no-clothes sleepers, bare butt
a shining under the pre-storm
moon)
and I think this system would work for rain
sightings as well -

a telephone
notification tree
is the answer -
whoever sees the rain first
calls the person he’s supposed
to call who calls the person
he’s supposed to call
and so on until
everyone on the call-tree
is notified and everyone
is awake and aware
and all can stand
outside
and dance naked in the rain
(if that’s their thing,
you know, some might prefer
a cup of hot chocolate by the window
or a shot of tequila with a lemon
squeeze
and finger of salt - we rain
spotters
are a diverse group
with a wide variety of our own
rain rituals
which we honour through
our tolerance
because, hell, it’s raining,
after all) and if we are true to our
tree, we may all get to see
rain
someday…









The next poet from Hotel America is Cynthia Struloeff, who lives in California. At the time of this publication, she was working on, among other projects, a collection of poems set in southeastern Idaho near the Teton mountains where she lived for twenty years.


Black Bear

The black body slumped across the back seat
as if asleep, smelling of sagebrush and blood.
enough meat to last all year, my father boasted,
lifting me high to see the bear's paw,
the curved claws against the window.
I didn't know he meant to roll the bear in flour,
fried like cube steak and eaten with ketchup.
My proud father, unscathed by his first kill,
opened the door and, shouldering the beast
like a drunken comrade, escorted it into the garage.

The body hung upside-down from the rafters.
I crouched to look at its face, the eyes moist
and clouded, tongue lolling out as if thirsty.
Its ears were big as fists, the round edges soft,
bristly, damp with blood, but like my stuffed toys.
I cried out, because I hadn't known death
until it hung slowly spinning in my garage.

After that my father never let me see his kills.
In bed I would hear hims whistling as he scraped
his knife against a whetstone at the kitchen table,
the air thick with the aroma of spiced jerky and oil.
He made that bear into a rug with white felt backing
and mounted it with gold tacks on his den wall.
The eyes were plucked, replaced with wide marbles,
ears stiff as wire, coat brushed soft as rabbit fur.
the tongue stretched in plastic pink behind a snarl,
brows surprised as if the bear  doubted it had died.








More scifi geek; another from Seven Beats a Second.

I  don't  hardly ever write poems like these before. I should go back to that.



brotherhood of the forever spreading stars

a million billion
you's  and me's
in never ending
varieties of
size and shape
and unimagined
chemistrys
scattered in places
we may never be,
places so far,
so strange,
so contrary
to all we know
that only minds
vanity free
and  welcoming
impenetrable mysteries
can ever chance
to see the possibilities
of all our fellow
you's and me's








My next poet is Susan Griffin, with a poem from her book, Like the Iris  of an Eye. The book was published in 1976 by Harper and Row.

Griffin, born in 1943, defines herself as an eco-feminist author. She was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1943 and has lived in California since then. She received her B.A. and M.A. at the  University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco  State University. She teaches Women's Studies and Literature at both universities.  She has received a MacArthur grant for Peace
and International Cooperation, an NEA Fellowship, and an Emmy Award for the play Voices.


Chance Meeting

This is how it happens.
I am walking away
from the bookstore,
my head reeling with
images of bear cubs their
fur glistening
with dew (disappearing
from the poet's glance
into forests) and my mouth full
of the poet's words against the
rich who
DO NOT  HEAR WEEPING
I wonder at the strangers
walking the pavement and
want to go deep
into a foreign country
where poverty is visible
and no bones are made
about pain,
when I see
(in the window of a shop)
a sign reading "closed" and
know I am late
move swiftly thinking of
dinner and zucchini plants
and a dog that
needs to run free and you
I want to be with, the
suddenly
there is a mistake
                                my car
appears
in the middle of the block,
it carries my daughter
with her father
and his new woman
they are going
to a restaurant.

I slip quickly
dow
the street
so she won't  see
me, my daughter, there should be
no tears, a
pleasant dinner.

My daughter, my heart cleaves
at this, when I see
you, I want to
touch your face, window, glass,
SIDEWALK, STRANGERS,
CARS, DO YOU KNOW,
I fed this child
through the night
whom now
I run from.












This could turn out to be my geek issue of record.

Here's another nerd-poem from Seven Beats a Second. This one on the far edge of geekdom, for all those who don't think they have enough to worry about.


the magnetosphere is running down

magma flow
curling, coiling
through red hot embers
thrashing, flashing
sparks of elemental essence
dancing to the tune
of gravity's  fandango,
turning within turning,
the one driving the other
driving the other,
influence on influence
until the machinery of dependence
become worn from the friction
of turning on turning
and the clockwork stops
and stasis slowly settle,
then quickly collapses
upon itself, becoming
something else,
another kind of turning,
new imperatives,
new tunes,
new dance starting








This is my last poem this week from Hotel America. It is by Brian Swann.

Swann was educated at Queen's College , Cambridge and Princeton. He has  taught at Princeton and Rutgers, and, at the time of this publication, was Professor of English at the Cooper Union.


Pity Me

That's me eating a fifty-year-old
egg sandwich in the crowded compartment
as  Consett's steel mills flash by
and then pointing, mouth full, at
PITY ME. Really, that's the town's name.
And that's still me, today,listening to her
ninety-year-old voice whining from the long faces
of day lilies and tiny heads of lilies of the valley,
her favorites: You tore me up inside. Down there.
My mary hurts. I feel a terror I do not understand.
I want to chew her musquash coat to shreds,
her camiknickers and camisole, nylons -
not nylons but postwar painted seams
(are they straight?) and dance down
to the devil in the Scottish dancing pumps
she would not let me have and which
I stole and hid with all the rest,
her Pond's cold cream, pink powderpuffs
and pink powder, silver-backed mirrors on silver trays, a lather
nail polisher and tortoise-shell knickknacks,
and where  I hid myself and which,
for all I know, are still there.








I am an ignorant man in the realms of both science and Buddhism, knowing barely enough to suspect they might be saying many of the same things, only in different languages.

Another poem from Seven Beats a Second.


before you were flesh

before you were flesh
you were a spring blossom,
and amalgam of sun
and nurturing rain come softly
in the grace of night

before you were a blossom,
you were a fascination,
a free-floating design
in the all-reaching universe
of a god's creative passion

before you were real
you were eternal

before you were one
you were all








There are many Native American poets I like. One of the ones I like best is Simon J. Ortiz, poet, short fiction writer, essayist, and documentary and feature film writer. Born 1941 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ortiz is a native of the Acoma Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the second wave of what has been called the Native American Renaissance. He is one of the most respected and widely read Native American poets. He is a masterful storyteller, as well as a master of the difficult art of simplicity.

I've  taken the poems from his book, Woven Stone, published by The University of Arizona Press in 1992. The are from the section of the book titled A Long Journey. It's a long book, nearly 400 pages the poet's stories.


Cherry Pie

We had barbecue beef on buns,
cole slaw with crushed pineapple,
coffee, and cherry pie.
Here in the VAH, at least,
America feeds well the men
it has driven mad.

"My favorite used to be cherry pie."

"Lemon is good too."

"When I was a kid at Indian School,
I worked cleaning  yards on weekends.
Walking back to campus at evening,
I'd stop at the cafe on Fourth
and order banana cream pie.
Two slices of pie, boy, that was good."

Deanda hasn't been yelling lately.
They've been feeding him more
and better mind  silencers  lately.

Kelly offers his cole  slaw.
Nobody wants it, shake their heads.
"He's a dedicated nut," another nut says.

"The only pie I don't like
is mince meat, too rich."

"I wish I was rich."

"I  always married a rich girl  once.
She was from Alabama."

There's always something that you almost
did that you should have done.

A cherry pie slips to the floor
off a man's saucer.
He stands there and everything is gone
from his face except sorrow and loss
and it's hard to lose those.


Teeth

After supper, Fuentes tells stories
about his teeth in front of Building 5.
With his gravelly voice, he says,
"Let me tell you guys.

"I used to have two partials. Two teeth
and then four teeth. One night I was
with this girl. I  put my four teeth
upon the dresser. Early next morning,
still dark, I was looking around
for the bottle, you know, feeling around
on the dresser, and all of a sudden,
I heard this crunch under my shoe,
you know. It was my teeth, sonofagun.
I said, O what the hell, just teeth.

"Later on, I had another partial.
This time with six teeth. Me and some
other guys were drinking way back
in the hills above El Paso. We were
getting real  low and one guy volunteered
to make a run. Fine. He said,
Let me borrow your coat, it's cold.
Sure I said and gave him my coat.
I had put my teeth in that coat pocket,
sonofagun, and that guy is still on the run."


Superchief

Superchief left on Friday.
I didn't get a chance to see him
before he left but hope he's okay
and stays away from those morning bars
on Central Avenue and Fourth Street.

I saw him one time
up by the Nob Hill Shopping Center.
He had a small paper sack
of oranges and he was sitting
on the curb eating them.
His head was wobbling
from side to side.
He was trying to focus
on the asphalt in front of him.

A white woman watched him
a moment, standing behind him.
She moved on and then halfway
down the block, turned and looked
at him again, shook her head
not in sympathy or pity
but in contempt and disgust.

I tried to remember
his Acoma name as I walked away.
I walked down silver and my feeling
of being useless was enormous.
I  think I even wished my feelings
were as convenient as that woman's.

Even now I can feel
Superchief's withered gray eye
staring at the cement beneath his shoes.


Along the Arkansas River

I walk down to the river.
See four ducks,
two males and two females.
They swim away from me.
I stand very still watching them.

Two fly away then.
I decide to follow downstream.
the water eddies behind
the other two.

I don't follow too close
to the river's edge.
Instead I choose a path
through dry winter willow.

My god, I am lonely.
The sand is soft.
I wear tenny shoes.

Around a bend in the river
and upon a stretch of sand bar,
there are many ducks.
They don't seem to see me.
they are not alarmed.
I carry nothing in my hands,
They probably know.

I stand still
and then I slip away
into the winter willow.

Wonder where Coyote is?
Probably in Tulsa by the bridge,
sitting on the grassy bank
near the University, hoping
she's gonna come along
after her three o'clock class
like she said she would..
A freight train was heading south.
Standing in a break of salt cedar
and willow, I got lonesome again.

That's probably where Coyote is.








I wrote this last  week, a rain poem  about actual rain, and one of the consequences there of.


bullfrog morning
bullfrogs bellow
in the fresh-running creek,
take over the morning,
putting their deep voices
to a desperate call for mates...

too soon, they call,
the mud will dry
and the earth will crack
and we will be called to sleep
again

so come, they beg
their green and warty cuties,
come to me,
take this morning’s wet respite
for a moment for pleasure and procreation,
come awake with me for
a chance to
dance in the mud,
for a chance to whoop
and holler
in this moment
between the
long summer’s insistent
dry…

sleeping in the cracked earth
the wet calls wake them
and they come,
responding…

and the birds are quiet,
stunned by the cacophony
down below; their sweet
morning calls of love
no match
for the rampant lust
that roils
in sonic waves
down the fresh-flowing creek...








Here are three poems by Wendell Berry. The poems are from his book, Entries, published in 1997 by Counterpoint.

Born in Kentucky in 1934, Berry is a prolific author of novels, short stories, poetry and essays. A farmer he is also and academic, cultural and economic critic. He is also an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012.

Having earned a B.A. and an M.A. in English at the University of Kentucky, Berry taught English at New York University's University College in the Bronx from 1962 to 964. In 1964, he began teaching creative writing at the University of Kentucky, from which he resigned in 1977 and turned to full-time farming on land near Port Royal, Kentucky that he bought in 1965.

I am writing this on July 4th, a fit day for these three poems. My second poem in this post I also wrote on this day, so it seems Berry and I have written similar poems fifteen years apart.


Let Us Pledge

Let us pledge allegiance to the flag
and to the national sacrifice areas
for which it stands, garbage dumps
and empty holes, sold out for a higher
spire on the rich church, the safety
of voyagers in golf carts, the better mood
of the stock market. Let us feast
today, through tomorrow we starve. Let us
gorge upon the body of the Lord, consuming
the earth for our greater joy in Heaven,
that fair Vacationland. Let us wander forever
in the labyrinths of our self-esteem.
Let us evolve forever toward the higher
consciousness of the machine.
The spool of our engine-driven fate
unwinds, our history now outspeeding
thought, and the heart is a beatable tool.


The Reassurer

A people in the hoses of national prosperity, who
     breathe poisoned air, drink poisoned water, eat
     poisoned food,
who take poisoned medicines to heal them from the poisons
     that they breathe, drink, and eat,
such a people crave the further poison of official
     reassurance. It is not logical,
but it is understandable, perhaps, that they adore
     their President who tells them all is well,
     all is better than ever.
The President reassures the farmer and his wife who
     have exhausted  their farm  to pay for it,
and have not paid for it, and have gone bankrupt for
     the sake of the free market, foreign trade, and the
     prosperity of corporations;
he consoles the Navajos, who have been exiled form their
     place of exile, because the poor land contained
     something required for the national prosperity,
     after all;
he consoles the young woman drying of cancer caused by a
     substance used in the normal course of national
     prosperity to make red apples redder;
he consoles the couple in the Kentucky coalfields, who
     are watching TV in their mobile home on the mud of
     the floor of a mined-out strip mine;
from his smile they understand that the fortunate have
     a right to their fortunes, that the unfortunate have
     a right to their misfortunes, and that these are
     equal rights.
The President smiles with the disarming smile of a man
     who has seen God, and found him a true American,
     not overbearingly smart.
The President reassures the Chairman of the Board of the
     Humane Health for Profit Corporation of America,
     who knows in his replaceable heart that health, if
     it came, would bring financial ruin;
he reassures the Chairman of the Board of the Victory
     and Honor for Profit Corporation of America, who
     has been awakened in the night by a dream of the
     calamity if peace.


Anglo-Saxon Protestant Hetrosexual Men

Come, dear brothers,
let  us cheerfully acknowledge
that we are the last hope of the world,
for we have no excuses,
nobody to blame but ourselves.
Who is going to sit at our feet
and listen while we bewail
our historical sufferings? Who
will ever believe that we also
have wept in the night
with repressed longing to become
our real selves? Who will
stand forth and proclaim
that we have virtues and talents
peculiar to our category? Nobody,
and that is good. For here we are
at last with our real selves
in the real world. Therefore,
let us quiet our hearts, my brothers,
and settle down for a change
to picking up after ourselves
and a few centuries of honest work.











Another geek piece from Seven Beats a Second.


our place in the story of space and time

we are of the same stuff of stars,
made in the spasm of creation
that began all space and time,
electrical impulses,
static of the expanding universe,
positive and negative influences
that form a thing that we call matter
arranged in a manner we call me

our birthing
not the arrival of something new,
but reincarnation,
rearrangement of the elements present
since the first day, sparks
thrown off by that day's conception

our death not the end,
but another reformation,
a recycling of the stuff that made us
so that we might become again
a star or a tree or another babe  in arms
or just a speck of universal element
drifting for as long as there is time

until it will finally come
that all the pieces come to rest
and slowly fade away in the darkness
of never-light, never-time, never-space
never-was and never will be again

from nothing came all
and to nothing it will all return








My next poems are by Bruce Weigl. They are from his book, What Saves Us, published in 1992 by the Triquarterly Books of the Northwestern University Press.

Weigl was born in Ohio in  1949. He  enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his 18th birthday and spent three years in the service, including a year in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, receiving a Bronze Star for his service. After his service, he obtained a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and a Master of Arts Degree in Writing/American and British Literature from the University of New Hampshire. From 1975-76, Weigl was an instructor at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. After he receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1979, he was an assistant professor of English at the University of Arkansas and later held the same position at Old Dominion University. Weigl additionally served as the president of the Associated Writing Programs.

 1986, Weigl became an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and was later
 promoted to a professor of English. He left Penn State in 2000 and took a position at Lorain County Community College as a distinguished professor.


Breakdown

With sleep that is barely under the surface
it begins, a twisting sleep as if a wire
were inside you and tried at night
to straighten you body.
Or it's like a twitch
through the nerves as you sleep
so you tear the sheets from the bed
to try and stop the spine from pounding.
A lousy worthless
sleep  of strangers with guns,
children trapped in an alley,
teenage soldiers glancing back
over their shoulders
the moment before
they squeeze the trigger.

I am going to stay here as long as I can.
I am going to sit in this garden as if nothing has happened
and let these bruised azaleas have their way.


The Forms of Eleventh Avenue

I squatted  like I'd learned in Dak To
on the seventh floor window  ledge
across from the park of the homeless
contemplating the skyline and the loss.
In milky light behind me
the woman who would be exiled
slept, her feet moving
like a dog's in a dream.
Men smoked  glass pipes
in the streetlight's
wash across the park.
Women tried to nurture
into existence
homes  from cardboard boxes.
four  policemen talked
and snapped their sticks
on a park bench.
All night on the ledge
spirits called to me:
Come to us with your face
and your wings
they whispered
from their saintly streets
and the human things
could not save me.
Not the smell
of the woman's hair
in the morning
like street air after rain.
Not the corpses
waking in doorways.
Not the way everything chants,
continuously, like the sky.
What save me
were the Latin prayers
come back from the years
like desire,
and the many mouths
open in absolution,
and the nakedness,
the belt flashing,
the first from out of nowhere,
the abandonment of love.






Here's another from Seven Beats a Second, not so nerdy, more an expression of the humility that the reading of a very good science fiction can induce.


the man in the moon

the moon hangs bright
in the late September sky,
casting a pale glow
over these rocky hills
as it has since the nights
they were submerged
beneath a paleozoic sea

older than the hills, we say,
a human term cut to human scale,
while by other lights the limestone
hills are mere pups, newcomers
in a span of time that began
when nothing, exploding, created
the elements of everything that is

our own place in this dim flash
on the face of eternity
we call our life
is less than a blink in time,
such a short time
to live, to learn, to grow and die,
enough time, though,
to stoke our arrogance
and presume to know creation,
to claim for ourselves rocky hills
rising from the sea,
to see the moon overhead
and imagine on it an ancient face of man








Last from my library, I have three  short poems by Paul Kane. The poems are from his book Work Life, published in 2007 by Turtle Point Press.

Kane is the author of two previous collections of poems, as well as other work, including a critical study of Australian poetry, an edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems, a collaboration with the photographer William Clift, and several anthologies. He was recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was also awarded Fulbright and Mellon grants.

He teaches a Vassar College.


Widower

Thereon the stoop alone
when all along we thought
he'd be the first  to go.

So much said in that wave:
the hand languid - as though
moving through water.

I nod and walk by -  words
are clumsier than gesture.
The body knows its own.


The Night Heron

What are we to ask of a shadow?
At noon,  night flickers around us
as we walk in the cold sun's light.

North by northeast, the wind changes.
We watch for the blue heron,
wintering over, to return to the marsh.

We are smaller than the shadows
cast before us: greatcoats we cannot
put off, like time and the age.

Moonrise and nightfall. Pity, we say,
that the blue heron should be lost,
or absented from out sky.


In Vida's  Garden

Brown and yellow leaves dapple
the lawn before four beech trees
in a sunken garden.

Branches  above break the light
into patterns on the ground
and on the adobe wall.

Breezes short, swift and singing
subside as the sky's gold
medallion sun dazzles.

brilliancy in such stillness
turns purposeful as we give
ourselves over to our work.








I end this week with a final poem from Seven Beats a Second, inspired this time, not by the News York Times science section but by one of the Star Trek movies.


hymnal

from  somewhere in  the very deep
a great blue sang today, a song
of salty tides and bright mornings
fresh with sun and  ocean air

a love song
among the giants

from somewhere in the other deep,
a growing choir responds, sings
of star-blinks and  novas  flashing,
songs of creation, songs of despair,
songs of spinning little worlds
that come and go and leave behind
the poetry of their time in passing

each,
another song
recorded for time never-ending


That was supposed to be the last, but here's one more, the very last-last, on the page facing the page with the last poem, a little reminder of the Mother who makes all and who shouldn't be messed with.


how it all comes about

out  there somewhere
is the mother of all,
the prime,
the martiverse,
defying  all vocabularies
of science and faith,
existing
in some indefinable dimension
of simultaneous is and is not,
mother-of-all-gods,
creator-of-all-creators,
spewing from her womb
all this  is that is not  her,
creating a cosmos
of time and space and energy
and matter such as you and I,
multiplied a million billion-fold,
always creating, brewing elements
for new-born stars,
grains of sand in a desert ever-growing,
from the essences of nothing
making all









That's all from this end. Needless reminder here that everything here belongs to the people who made it.

I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, and peddler of the following books at:

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

So
support your local starving poet
and buy these books!
 
(well,
mabe not "starving" as such,
but some bar-b-cued baby-back
ribs would be really good right
now)

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