Checking Out the Neighborhood   Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This week, more experimenting with font and color.

My anthology is Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep. Subtitled  "An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945, the book was published in 1994 by Little Brown and Company. It was edited by Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton.

Here's the crew for the week.

so  perfect for me

Reginald Gibbons

sunset on South Alamo

Robert Hayden
Homage to the Empress of the Blues
Those Winter  Sundays

here and now in the here and there

Juan Antonio Meza-Compean 
West-side Tongue Waggler

sweet poison

Raymond Patterson
Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Blackman

cartoon moon

Pierre Martory
The Landscape is Behind the Door
Every Question But One
Passing the Frontier


Etheridge Knight

so full, so bright

Sholeh Wolpe
Ethiopia, 1985 Revisited in 2003
Norris Cancer Institute
Le Lavandou,  France, August 2002
D. Buster

we will, we will

Ishmael Reed
The Reactionary Poet
four reasons why the sun shines brighter today

David Ray Vance
XIV. [Theorem for a New Millennium] 
Further Notes on Legerdemain

at my new coffeehouse

Michael S. Harper
Remember Mexico

creating perfection
intelligent design
the weight of a butterfly, multiplied
if a tree falls in the forest
how to lose a lover, in 15 words or less

William Stobb

cracking wise

Haki Madhubuti
We  Walk the Way of the New World

on the porch at Espuma’s

I  wrote this last week. As I noted on the forum where I posted it, it could be in the Poet's Handbook of  Desperate Measures, Chapter 15, "Desperately taking two poems that definitely don't work and trying to squeeze them together to make one poem that might."

so  perfect for me
the sun shines at its most sunny
this morning,
cuts through the morning haze
like a bright, sharp knife,
and the deer graze on the meadow
across the way; lucky deer,
living on the vast campus of the
giant insurance company,
grazing on the corporate meadows,
sleeping in the company woods,
nothing to fear
but occasional encounters
with insurance salesmen passing through…
not so fortunate am I -
I might want
to return to life,
to the old days,
but as I remember those times,
it occurs to me
that I might have gone too old
for the old days
which, as I remembered,
had no place
for the old and the hesitant,
no place for indecision
life was, and it could be
I’m no longer qualified
for the job…

but I could be a hell of a deer,
safe on my meadows,
quiet in my woods, nothing
like the old days
at all,
so much simpler than life
the life of the fortunate
deer, so perfect for me
in my post-life

First from my library, I have this poem by Reginald Gibbons, from his book, Creatures of the Day, published  by Louisiana State University Press in 2008.

Gibbons is the author of seven previous volumes of poetry, translations of Spanish and Mexican poetry and ancient Greek tragedy, a short story collection, and a novel. He has served as editor of Triquarterly from 1981 to 1997.  He has received a number of honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. A native of Texas, he now lives  in Illinois where he is a professor of English and classics at Northwestern University.


                      Walking in a small park,
I ask myself what to
                       think of Thebes, Leeds, Baghdad,
Dacca, Lagos, Lhasa,
                       Rome, Prague, Perth, La Paz, Guam
Ho Chi Minh, Pskov, Lodz, Durg,
                       Dresden, Elabuga.


Constant  splashing of the
                       fountain - shapeless water
thrown from beaks of iron birds,
                       tall cranes into the all
ways yielding air, air  strong
                        enough, though, to carry
on its bright back the scents
                        of yellow, red, peach, pink
petals of this cloudy
                        mornings of cool summer,
the white light  is wrong, it
                         is shifting down as slow
as snow, church bells, nine times,
                         make a dull comforting
sound but cannot make sense.


Alone till now,  I hear
                         others nearby, and led
into this flower park
                         by her grandmother comes
on tiptoe a pale small
                         girl with straight red hair, in
a fine blue dress and white
                         stockings and shiny shoes,
they're red, too, abruptly
                          she pulls her hand free, with
her own flourishing she
                          prances ahead on the
as yet untrodden, art-
                          fully raked gravel walk,
she's enough for herself.


I yield to her her place,
                           retreat to a bench that
says who it remembers,
                           as I'm always doing,
the little girl laughs with
                            joy at the cranes, joy's real, 
the water and cranes real,
                            among these quiet streets,
in the midst of lucky
                              houses never damaged.

For several  years, until  it closed, I spend most of my day during the week at a coffee shop on South Alamo, right at the southern edge of downtown. It was a great place, with a porch that in the spring and fall was the best place in town to write. Good people ran the place and good people were my fellow customers. And if I got tired of writing, I could put my stuff away and go for a walk downtown and along the river.

This poem is from 2005, about the middle of that period. It was published in 2006 in the web-quarterly,
Loch Raven  Review.

sunset on South Alamo

the air is still at sunset,
a pause before night edges
out days shortened
by the passing of summer...

her on South Alamo,
traffic slows
ad lights brighten
curtained windows
across the way...

the sun dips to afterglow
and the night air comes,
whispering quiet
through spreading shadows...

curtains blow

leaves rustle

not far away, the river
flows green and sluggish
between cobbled walkways,
music drifts across the water and
through the gathering crowds

here, in this neighborhood,
night begins
as quietly as day has ended

My first poet  from this week's anthology is Robert Hayden. Born (1913) and raised in the Paradise  Valley ghetto of Detroit,  he graduated from Detroit City College, then went on to study for a master's degree at the University of Michigan. He published his first book, which he would later disavow,  in 1940. He followed that book over the next forty years with a poetic resume that would place him  among  the first rank  of contemporary American poets. His professional life was spent as  a  professor, first at Fish  University, then at the University of  Michigan.  He  died  in 1980.

Homage to the Empress of the Blues

Because there was a man  somewhere in a candystripe silk  shirt,
facile an  dangerous as a jaguar and because a woman moaned
for him in sixty-watt gloom and mourned him  Faithless Love
Two-timing Love Oh Love Oh Careless Aggravating Love,

     She came  out on the stage  in yards  of pearls, emerging like
     a favorite  scenic view, flashed her golden smile and sang.

Because grey laths began  somewhere  to show from underneath
torn hudygurdy lithographs of dollfaced heaven;
and because there were those who feared alarming fists of snow
on the door and those who feared the riot-squad of statistics,

     She came out on  the stage in ostrich feathers,beaded satin,
     and  shone that  smile on us and sang.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up  early
and  put his clothes on in the blueback  cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from  labor in the weekday weather  made
banked fires blaze. No one  ever  thanked him.

I'd  wake and hear the cold splintering,  breaking.
When the rooms were warm,  he'd call,
and slowly  I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic  angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what  did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

I have labs done every three months to make sure the stuff they give me to keep me alive isn't killing me. It's not a problem,  except that I get up  at five and doc's office doesn't open until seven thirty.

This poem was written last week on labs day, about six a.m., desperately in need of my first cup of coffee still two hours away.

here and now in the here and there
on my patio
in an imperfect silence,
no birds
no rush of morning breeze,
just cars crossing
the creek,
accelerating back up the hill,
a siren
on the interstate,
dead or at the dying,
and, miles away,
a train whistle,
the here and now,
the here and there,
from far to
an imperfect silence…

on my patio,
waiting for the sun,
slow in coming

The next  poet from my library is Juan Antonio Meza-Compean, a native of Piedras Negras, a city of about 150,000 in Mexico located across the Rio Grande River from Eagle Pass, a smaller city on the Texas  side  of  the river. The poem is from Compean's book,  Revolution Reborn, published by the  Orchard Press of San Antonio in 1998.

An angry poet, a relief when so much so comfortable  poetry seems the order of the day, he immigrated to the United  States with his family and grew up  on San Antonio's predominately Hispanic West Side. Compean is a slam poet and recently qualified as the first place member on the 2003 San Antonio National Poetry Slam Team. In August, he represented San Antonio at the National Poetry Slam competition in Chicago.

(And I don't even care what the angry poet is angry about - it's just nice to  see poetry with some fire in it.)

 West-side Tongue Waggler

Not just another angry poet,
irrationally spitting rhetoric in your face,
words like  burning mace
stinging irritation in your  eyes,
not telling lies
provoking trouble and concern,
not meant to burn and roast
your auditory apparatus.

Remember, Barney Ruble was your  friend,
like Mother Goose,Tweedy Bird
and Bugs Bunny,
do not consider me  your enemy.
To you is brought a present,
an offering I do hope that your accept.
I give to your the gift of anger
fury, rage and animosity,
indignation,  provocation,
tantrum talking loudly,
piercing, blaring, booming, deafening,
blatant outburst from the bleak,
don't dare you try my temper
don't dare you turn away
turbulence I  speak.
Yo te la  pongo.

Passenger in transit,
superstitious stereotype
stopped to take a rest,
sterilizing  ignorance
directed  northern-bound
Coming from the west.
West-side tongue waggler,
characteristics of a  criminal,
compulsive trickery,
in me you think you see?
Think again dear friend,
reformulate  your  thought,
modify your manner
before I close the bullring  exit
and throw away the key.

West-side  tongue waggler,
cleaning your squalid contacts chapete,
simon ese,  I too can  speak like you
think like you,
read like you,
but I could never  act like you.
Examine, reflect, never speculate,
think  twice,
consider, confer, re-evaluate.
New creation  of concentrated insurrection,
West-side connection,
mother fed me right
loved me right,
taught me  right,
said, "Son,  don't buy a gun
then  be shunned by society,
forced to run from police
and leave  your family.

Pick up  a book
and take a look
what  Peter Pan and Captain Hook
didn't do in Cuba,
Oklahoma, California,
Panama and Mexico.
Learn the truth
about Korea, the King Ranch,
WWI, Vietnam and the Alamo."

mother fed me right,
loved  me right,
showed  me right.

Anger is a gift,
instrumental good
to split the chains of time.
If you  believe
in self-fulfilling prophecies,
ignoring chrome plated  steering wheels,
then you commit  the crime.

Stop the spastic spectacle
off adverseful words
spewing from your stenchful mouth,
sow some sophistication in your speech,
dear pseudo-intellect,
and by the way, carnal,
warm greetings from the South.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I couldn't find my 2006 poems. Well,  I found some, including this one.

sweet  poison

a fire truck passes,
a big one, hook and ladder,
lights flashing, siren wailing

we're half a block from the interstate
so I assume it's another car crash,
a roll-over probably, lots of those
here in SUV country, where we're  all
ranchers and cowboys in some little
hidie-hole place in our brain, and
it's always the first thing I think of when
I see the flashing lights on the road

images of those I've seen intrude,
family car detritus scattered
in a trail that leads to a car
upside down or on its side
or on its wheels, roof flattened,
men, women, and children dazed,
sitting in the grass by the highway
or gathered around the vehicle
heads and shoulders inside,
attending to someone
still trapped in the wreckage...

there was a wreck one time
right in front of a house I was renting
at the time,
on a little three-lane highway,
US 83, the murder road we called it,
the twenty five mile stretch
of asphalt and concrete
from Brownsville to McAllen,
the deadliest out of all the
thousands of paved highways
in Texas and my house right
in the middle of the worst five miles
and there was this  terrible wreck,
sixty miles an hour into a palm tree
not fifty yards from my bedroom window,
three killed, the driver's righ arm
never found, so I was told,
to that every time I mowed I
expected to find it reaching up
from the hard, bloody ground...

but then another fire truck passes
on my street, across my creek,
seconds behind the first, and
neither turns onto the interstate
so I guess it's another kind of disaster,
a house fire, people standing
in front of the burning house, sobbing,
clutching a child or a dog or a cat or a picture
album, memories, I can see it all
in my mind righ now,
the whole scene,
the fire hoses, firemen
in big fireman hats, flashing red lights
reflecting with the flames in their eyes...

such is the power of imagining, full force,
it is our sweet poison, the elaboration of
life and memory, separating us from realty,
supplanting, enlarging, deranging life
until sometimes we make from it
art, or, sometimes
only lies we'd rather believe

Raymond  Patterson  is the next poet I have from this week's anthology. Born in Harlem in 1929, Patterson grew up  in the New York metropolitan area. Educated at  Lincoln  University and New York University, he taught for many years at the City University of New York.

Patterson died in 2001 at the age of 71. His poem is a lot of fun.

Twenty-Six Ways  of Looking at  a Blackman

On the road we met  a blackman,
But no one else.

Dreams are reunions. Who has not
On occasion entertained  the presence
Of  a blackman?

From brown paper bags
A blackman fills the vacancies of morning
With orange speculations.

Always I hope to find
The blackman  I know,
Or  one who knows him.

Devouring earthly possessions
Is one of a blackman's excesses.
Exaggerating  their  transiency
Is another.

Even this shadow has  Weight.
A cool  heaviness.
Call it  a blackman's ghost.

The possibilities of color
Were choices made by the eye
Looking inward.
The possibilities of  rhythms
For a blackman are predetermined.

When it  had all  been  unravelled,
 The blackman found that it had been
Entirely woven of black thread.

Children who loved him
Hid him from the world
By pretending he was a blackman.

The fingerprints of a blackman
Were on  her  pillow.  Or  was it
Her luminous tears?
...An absence,or a presence?
Only when it was  darker
Would she know.

The blackman  dipped water
From a well.
And when the well dried,
He dipped cool blackness.

We are  told that the  seeds
Of rainbows are not unlike
A blackman's tear.

What is more beautiful than black flowers,
Or  blackmen in fields
Gathering  them?
...The bride,or the wedding?

When it was finished,
Some of the carvers  of Destiny
Would sigh in relief,
But the blackman would sigh in  intaglio,
Having shed vain illusions in mastering  the stone.

Affirmation of negatives:
A blackman  trembles
That his  thoughts run toward  darkness.

The odor  of  a blackman  derives
No  less  from the sweat of his  apotheosis,
Than  emanation  of crushed apples
He carries in his  arms.

If I  could  imagine the shaping of  Fate,
I would think  of blackmen
Handling  the sun.

Is it harvest time in the brown fields,
Or is it just a black man

There is the sorrow of blackmen
 Lost in cities. But who can  conceive
Of  cities lost in a blackman?

A small boy lifts a seashell
To his listening ear.
It is the blackman again,
Whispering  his sagas of  drowned sailors.

At the cradle of Justice  were  found
Three gifts: a pair of scales,  a sword,
And a simple cloth. But the Magi  had departed.
Several who were  with us agreed
One off the givers must have been
A blackman.

As vines grow towards light,
So roots grow towards the darkness.
Back and forth a blackman goes,
Gathering  the harvest.

By moonlight
We  tossed our pebbles into the lake
And marveled
At the beauty of concentric sorrows.
You thought it was like the troubled heart
Of a blackman,
Because of the dancing light.

As the time of our leave drew near,
The blackman blessed each of us
By pronouncing the names of his children.

As I remember it,
The only unicorn in the park
Belonged to a  blackman
Who wen about collecting bits
And torn scraps of  afternoons.

At the center of Being
Said the blackman,
All is tangential.
Even the laughter, even your tears.

Usually it's the Times' Tuesday science section that inspires me; this time it was the obituaries.

cartoon moon

the moon’s
a fat, yellow balloon
at midnight,
a cartoon balloon,
which reminds me
of an obituary I saw
in the Times yesterday,
a certain lady, former
Mickey Mouse Club

Eight-six years old…

(I will not mention her name
since at no time in her life
did she ever ask me to include
her name in any interchange,
poetic or otherwise…)

I’ll know next to nothing
about the Mickey Mouse Club,
since, at the time I might
have been eligible to hoist
the honorable ears,
I was more likely to be outside,
pulling weeds from flowerbeds
or cleaning windows,
or scraping poop from the chicken
house, or some other worthwhile
activity, not including, in my dad’s
opinion, watching kid’s shows
on television -
though I did sometimes
sneak a peek at Andy Divine
and Froggy

(pluck your magic twanger,
Froggy, ah such magic, give that twanger
a pluck and such wonderful,
magic things would happen,
troubles disappear, a new and better
world revealed with each and every pluck
and so many times as a youngster
I tried to imagine
what a twanger looked like
and how, if I had one,
I'd pluck that thing
and slave master father would be gone,
bossy mother gone,
weeds gone, dirty windows gone, gone
chickens and all their poop with them…)

any how, as I was saying, I
don’t know much about
the Mickey Mouse Club, but
it didn’t strike me as strange that
a Mouseketeer might be dying
since I figured the oldest
were about my age and due,
sometime in the not too excessively
distant future, if not now, to be shuffling
off their mortal Mickey Mouse ears, turn them
in at Peter’s Pearly Gate with a song, M-I-C-K-E-Y etc....

wouldn’t surprise me at all…

but, and it’s a big but,
according to the obituary, this particular
mouse-child was eighty six years old
at her passing, making her, previously,
the oldest living Mouseketeer, and presently
the oldest, sorry to be so blunt, dear, dead
Mouseketeer as well

a double record-holder,
so to speak…

so, say the dear lady was ten
when she joined the club -
that would make the Mickey Mouse Club
at least 76 years old - older than television, almost
older than the girl scouts,
certainly older then girl scout cookies,
older than the life-span of about 27
million mice laid end to end, older,
older, even, than peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches, older than hula hoops and
Davy Crockett coonskin hats, older than, well
almost everything, damn near back
to the cave paintings in France…

can you imagine all those
years, all those children, all singing that song
through all those years - I can’t,
and as I try, it, if it’s true, well,
it just entirely
my universe, kind of like
finding out flapjacks
are same as pancakes and
taste better
with the syrup on the

Next I have two poems by French poet Pierre Martory. The poem is from his book The Landscape is Behind the Door, published in 1994 by the Sheep Meadow Press. The cover of the book claims that Martory was unknown as a poet in France and that his work was first published in the United States in this book. However, in his web-bio I notice mention  of an earlier book (whose title poem is one of the two I selected from this book), so I don't know what the true case is.

Martory was born in Bayonne, France, grew up in Morocco, and attended the School of Political Science in Paris. He fled Paris before the Germans arrived and served in the French Army in Morocco during World War II. After the war, he worked as a drama and music critic for Paris-Match and published a novel, Phébus ou le beau marriage. In 1956, he met the poet John Ashbery in Paris; he and Ashbery lived together for nine years, and Ashbery eventually became his English translator.

His collections of poetry include Every Question but One, The Landscape Is Behind the Door, Veilleur de jours, and the posthumous Oh, Lac / Oh, Lake  and The Landscapist: Selected Poems.

Martory died in 1998, several years after experiencing a stroke.  

The poems in the book were translated by John Ashbery.

The Landscape  is Behind the Door

The landscape  is behind the door.
the person is there...New York is full
Of similar places where a world,
A large  cloud, is being built. Only T
he heads stay put. You pay
Before arriving, a long time before
Opening your mouth. There are things
Near us which all have their green sides.

You wear your eyes and lose them.
A caterpillar makes the difference.
The girl whose face is full of blood
Stops and asks the time.
It's a year that doesn't know its number:
A smile at the bottom of a pocket.
Look! The liar-bird, bother of secrets,
Leaves the familiar creek bed:
The life of others painted on a lampshade.

"I draw you  like a salary.
You are my superfluous statue
Hatched beneath hot tears.
I'm digging toward the antipodes.
I unwind the bandages, the horoscope:
It's my body, it's my cocoon, surprised
In a sleep of prolific sand,
That I'm uncovering,  like a Cyclops that fainted."
It would be enough to enter, to sit
Near a book, to  fold the shadow
To  one's knees, to know who
Walks on the bed, who passes the mirror.
Dust tints the linens gray.
Photos choke on night.
Now nothing is visible in the room
Except the inaccessible landscape outdoors.

Down there, the fires of prehistory continue stubbornly
To  glow. The lost felucca ferries a skeleton
To its grave.  A disc feeds the sky.
In the hollows of geysers dolphins are taking
advantage of the incognito to cry.
A pious hand is strangling the pity
And slips into the letter-box
The perfumed sadness of silence.

The door placarded with such moments
doesn't open. The cigarettes unrolled
In smoke (a supplementary beauty)
Leave on the fingers the smell of time past.
Intelligence like a geometer paces
The distance from inside to outside.
Everything is in place, nothing is missing.
Weary of strife the bee on
The window pane finally renounces the flower.

Every Question But One

The audience is free to ask
Every question
    But one
On pain of disappearing
    Through the trapdoor
Opened by the master of ceremonies
    A heavy man
Masked with flaming newsprint.

I can  start my prayer in petto
and end  by receiving
A lump of sugar on my tongue
to arrive - but in what condition! -
At the cut edge of the galaxies
the night of July fourteenth full of glory
    And discover
That there are other discoveries to make.

the spark of absence
contained in time
The road backward
Toward the original explosion
And behind the man with the mask
What  veiled trickery
Is also there to forbid
Knowing what to ask  for?
    Of whom?

We would have  to start the  performance again
With other spectators
Smash all the idols
Without erecting new ones
And if we found the creature with the mask
The one who doesn't exist
Disobey our anxieties
And smash his face.

Passing the Frontier

The yellow line could be seen for as long a time
As the highway desired
And if you fell asleep at the wheel
It fulgurated in the dozing soul
Like a brutal revelation
That allowed you not to feel
In the dream's snapshot
Your brain getting smashed
Against the milestone of the windshield.

It was an ideal line
Crowned with horizontal blue
That unwound day after day
Like a clothesline
Flags and scalps and washed-out roses
Our countries our combats our wars
Mingling lassitude with involuntary starts
A dynastic in disorder
That sickened our hearts.

Here's another one from 2006.

Can you imagine what I sound like now, six years later and six years older.


I make this little sound when I bend over,
sounds like


very softly

sometimes, especially early in the morning
when I get out of bed,
there's a long "e" on the end


louder and harder to hide

i don't know when this started
I  just noticed it for the first time
several weeks ago and now
wonder what else I'm doing

for example,
I caught myself getting out of a chair
yesterday with this long hiss of breath,
like a dozen "S's" strung together


again, very softly, so you'd hardly notice

is this what happens as we get  older,
this growing collection of sighs, grunts,hisses
creaks, clacks,wheezes and whistles?

god!  what a cacophony we must be
in the ebbing of our life's tides

luck for us, our hearing starts
to go about the same time

Next from the anthology, I have this series of haiku by Etheridge Knight.

Born in Mississippi in 1931, Etheridge was  badly wounded in the Korean War, an experience he blamed for his later spiral into drugs and crime. He was convicted of  armed robbery and served a six-year term for it. It was while he was in prison that he began to write.

He died of cancer in 1991.


Eastern guard tower
glints in sunset; convicts  rest
like lizards on rocks.

The piano man
is stingy at 3 A.M.
his songs drop like plum.

Morning  sun slants cell.
Drunks stagger like  cripple flies
On jailhouse floor.

To  write a blues song
is to  regiment riots
and pluck gems  from graves.

A bare pecan tree
slips a pencil shadow down
a moonlit snow  slope.

The falling snow flakes
Cannot blunt the hard aches nor
Match the steel stillness.

Under moon shadows
A tall boy flashes knife and
Slices  star bright ice.

In the August grass
Struck by the last rays of sun
The cracked teacup screams.

Making jazz swing in
Seventeen syllables  AIN'T
No square poet's job.

Two beautiful mornings in a row - what can you do but write a poem.

so  full, so  bright

wrote three
in my near-sleep
last night
blown away
at 5 a.m.
like thin spider
in the wind
away by the
at 5 a.m.
so full so bright
in the morning
golden haze
behind thin passing
the moon
so full
so bright…

Being, myself, a poet no one has ever heard of, I enjoy finding and featuring poets I never heard of.  Such as Sholeh Wolpe, who, though unknown to me, is known worldwide for her poems, translations, essays and reviews. She was born in Iran, but spent most of  her teen years in the Caribbean and Europe, ending up in the U.S. where she earned Masters degrees in Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University and Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. Living in Redlands and Los Angles, she has  received many honors for her poetry and is the director and host of Poetry at the Loft...and more, a cultural arts venue in Redlands.

The poems  I've  selected  are from her  book The Scar Saloon, published in 2004 by Red Hen Press.

They are wonderful, fiery poem. I'm glad I know  Sholeh Wolpe now.

Ethiopia, 1985 Revisited in 2003

    kwashiorkor robs its victims of the ability to smile

Swollen-bellied orphans lie,
sun-scorched,alone, or holding
hands with other children.

They whimper blue infection
covering their skins, exposed flesh
shocking, bright on cheeks and arms.

Here, a lucky child
is dying in her mother's arms
a grimace, painful, frozen on her face.

Norris Cancer Institute

He, dying.

Air dancing, sun shining
somewhere out there.

And I walking he corridors, looking
for an exit.

The Painted Sun

A tempest in brewing in my pen
from which the ink of an "infidel"
is about to spill and stain
the walls of faith.

The turbaned owls of the crescent moon
the robed bears of the cross who have painted
the sun on the limestone Walls of this prison
set  fire to the air we breath.

God weeps behind the mask  tattooed on his  face.

La Lavandou,France, august 2002

In this village (a  drop of land
on  the wide lip of the Mediterranean)
sleep  has left the mayor's eyes.

Bodies  lie  side by side in the cemetery like sardines
or stacked like pancakes
souls driven to a claustrophobic rage
all grumbling at the same time
in French.

Courts refuse to permit another cemetery
and so, what's a mayor to do but forbid
death - hope everyone complies...

And for months they do.

Except  for one homeless man
on one chilly night.
He never read the paper
his hearing was impaired.

D. Buster

When I got home he was  dead.

Maria, the cleaning madonna claimed
he had  died suddenly, unexpectedly,
right there in the middle of the living room.

I think she killed him -

Tugged on his slender part, rode him
like a slave over all that dog hair and dust until
he was hot,  in pain, shrieking like a castrato in distress.

He's been lying in the trunk of My car for a week now.

Feet up. A corpse awaiting resurrection
at Miracle Joe's Vacuum shop.

I wrote this poem in May, 2006, immediately following the incident described. It made my day for a couple of weeks.

we will,  we  will

goes to the supermarket
for early shopping

her little girl
sits in her little shopping cart seat,
her dark hair fluttering
in the fresh morning breeze,
her dark eyes
gleaming in the sharp,  new-day
and sings
as loud as she can
in her squeaky little girl voice


and her mom looks at me
and shrugs
and I smile

we will

we will

that's the way
to start a day

From the anthology, here are three short  poems by Ishmael Reed.

Born in Chattanooga in 1938 and raised in Buffalo, Reed attended the State  University of New York and is the author of many books,  including fiction, poetry and essays. He has taught at Harvard, Yale,  Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley.

In Ralph Ellison's "Invisible  Man"

I am  outside
of  history. i wish
i had some peanuts, it
looks hungry there in
it's cage

i am inside of
history. its
hungrier than I


If i had a nickel
For all the women who've
Rejected me in my life
I would be the head of the
World  Bank with a flunky
To  hold my derby as i
Prepared to fly chartered
Jet to sign a cheek
Giving India a new lease
On life.

If i had  a nickel  for
All  the women who've loved
Me in my life i would  be
The World Bank's assistant
Janitor and wouldn't need
To  wear  a derby
All  i'd think  about would
Be going home.

The Reactionary Poet

Of  you are a revolutionary
Then I must be a reactionary
For if you stand for the  future
I have no choice but to
Be with  the past

Bring  back suspenders!
Bring back Mom!
Homemade ice cream
Picnics in the park
Flagpole  sitting
Straw hats
Rent  parties
corn liquor
The  banjo
Georgia quilts
Krazy Kat

The syncopation of
Fletcher Henderson
The Kiplingesque  lines
of James Weldon  Johnson
Black eagle
Mickey Mouse
The Bach Family
Sunday School
Even Mayor La Guardia
Who read the comics
Is  more appealing than
Your version of
What lies ahead

In your world of
Tomorrow Humor
Will be locked up and
The key thrown away
The  public address system
Will pound out  headaches
All day
Everybody will wear the same
funny caps
And the same funny jackets
Enchantment  will be  found
Expendable, charm, a
Love and kisses
A  crime against the state
Duke Ellington will be
Ordered to write more marches
"For the people," naturally

If you are what's coming
I must be what's going

Make it by steamboat
I likes to take it real slow.

Breakfast adventures - I wrote about it last  week.

four reasons why the sun shines brighter today


muscle-man and tiny-woman
are back
with her brother (as I learned
from previous observation)…

they take such pleasure
in ordering their breakfast,
such joy, such
anticipation, it is a pleasure
to watch,
to experience the harmonious flow
of their contrary


a mother
eats her scrambled eggs
while holding
a sleeping child,
a boy,
in her lap

so jealous
I am
of that boy


father and son
giant pancakes,
running giant
round pancakes, hanging
over the edges
of their square

I smell the pancakes
all the way across
the room
and am jealous of them
as well


a soldier,
a black man,
eats breakfast
with a white woman,
holding hands
as they talk and eat…

a lynching offense
in parts of Texas and the South
in my lifetime…

despite all
the ugly and low-down
I might see the rest of the day,
another reason here
and now to welcome
a brighter

Here are three poems by David Ray Vance, another poet new to me. The poems are from  his book, Vitreous, winner of the 2005 Del Sol Press Poetry Prize.

At the time of publication, Vance was a doctoral candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston and Visiting Assistant Professor at  the University of Texas at San Antonio. He was also co-editor of the journal American Letters and Commentary.

This poem was last in a 14 part series titled Recantos.

XIV. [Theorem for a New Millennium]

    For Bob Uptain and Amy England


You will never find  what  your are looking for
when you are looking for it. You find  it a
week/month/year later in precisely the place you
looked before. Pretend to be astonished.


Presume knowledge more than the sum of
memory, those bits of invisible electric light
flung between deddrites. Another category or
order can be imagined - if not named - intuition
run against the grain.


It is a trick of light that you appear beautiful,
a trick having to do with how many mirrors reflect
and the inevitable angle of incidence. Otherwise
you are ghastly even in your mother's eyes.
Especially in your mother's eyes.


While  your were gone, I replaced everything,
every goddamn relic and knick-knack, every
it of bric-a-brac, each dish and spoon,
every floorboard, the bricks themselves, the dog,
the books, the piles of newspapers, even the
dust. And in their places substituted exact
replicas: doppelgangers, shadows and all.


For every formula there exists a counter-formula,
a means to return to primary components any
incident or action, every mislaid plan. Even as
I type this, I'm taking it back.

Further Notes on Legerdemain

The pupil  as muscle must be exercised,

We are looking always precisely where we are looking.

Misdirection means purposeful direction.

The lady sawn in half is perceived in halves.

What we know,  our vantage  predicts.

Every operation conceals subsystems and workings.

Belief affirms sight, though there are limits as with everything.

All understanding is dilation.

Difference between perceived and seen.

Moss, a thin sheen, embedded in wooden  fence.

Pebbles at  surface of concrete walk, so much mosaic.

Distant roofline, chimney,  ventilation pipe, two full windows.

Bedside clock, three hands, iridescent.

Difference  between seen and known.

You love a proton. You hatred its red shift.

Emotion like theories of rain.

As I write floaters  swim in and out off the periphery.

First green buds of hyacinth in spring.

Look! They are everywhere.


     After Rilke

Wooden lattice outside a window creaks
empty vines,  purple iridescence of pigeon necks
folded in sheets and moon split.

    The way willows off Campbell street hung
    naked, winters heavy as this one
    branches angling for roots entirely elsewhere.

Out of such turning inward,  solitude bends,
widens onto dimly lit dwellings
past which voices pass and are taken.

    Fragments lived now or some other time
    slivers of sun spiring the translucent
    ice-sheathed glass.

Skin of this skin, body of these bones
submerged in poor, indifferent places
the most hushed hour answers.

Was thinking I might reach into the way-back machine and pull out some shorter poems for those way-back days.

creating perfection

a small mole
at the base of her spine
calls to me as she walks away

this  tiny imperfection
on taut,  tanned skin
creating perfection

like a god
who laughs
at the absurdity
of  his creations

intelligent design

designs the future

eliminating the failed
and all of failure's brood

death judges us now,
if there is a place for us
in its evolving pattern

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied

all  gossamer wings
and sweet intentions,
a single butterfly lands
on a limb in the high-dappled
green of a Mexican rain forest

and another lands
and another and another

and another
until the limb breaks
and falls to the forest floor
in a melee of  sunshine
and Monarch color

such is the weight
of a butterfly, multiplied,
like the small,
passing lies
of lovers

if a tree fell in the forest

a worse thing
than  having no thought
is to have a thought
that falls soundlessly
in a void of indifference

a fallen pebble
sinking in a pond of discourse
without a ripple


a woman in red
stands quiet and still
before a red wall

becomes like a shadow
on the wall

while, I, standing
as it passes,
become a shadow
on the parade of  daily life

how to lose a  lover, in 15 words or less

say little


assume surety
in a universe
of  constant

Once more from the anthology, Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep, next I have a poem by Michael S. Harper.

Harper was born in Brooklyn in 1938 and moved to Los Angeles at the age of  thirteen. He was educated at California State University at Los Angeles and the University of Iowa. At the time of publication he was a professor at Brown University.

Remember Mexico

Villages of high  quality
merchandise - hand-tooled leather,
blown glass like diamonds,
cloth finer  than linen,
delicious food without dysentery,
mountain water from palapa groves
cured by glistening rocks,
burro-drawn carts for the day,
fishing boats destined for clear
water and giant marlin,
the peasants clean
tanned and bilingual;
lemon, papaya,
horseback or raft,
turtle in the picnic
baskets, white lunch
on hacienda  siesta -
pure and unblemished
in the public notices.

I remember the birds
of the desert
ripping a horse
not  yet  fallen;
hookworm, beetles,
the soup of the desert;
cows and donkeys
ear around the cracked
and broken American
automobiles;  in this covey
of linkage,spoken  here,
I  think  of Montezuma's
unspeakable rites
in honed rock  graves -
Indians who speak no Spanish
and worship the sea,
fruit  unpicked in suspect
sweetness for corn,
diesel smoke  forcing
Indian,  and Indian
and  Indian, and Indian
farther up the mountainside.

I recently ran across a  good definition of the difference between a coffee shop and a coffeehouse.

A coffee shop is where you go to  drink  coffee; a coffeehouse is where you go to drink coffee among a congregation of  creative people, interacting or not as they create.

I'm a coffeehouse person and they're very hard to  find, one of the reasons it is so hard to accept when one you've become comfortable  in closes down (I think I've closed down six or seven in the last five years.)

I've been looking for coffeehouse since my last favorite  closed a month or  so ago, finding up  to now coffee shops  instead. This poem  is about the latest  place I've found and which, after four days, looks promising.

at  my new  coffeehouse

it’s almost noon and
it’s time for me to leave
but my new coffee house
is also a music academy
with practice rooms
for teaching students
and a recording studio
and right now,
a teacher
is giving a vocal lesson
in one of the rooms
and she and her student,
a skinny young girl
about maybe fifteen
or so,
are singing a duet
as the teacher accompanies
on guitar, a Spanish song,
a love song,
the teacher singing
the melody while the young
girl with a high pure voice
weaves right bright intricacies between the
deeper, melodic strands
and it’s lovely and I don’t
want to leave and two guys
with guitars came in
and I can’t wait to see
what comes next….

Next, I have the title poem from the book Absentia, written by William Stobb. The book was published by Penguin  Group in 2011.

Stobb is the author of five poetry collections, including the 2007 National  Poetry Series selection,  Nervous  Systems.

A native of Little Falls, Minnesota,  the poet attended the University of North Dakota where he studied poetry. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Nevada. He lives in La Crosse,Wisconsin.


"Did I tell you? I think I did.
I liked your speech at the conference.
Kind of a walk-by on the steps outside:
'hey I liked your speech now we're astronauts
drifting apart through deep space -
I  liked your speeeeeech.'
It reminded  me of  feelings
I had  when M.'s baby died.
those big eyes, remember?
they wash though my mind.
Long lashes long absence.
A whole  life can you imagine
of absence? The Laotian boy in your speech.
Did he really run away
to fight in the secret army
then meet his mother at Safeway in Sheboygan?
It made me breathe in that sobby way.
I had a hard time sitting quietly.
Hearing you. Seeing you on a stage.
I couldn't make y self stay.

Can we try again this spring?
I hope you're feeling the world
appreciates you adequately.
I appreciate you so much
I can't see you. Isn't it funny
saying 'the world' all the time like we know?
Mostly I know things that can't quite
seem to happen"

This is my last new poem for this post. I wrote it last  week. It's my reaction to those insufferable kind who, because they've done well in on particular field, think they should be treated as experts on any subject that comes out of their mouth.

cracking wise

I really hate it
poets begin to imagine
as if language
and wisdom were
somehow the same thing,
because you'll notice
if you look close
that most poets
don’t know much
of anything
and aren’t really wise
at all

that’s why I don’t like
you know who and
that other one, too,
because they both quit
writing good poetry
and started saying silly stuff
that they think
must be wise
since they said it

they’ve both fooled
lots of people
but I’m on to the game
and they didn’t
fool me
at all

I think I may have just
said something’s happening
more and more,
but I try to keep the news
to myself)

My last poem from this week's anthology is by Haki Madhubuti. Born Don L. Lee in Little Rock in 1942, he moved to Chicago as  a teenager where he attended high school and college. He has taught at Roosevelt, Cornell, Northwestern Illinois universities and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has published many volumes of poetry, as well as  essays and criticism. At the time of publication he was very involved in working with black youngsters and youth on the South Side of Chicago.

We Walk the Way of the New World

we run the danger course,
the way of the stocking caps & murray's grease.
(if u is moderate u used duke greaseless hair pomade)
jo jo was modern / an international nigger
                         born jan. 1, 1963 in new york, mississippi.
his momma was mo militant than he was / is
jo jo  bes no instant negro
his development took all of 106 years
& he was the first to be stamped "made in "USA"
when he arrived bow-legged a curve ahead of the 20th
     century's new weapon: television.
which invented, "how to win and influence people"
& gave jo o his how / ever look: however u want me.

we discovered that with the right brand of cigarettes
that one,  with his best girl,
cd skip the grass fields in living color
& in slow-motion: Caution: niggers, cigarette smoking
                             will kill u & yr / health.
& that the breakfast of champions is: blackeyed peas & rice.
& that God  is dead & Jesus is black and last seen on 63rd
                 street in a gold & black dashiki, sitting in a pink
                 hog speaking swahili with a pig-latin accent.
& that integration and coalition are synonymous,
& that the only thing that really mattered was:
          who could get the highest on the least or how  to expand
          & break one's mind.

in the coming world  
new prizes are
to be given
we ran the dangercourse.
now, it's a silent walk / a careful eye
jo jo  is there
to his mother he is unknown
(she accepted with a  new look: what wd u do if someone
       loved u?)  
jo jo is back
& he will catch all the new jo jo's  as they wander in & out
and with a fan-like whisper say: you ain't no
                                                   and Harlem ain't for
                                                   sight-seeing brother.

Start with the itch and there will be no scratch. Study
Watch yr / every movement  as u skip thru-out the southside of
be hip  to yr / actions.

our  dreams are realities
traveling the nature-way.
we meet them
at the apex of their utmost
meanings / means;
 we walk in cleanliness
down  state  st /  or Fifth  Ave.
& wicked apartment buildings shake
as their windows announce our presence
as we jump into the interior
& cut the day's evil away.

We walk in cleanliness
the newness of it all
becomes us
our women listen to us
and learn.
We teach our children thru
our actions.

We'll  become owners of the     New World
the New World.
will run it as  owners
we  will live in it too
& will  want  to be remembered
as     real people.

This is a poem from 2005, bringing back fond memories of one of my favorite, long gone, coffee houses.

on the porch at Espuma's

I'm sitting on the porch
at Espuma's on South Alamo,
enjoying my coffee and
sweet potato empanada,
watching the early traffic,
a few cars, a delivery truck
on it way to the mercado
a few blocks north of here,
school kids in their uniforms,
tan pants, white shirts,
heavy backpacks swinging,
first from one arm
then the other, morning
walkers with their dogs,
poop bags at the ready,
big dogs, little dogs,
expensive dogs, registered,
pure-bred with long names
that sound like they belong
to the illegitimate offspring
of deposed Polish royalty...

it's a good neighborhood
with royal Polish dogs and
yuppies, the re-gentrifiers,
and poop-free sidewalks and
kids going to school, and,
here and there, the old men
and women, the abuelos and
abuelitas who made this
neighborhood after the Germans
and before redevelopment...

all  of this
under blue skies
and a light north wind
that has blown away
this past godawful  summer
so it's like the air is born-again,
like the religious people say,
the past gone, denied, forgotten,
forgiven, and a new beginning
with this clear light and clean skies
and even someone like me
wants to say, thank you, god,
for this day and for as many more
like it as you will allow this
old sinner and non-believer -

I'm thinking this
when the little waitress, Allie,
brings my change, seven
dollars and forty-eight cents,
and I think, what  a life it is to sit
here on this beautiful  morning
and drink  coffee and eat pan  dulce
while people bring me money
and say thanks for being here and
be sure and come back tomorrow

Once again, that's it.

Once again, everything present here on remains the property of its creators.

Once again, my stuff belongs to me, but you can have it for the price of proper credit for me and for "Here and Now."

And once again, I'm selling books at the following retailers, knowing that poet lovers tend to be book lovers and that I'm sailing against the wind trying to sell eBooks to poetry lovers, but equally assured that, as the day approaches when a tiny  little poetry book will cost $199, I will  be ahead of the curve with a full selection of poetry available on an eReader of the poetry lover's choice and may actually end up rich and famous.

As to those eBook  retailers joining me  ahead of the  curve, here  they are again.

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


For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon (both new and used)

Seven Beats a Second


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