Lost & Found   Wednesday, September 12, 2012





My anthology this week is Shadowed Dreams - Women's  Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, published in 1989 by Rutgers University Press and edited by Maureen Honey.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance.

The anthology includes many poets still known today, and others for whom no modern record can be found beyond their names on the credit line of poems published 80 to 90 years ago in small poetry and political journals of their time. We can not know these poets except by their poems.


Both the remembered and unremembered poets are included here this week, mostly black women,well-read and well-educated for their time, living, from wherever they might have originally come, in New York City or Washington D.C.


Me
an incomplete series

Mae V. Cowdery
Lines to a Sophisticate
Dusk

Me
a union poet celebrates Labor Day

Tu Fu
Two Quatrains
Late Spring
Morning Rain
Failing Flare
Thatch House

Me
what happens when the electricity goes out at the brain warehouse

Anita Scott Coleman
Black Baby

Gladys May Casely Hayford
Baby Cobina

Me
30 minutes

Jose Garcia Villa
from Selected Poems and New

Me
face to face 4

Marjorie Marshall
Desire
Nostalgia

Me
how much better an afternoon when a book is sold

George Oppen
Alpine
Rationality

Me
just don’t rush me

Kathleen Tankersley Young
December Portrait

Me
pooped

Sharon Olds
Photograph of the Girl
Nevsky Prospekt

Me
ah, Clint, what are you doing there

Georgia Douglas Johnson
Common Dust
Calling Dreams

Me
very large men gone to seed

Deborah Bogen
Ghost Images
About a Girl I Once Was

Me
standing for inspection

Elma Ehrlich Levinger
"Carry Me Back  to Old Virginny"

Me
I stood in my natural state









I  start this week off with this  little piece of nonsense I  wrote as my morning poem a couple of  Mondays ago.


an incomplete series

passing
on High Street
in the Curious part of town

~~~

very large man
with a tiny laugh,
tee hee
he says as he passes

~~~

around and around
the block
goes a woman
selling a graduation onion,
she says,
intoning
like a priest passing,
ipso facto, pesto pico,
look at my plump
onion

her daughter
follows
until dark,
then her husband
like a great walrus,
bald-headed
in an overcoat that drags

~~~

three young woman
arm-in-arm,
lesbians,
such good friends
they announce,
they want to get married
as soon as they decide
who to who
and who a permanent
house guest

~~~

a naked
man
jogs
around
the block
but not
like a man
might
jog
around
the block
but like a
bunny
might jog
around
the
block
hippty hop
flippity flop
hoppity hip
floppity flip

~~~

a lumberjack
and a priest
walk
down the street
together

TIMBER!!
shouts the
lumberjack -
well
shiver mine
says the
priest

~~~

shambling old man
totters along.
led
by his tiny shitzenshisehowershower
on a lease

bristly beast
on teeny
tiny
feet
with pink-painted
nails

pulls
the old man
home







My first poems this week from the Harlem Renaissance anthology are by Mae V. Cowdery.

Cowdery was born in 1909 in Philadelphia, where she grew up. She attended Philadelphia High School for Girls, and later attended Pratt Institute. She lived in Greenwich Village, and visited Harlem very often. She became hugely popular for a few years, but then fell out of popularity. She committed suicide in New York City in 1953, when she was forty-four. 

Although there is not very much biographical information about her, she was hugely popular at one time, then faded from  view.


Lines to a Sophisticate

Never would I seek
To  capture you with tempestuous ardor
Nor hold you at arm's length
In carnal anticipatio....
But like a wine of rare vintage
I would savor and sip slowly
That I might know each separate scent
Of you elusive fragrance.

Never would I seek to capture all your beauty
and imprison it in the mouldy bottle of my lust,
Rather would I pour it into the chalice of my love
And let its bouquet escape to mingle with the air
That I might breathe again your perfume
Long after you are gone...


Dusk

Like you
Letting down your
Purple-shadowed hair
To hide the rose and gole
Of your loveliness
And your eyes peeping thru
Like beacon lights
In the gathering darkness










This was my Labor Day poem this year, the most poetic labor I was prepared to do on that occasion.


a union poet celebrates Labor Day

an intersection
of politics and cow pastures
in discussion last night
brings to mind
a very old
joke
about the politician
from Dallas
who went to the Kickapoo
reservation down on the Rio Grande
near Eagle Pass to pick up
some casino money
and maybe a vote or two
and while there gave one of his best
stem-winder speeches to
folk of the reservation gathered there
to hear him speak…

and it started very well -
barely two sentences into his speech
and all the Indians stood in their chairs,
waving their arms and shouting
“Kowabunga! Kowabunga!”
and, even though he didn't know
what that meant, the Dallas politician thought it
very encouraging, since it normally took
considerably longer to get a crowd so hepped up and stirring,
and so encouraged, he kept on,
giving his all, his best, he was thinking,
since all through his speech he was interrupted
by the Indians standing on their chairs
and waving their arms and shouting “Kowabunga!
Kowabunga!” and by the time he was finished
he was really feeling the love, best speech
I’ve ever given, he was thinking as the tribal chief
led him back through the cow pasture
to his limo…

“Watch out,” the chief said. “Be careful
you don’t step in the
kowabunga”

***

as a loyal union poet,
this is my Labor Day poem
and that’s all there is
to it










I did a  little Tu Fu from a Chinese anthology a couple of weeks ago. Here's some more of his poems from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, a new directions book published in 1988.

The poems were translated  by David  Hinton.


Two Quatrains

1
Lovely in late sun: mountains, a river,
Blossoms and grasses scenting spring wind.
Where mud is still soft, swallows fly.
On warm sand, ducks doze, two together

2
Birds are whiter on jade-blue water.
Against green mountains, blossoms verge
Toward flame. I watch. Spring keeps
Passing. How long before I return home.


Late Spring

I lie ill here in these  gorges, captive.Tung-t'ing Lake,
All Hslao and Hsing - one mirage of  empty light now.

Relentless Ch'u skies rain all four seasons. And winds,
These ten-thousand-mile Wu Gorge winds never end.

Willows on its bank, a thatch home in their new shadows,
The pond out beyond city walls hints at red lotus  blossoms.

Late spring. Duck and egrets sand on the island's bank.
chicks nestled in the flock flutter off, quick  to return.


Morning  Rain

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves below mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown,follows clouds away.Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain - and lingers on past noon.


Failing Flare

North of an ancient Ch'u emperor's  palace, yellows fade.
Traces of rain drift west of K'uel-chou.  Soon dusk's falling

Flare on the river plays across cliffs. Then returning
Clouds muffle  trees. Mountain villages vanish. I manage

Life's ebb propped high on pillows,lungs sick. Against
Frontier  wastes and a tormented age. I  close my gate

Early. I can't stay long in these southlands, these
Jackal and tiger calamities...I, a yet unsummoned soul.


Thatch House

Our thatch house perched where land ends,
We leave the brushwood gate always open.After
Dragons and fish settle into night waters,
The moon and stars drift above autumn peaks.

Dew  gathers clarity, then thaws. High clouds
Thin away - none return.Women man wind-
Tossed boats anchored here: young, ashamed,
The riverlife battering their warm beauty.









I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, about the time of  the Republican convention.




what happens when the electricity goes out at the brain warehouse

it seems very clear
to me
when I read my e-mail
in the morning
that there is a warehouse
somewhere,
probably in a corner
of a dark alley
in Silicon Valley,
where people store
their brains
while on the internet

there is no other explanation
that I can think of
for the stupid things
otherwise intelligent people
send
me….

this morning
I learned, for example,
that the Democrats are hosting
a four-hour Muslim prayer session
at their convention, and, holy shit, not only that
but that they denied an urgent plea
from a biggly-wiggly Catholic
cardinal
to pray at the convention
and maybe
save their souls
from the sin of excessive
democraticity...

can you imagine
such a thing in these great
United States of this great America
on this great North American continent
where the deer and antelope play
and brown people pick asparagus and then,
by god, go home, and where Muslimite
people are not allowed unless
they bring at least
one barrel of
oil
each
with them as they cross the desert sand
to our green and verdant
America the beautimus and free,
except for things conducive to living which
are not now free and have not been
for a very long
time?

forgotten,
left in those warehouse-stored brains,
the first rule of a spotting lie -
if someone you don’t know whispers
in your ear
something entirely unbelievable,
you should probably
not take it to the bank
and try to cash
it…

or maybe that’s the problem -
people these days
just seem so eager
to believe
really dumb things
you have to think maybe
they just left
their brains in that warehouse
after the electricity
went off
and the refrigeration didn't
refrigerate
anymore
and all the brains stored inside
turned into a runny, gooey, slushy
sea of undemanding
credulity







Here are two more poets from the Shadowed Dreams anthology.


The first poet is Anita Scott Coleman.

Coleman, born  in 1890, was an African-American educator, essayist, poet and short story author who wrote actively during the Harlem Renaissance. Raised in New Mexico, she became a teacher in Los Angeles, then later ran a boarding house and wrote in her spare time. She produced two volumes of poetry: Reason for Singing published in 1948 and The Singing Bells published in 1961, a year after her death.

The poem was first  published in Opportunity in 1929.


Black Baby

The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.
     Today I set him in the sun and
     Sunbeams danced on his head.
The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.
     I toil, and I cannot always cuddle him.
     I place him on the ground at my feet.
     He presses the warm earth with his hands,
     He lifts the sand and laughs to see
     It flow through his chubby fingers.
     I watch to discern which are his hands,
     Which is the sand...
Lo...the rich loam is black like his hands.

The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.
     Today the coal-man brought me coal.
     Sixteen dollars a ton is the price I pay for coal. -
     Costly fuel...though they say: -
     Men must sweat and toil to dig if from the ground.
     Costly fuel...'Tis said -
     If it is buried deep enough and lies hidden long enough
     "Twill be no longer coal but diamonds...
     My black looks at me,
     His eyes are like coals,
     They shine like diamonds.


The next poet from the anthology is Gladys May Casely Hayford.

Born in 1904 in Amix, Gold Coast, she was the daughter of J.E. Casely-Hayford, who was an African American nation leader and Adelaide Smith Casely, an African American feminist. She started writing stories and poetry at a young age.Her poems were both published in African and Americans journals.

Very well-educated for an African American woman of her time, her tone in poetry was a theme known as Afro-Victorian, this was mostly used in West Africa. She had to use a pen name to be publishes so she used the name Aquah Laluah. She was one of very few blacks to get published in a whites journal/ newspaper at that time.


Baby Cobina

Brown Baby Cobina, with his large black velvet eyes,
His little coos of ecstasies, his gurgling of surprise,
With brass bells on his ankles, the laugh where'er he goes;
It's so rate bells to tinkle, above brown dimpled toes.

Brown Baby Cobina is so precious that we fear
Something might come and steal him, when we grownups are
     not near;
So we tied bells on his ankles, and kissed on them this charm -
"Bell, guard our Baby Cobina from all devils and all harm."










Here's a poem from a couple of years ago,don't  know exactly when, a candidate for one of my books, but unchosen.


30 minutes

60 minutes in an
hour
but I  only have 30 of them
to write this poem
because
I have somewhere else
I have to be and further
explanation
]of that would take at least
5 minutes
which I don't have, having
now only 27 minutes
to write the poem
so just take my word for it
I just have 26 minutes
to write this poem
because I have to be somewhere
else

1 minute lost
already to bad typing leaving me
only 25 minutes
to write this poem

another three minutes
to  order my coffee, maybe more
since there's a long line
so only 22 minutes or fewer left
to write this poem

fixing up the coffee to make  it
drinkable
that's another minute lost
my god
only 21 minutes left
to write this poem

computer warming up
that's another minute

sipping my coffee
so it doesn't spill
that's another minu...
oh, shit,
spilled it anyway, 4 minutes
lost to cleaning up my mess
that leaves, hummmmmm,
only 16 minutes
to write this poem

cracking knuckles
to  possibly improve
typing dexterity

that's another minute

distracted
by the old guy at the next table
talking politics
godamighty these guys are nuts
I fear for the republic
i might say but I've already lost
4 minutes to this distraction
plus the knuckle-cracking minute
leave  me just
11 minutes to write this poem

the  pressure

the pressure

time
our greatest enemy
our occasional friend
how  I miss those crazy lazy
days of summer
when time seemed to stand still
waiting for us to savor the bounty
of summer vacation, swimming,
playing in the park, going to afternoon
movies, reading all day if we want

another distraction,
6 minutes this time, leaving 5
to write this poem

and I don't think I can write
a poem
in 5 minutes

actually
only three minutes
now
to write this poem

dern
time's up,
gotta go, no  time
to say where or why








Next, I have several poems by Jose Garcia Villa, from his collection Selected Poems and New, a very large hardback book first published in 1942, my edition published by McDowell, Obolensky,  Inc. in 1958.

Born in 1908, Garcia-Villa was a Filipino poet, literary critic, short story writer, and painter. He was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines title for literature in 1973,  as well as the Guggenheim Fellowship.

He died in 1997.

The poems are not titled, just numbered. In her introduction to the book Dame Edith Sitwell describes the first poem (57) as "one of the most wonderful short poems of our time."

Unlike any other poet I'm familiar with his use of punctuation is strictly used to guide reading, with no attention to the so-called rules of punctuation. In some of  his poems (none used here) he follows almost every word in the poem with a comma, because that comma pause between each word is how he wanted the poem to be read. It makes for some interesting looking poems.

This is a huge book, with what appears to be hundreds of poems. I will be getting back to it often.


          57

My most. My most. O my lost!
O my bright, my ineradicable ghost.
At whose bright coast God  seeks
Shelter and is lost is lost. O
Coast of Brightness. O  cause of
Grief. O rose of purest grief.
O thou in my breast so stark and
Holy-bright. O thou melancholy
Light. Me. Me. My own perfidy.
O my most my most. O the bright
The beautiful the terrible Accost.


          38

I have observed pink monks eating blue raisins.
And I have observed blue monks earing pink raisins.
Studiously I have observed.

Now, this is the way a pink monk eats a blue raisin:
Pink is he and It is blue and the pink
Swallows the blue. I swear this is true.

And the way a blue monk eats a pink raisin is this:
Blue  is he and it is pink and the blue
Swallows the pink. And this is also true.

Indeed I have observed and myself have partaken
Of blue and pink raisins. but my joy was different:
My joy was to see the blue and the pink counter-    
     pointing.


         39

roses racing with rabbits

around my favorite church
(nowhere) yet we will all

go there (I love you, with
roses and rabbits and roses

I love you) we will climb
the  beautiful steeple and

watch (perhaps ring bells
who bells who knows)

but in the secret unmercy
of all this beauty, O

you will open your eyes
and certainly somewhere

around God's heart (every-
where O everywhere) but

most certainly and mostly
look, Loren, look at my heart.


40

sky wrote me blackbirds

that were gold (perhaps God
laughing, strolling upside down)
I replied,
                Impossible
                                  even for
a miracle! Then God
strolling upside down (perhaps
rose skiing)
                    said,
                            Possible
We (Love and I) saw dwarfs
in Mars, and a marriage
of lemons
                     in the house
of peace...
                                 And forthwith
I believed and with God I
went laughing,  arm in arm
strolling upside down


          45

Sir, I commend  to you the spirit
Of Lucifer, who was most  beautiful
And wore in that proud skull
Rebellion like a jewel exquisite;
I adjure you to meekly admit
That seething genius pre-punctual,
Foreword to all the historical:
I beg you to give him his meet.

Brightest of archangels and brightest
Of demons - proud, incomparable Lucifer!
I alone of all me remember
Ad praise that magnificent zest
That sent God frantic to abuse
And doom the first, pioneering Genius.











This one also from a couple of weeks ago, the last installment (for now) from the photo book, Face to Face, the Art of Portrait Photography.


face to face 4

Young Doctor, From the Series Lithuanians, 1967

stethoscope plugged
firmly in both ears, a young face
brow furrowed,
despair in his eyes, horror, even,
at what he hears, be pleased
it is not your chest
he
is listening to

Photograph by Antanas Sutkas


Charlotte Rampling,Paris, 1987

a different kind of beauty,
hair short
combed back like a 50s rock and roller,
Fabian, Elvis, Jerry Lee,
broad brow, eyes thin and direct,
lips tight, suggestion
of an overbite, nude to the waist,
broad shoulders,
belly sucked in beneath breast bone,
sucked in so tight as to suggest
contact with her spine,
breasts covered by her arms,
hands crossed beneath her long,
slender neck, hands very large, fingers
thick, stubby, nails cut to quick,
a construction worker’s hands,
a factory worker’s fingers, like some
stranger’s hands
reaching
for her swan-slender neck

Photograph by Peter Lindbergh


Billy Holiday, 1959

she lies
on satin cushions
forever sleeping now,
her voice forever
quiet

the strange fruit
of passion
and despair,
of genius and color
her
curse

Photograph by Lisette Model


Buster Keaton

the long square face, high,
wide forehead,
big eyes
and wide mouth, a sad face…

you long to see the
stone face
cracking,
laughing as you have laughed








The next poet from the Harlem Renaissance anthology is Marjorie Marshall. The anthology includes no biographical information about Marshall, which I found strange until I did my own search. The poet is mentioned several time on the web, including in the Wikipedia entry on the Harlem Renaissance, but no information beyond her name is included.

So we have to just let her poems speak for her, including these two. Both were included in the journal, The Crisis, in 1929, the first in June and the second in November.


Desire

I  would one with the morning
To  hold in my throat
Soft ecstasies
Of bird notes;
And catch in my hair
Faint traciers of light
From dawn clouds.

I would be one with the evening
to clasp in my hands
Strange brilliancy
Of stardust;
And know in my soul
The loneliness of moon
and darkness.


Nostalgia

I shall go forth from here;
These  burning streets shall know
My songs no more -
And I shall guard my ears
Against the rigid cry
Of steel on stone.
Each pallid dawn that comes
Shall  seek in vain to wake
My tired soul;
For I have felt the kiss
Of  fresh-blown winds that  roam
through silent hills,
and I have heard the call
Of things that stand and wait
Beneath the moon.









The next poem is a couple of years old, another candidate for one of  books that didn't make the grade.


how much better an afternoon when a book is sold


after an afternoon of mostly
irritation
i finally get to sit down
after 1 p.m. and turn my attention
to  writing - a futile effort at first
as blanks follow blanks follow blanks

while i try to find a new approach,
all paths leading to the same gray walls,
indifferent myself, even, to the ideas
presenting themselves, peeking
over the wall, these dull ideas dressed in drab,
i don't care about any of them
and why would anyone else if i don't

this dreary slog going on at La Taza,
my coffee shop
when I'm on the far north side of the city, one
of a number of such places that display
my first book for sale,
the standard 40% for the store
and 60% for me on each book sold

my experience trying to retail my book
at these coffee shops is that they are
good places to get a book stolen, not
so good for sales, leaving me to conjecture
that coffee-loving poetry readers
ore either too poor to buy books or
too crooked to pay for books they can steal

either way, it's nice to be appreciated...

that would be the end of the story
except  this afternoon, just now,
as i wrap up this dreary poem
at La Taza, where my books have been
neither stole nor sold, a fellow coffee patron
comes up with $20 in hand, lays the book
on the table and asks me to sign it

eureka!

how much better an afternoon
when a book is sold!

how much sunnier
the poem!









My next poet is George Oppen. Born in 1908, Oppen abandoned poetry in the 1930s for political activism, and later moved to Mexico to avoid the attentions of the House Un-Anerican Activities Committee. He returned to the United States and poetry in 1958 and received the Pulitzer Prise in 1969.

He died in 1984.

The two poems I selected to use here are from his book, The Collected Poems of George Oppen, published as a New Directions paperback in 1976.


Alpine

We were hiding
Somewhere in the Alps
In a barn among animals. We knew
Our daughter should not know
We were there. It was cold
Was the point of he dream
and the snow was falling

Which must be an old dream of families
Dispersing into adulthood

And the will cowers
In the given

The outlaw winds
That move within barns

Intolerable breeze
A public music

Seeps through the legendary walls
the cracked inner sides

the distinctions of what one does
And what is done to him  blurs

Bodies dream selves
For themselves

From the substance
Of the cold

Yet we move
Are moving

Are we not

Do we hear the heavy moving
Of the past in barns


Rationality

    there is no cure
Of it, a reversal
Of some wrong decision - merely
The length of time that has passed
And the accumulation of knowledge.

To say again: the massive heart
Of the present, the presence
Of the machine tools

In the factories, and the young workman
Elated among the men
Is homesick

In that instant
Of  the shock
Of the press

In which the manufactured part

New in its oil
On the street  bed is caught
In the obstinate links

Of cause,  like the earth tilting
To its famous Summers - that "part

of consciousness"...











There is a certain relief and release in clear seeing.


just don’t rush me…

I’m not too shy
to admit
I’m a home-
and-backyard-
nudist

the first thing
that happens when
I get home is my clothes
go flying because I wear no clothes
where clothes
are not required

after a while
you become accustomed
to not hiding
behind your clothes
and you begin to take account
and responsibility
for the body you’ve been
keeping from yourself

like that belly that overhangs
my belt - I did that

and the scars - yes
I did those too…

and you can either
make yourself miserable
by being unhappy with what you see,
disappointed with what you’ve done to yourself,
or you can say, as I do,
by god,
look at this great flesh machine,
despite near 69 years of abuse of one kind
or another, all the major parts
still work, all the major functions
still function…

not to say they still function
as well as they might once have,
but neither did the old jalopies I drove
when I was young, beat-up slow-poke rattletraps,
but they got me where I needed to go
and I was happy to have them and even now,
at my age, I have places to go and things
to do, and I’m glad I still have this old beat-up,
slow-poke, rattletrap body to get me there

just don’t rush me…







Next, from the Shadowed Dreams anthology is this short poem by Kathleen Tankersley Young, another poet whose biography could apparently not be found by the editor.

The poem is taken from the December, 1930, issue of the journal Opportunity.


December Portrait

She now retraces her steps once more
Over the length of room to the dark window
She stoops to the ancient piano
And fingers the white  keys that pour
Strange music of remembered spring thunder
That she once heard in a youth long dead.
She has not forgotten; she turns her head
To stare into the dark, and hears the winds stir
A new sound: although now vaguely familiar
And yet altogether strange, the chords grow
Crazily wild, and the black window
Rattles, and music continues thunder.
Some way of sound her dreams may transcend
These stairways of snow, and snow, the wind.







Here's another book reject from a couple of years ago.


pooped

varying
degrees of sick
for four days now
and i'm tired, beat,
whomped, pooped,
petered out,
dissipated,
de-generated,
and past the line
of humanish
endurance and 
i don't 
wanna
do  nothing
so i'm
not









The next two poems are by Sharon Olds, from her book The Dead and the Living, published in 1995 by Alfred A.Knopf.

Olds was born in 1942 in San Francisco. After graduating from Stanford University, she moved east to earn a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She has been the recipient of many awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award and the San Francisco Poetry Center Award. She currently teaches creative writing at New York University.


Photograph of the Girl

The girl sits on the hard ground,
the dry pan of Russia, in the drought
of 1921, stunned,
eyes closed, mouth open,
raw hot wind blowing
sand in her face. Hunger and puberty are
taking her together. She leans on a sack,
layers of clothes fluttering in the heat,
the new radius of her arm curved.
She cannot be not beautiful, but she is
starving. Each day she grows thinner, and her bones
grow longer, porous. the caption says
she is going to starve to death that winter
with millions of others.Deep in her body
the ovaries let out her first eggs,
golden as drops of  grain.


Nevsky Prospekt

(July 1917)

It is  an old photo, very black and
very white.One woman
lifts up  her heavy skirts, as she runs.
A man in a white jacket, his hands
tied behind his back,runs,
his chin stuck out.  An old woman
in massive black turns and looks  behind her.
A man throws himself onto the pavement.
A child in heavy boots is running
but looks back over his shoulder
at the black and white heaps of bodies.
The wide grey stone square
is dotted with fallen inky shapes
and dropped white hats. Everything else is
having away like a sea from the noise we
feel in the silence of the photograph
the way the deaf see sound: the terrible
voice of the submachine guns saying
This is more important than your life.










The trouble with heroes is that even the best of them will do dumb-ass stuff sometimes.


ah, Clint, what are you doing there

ah, Clint,
you’re my hero,
a freedom-kind of guy,
a defender-of-the-truth-kind of guy,
a friend-of-the-abused-and-friendless-kind of guy
a no-bullshit-kind of guy…

so what are you doing there?

talking
to these anti-freedom clowns,
these congenital liars,
these abusers of the poor and unprotected,
these low-life bullshit-masters

I’m very disappoint
with you
Clint…

but you’re still my hero
cause I’m almost
as old as you
and my hero-supply is running really short
and I don’t think I should toss
any of the few remaining
under the train…

but
you should know
it’s a pretty close call







Next, from my Harlem Renaissance anthology, I have two poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson, described by the anthology's editor as the most prolific of Renaissance women poets and the first Black woman poet of note since the 19th century.

Born in 1880, Johnson died in 1966, publishing four volumes of poetry during her life. Although she wanted to be a composer, she taught high school in Alabama and Washington D.C. until going to work for the government in 1925. A playwright, fiction writer, songwriter, journalist and poet, her home in Washington was a meeting place for artists and writers for forty years.

She continued to write until the end of her life.

The first of the two poems included here first appeared in Bronze: A Book of Verse in 1922 and the second in The Crisis in January 1920.


Common Dust

And who shall separate the dust
What later  we shall be:
Whose keen discerning eye will scan
And solve the mystery?

the high, the low, the rich, the poor,
The black,the white,  the red,
And all the chromatique between,
Of whom shall it be said:

Here lies the dust of Africa;
Here are the sons of Rome;
Here lies the one unlabelled,
The world at large his home!

Can one then separate the dust?
Will mankind lie apart,
When life has settled  back again
The same as from the start?


Calling Dreams

The right tt make my dreams come true,
I ask, nay, I demand of life;
Nor shall gate's deadly contraband
Impede my steps, nor countermand;
Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around;
And now at length I rise! I wake!
And stride into the morning break!













Here's another book reject.

I write a poem every day, 365 poems a year. I've never used more than 85 poems in a book, leaving me with an ample, steady supply of rejects to use here. Maybe I should start another blog, "My Rejects."

That is what I tell myself so that I don't get too depressed over my wealth of rejects.

And besides, I am a dedicated proponent of re-cycling.


very large men gone to seed

a mother
brings her 5 kids,
4  of them under 5-years-old,
into the coffee shop,
leaves them at a table,

then disappears for 20 minutes

poetic
intentions lost
I watch the kids, wishing
(shh, don't tell anyone)
I could administer a good
parental slap on the bottom
to each of them especially
the little blond 3-year old girl
who hits and screams at each
of the rest of them

when,
finally,
mom gathers them up
and takes them out the door,
there is an audible sigh throughout
the premises as everyone gets their head
back on whatever it was they were thinking
before the cacophonic herd came crashing in,
an anarchic wave of over-indulgence

me,
I can quit thinking about beating children
and get back to thinking about my poem

which reminds me
that some time just about every day
this week, I've seen in my daily passage
very large men gone to seed

I'm talking about big guys,
6'6" or taller, 350 pounds or more,
guys
who in their prime
could clear a room with nothing more
than a seriously hard look

now
they sag where once they were taut
and dangerous, gray hair like a haystack,
belly hanging over their belts and I wonder
if they miss the dominance that used to come
just from their physical presence - and I wonder
if they, having fallen so much farther than me,
rue their age and not anymore than I rue mine...

so, the day continues...

the sun's out,
pushing aside the damp, grey skies
that made the morning
pleasant,
but the damn kids
are gone
and I'm in somewhat less a ruin
than the very large guys I saw
last week and
while
none of us are what we were, I'm closer
to it than
them
and I guess that's kind of
a comfort











Here are two poems by Deborah Bogen, from her book, Let Me Open You Swan.  The book  was  published in 2010 by Elixir Press.

Bogen's first poetry collection, Landscape  with Silos, was a National Poetry Series finalist and winner of the 2005 XJ Kennedy Poetry Prize. She lives in Pittsburgh where, for the past decade, she's run free writing workshops.


Ghost Images

1/
The mind's a mad cupboard, blackened silver, cups and thimbles.
the mind's a jerky focusing machine still stuck on the girl
who hung by her knees.

And within the camera [opening : closing] - fireworks.
                          I mean within the empty box the light's frantic,
grappling with: the monk,the match, the gasoline.

The mind is otherwise occupied, its light piteously stark, distorted
- but which of us can ever  look away?

2/
Into the angular cranium levers lift cold light, but
              how dark and small the box.
And hands must old the camera still, so stop your breath

             [so stop your breath]

That's how you coax something into the box, something bloody or blood-lit,
a  headless  rooster or  snipe - your attention split.

Seeing the two worlds.


About a Girl I Once Was

The country clubs of America looked bleak.
She wanted to peel her stockings off -
           but there was something glinting out
by the 17th hole,
                         a silver egg asleep in the sand.

And she desired found objects,

wanted them to split her tongue, to cleave minnows
from water, sequins from satin.

Her party toenails glistened. Her back
sleeked town to her hips and she swore she could feel
something swanish in that egg.

So what should I have told her?
That night is just a painted backdrop?

In the dark she felt a great nothing -
                        heard only the Voice saying

do not try to cover yourself.
Do not drop the egg.
Soon it will begin to hum.
     










Okay, I know this is not great poetry,  but  it is my 2,255th poem written on 2,255th consecutive day of daily poem writing.

That ought to be worth something, maybe a perfect attendance certificate.


standing for inspection

I think
some people just don't
understand
how tough It is
to be the stay-at-home spouse

for example,
when my wife took out to work
this morning, she left behind
two big bunches of grapes
with a note telling me go get them washed
before she got home because
she was going to make a special
fruit salad…

and, let me tell you,
it wasn’t easy - the damn grapes
kept rolling off the table
and I’d have to chase them
across the floor
before the cat, who thought
this was a really great new game
she had just invented, got to them…

but I’m not one to give up
so even though it took me a half a day,
I got the job done
and all those rotund little devils
I had to chase all round the floor
are properly lined up in their dress purples,
spit shinned and ready for
inspection

and I’m really feeling good
about myself









This is my last poem from this week anthology, Shadowed Dreams, Women's Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance.

The poet is Elma Ehrlich Levinger, another poet from the book for whom biographical information is not available. The piece is from the Crisis, March 1924.


"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

That's right: keep singing, "Carry Me Back to Old
    Virginny."
I ain't heard it since Miss  Lucy's little girl used to sing it,
In the parlor, when I took mamma's washing 'round the back
    way:
It's a fine song - for white folks.

"That's where the bards warble sweet in the springtime."
That's where it used to stink most down in nigger town;
We slept six in a room and the drains never worked right;
Lots of scarlet  fever on account of them drains,
But folks got to expect it;
my little  sister, she died of it in the springtime.

That's where I labored so hard for old Massa."
And he took his shotgun to me once and run me off the place,
When I argued about the price he give me for my cotton;
My buddy, Jake Stone, who went to France with me,  talked too
    big;
They got Jake one night over by the creek...
I ain't gonna forget in a hurry what they done to him.

"No place on earth do I love more sincerely
than old Virginny, the place  where I was born -"
It's a fine place - for white  folks:
But  you'd have to carry me to get me back there.











Not much longer before the election will finally be over. In the meantime, it's impossible to avoid, even in poems.


I stood in my natural state

I stood
in my natural state
in my backyard
at midnight
watching
the moon in its natural state
pass behind a thin veil
of faster passing
clouds

now,
this morning
I am surrounded
by voluptuous women
who smile
and ask me what I want…

my favorite part
of breakfast…

but that is not this morning’s
poem
for this morning’s poem
will be a weighty
thing
and about much more
important
and interesting
things
than being surrounded
by voluptuous
women,
though that might be hard
to imagine…

instead,
this being a political
moment in the universe of the human
comedy, I will write of
stupid people,
who,
like gophers in soft sand
poke their heads into the open air
and go, aaaawk, aaaawk,
like they know something the rest of us
don’t

like
how in a political season
stupid people
strut and preen
seeking to impress the rest of us
at how they can walk
and chew gum,
though, being a work in progress,
their attempts
to apply simultaneity to the walking
and gum chewing
process
leads to more comic
pratfalls
than success

oh, how they seek
to expand the realms
of their stupidity,
bounding up against the borders
of us regular folk
who cannot escape except
through cross-Atlantic
passage
to Greece or Italy
where the numbnuts are institutionalized
and politics makes relative,
if surreal,
sense
 ~~~

'tis the season, no doubt,
for a Mediterranean
vacation, where
the moon shines bright
in its natural state
and voluptuous women
are abounding…

that’s my answer to our current
political crisis
where stupid, like the Great White of “Jaws,”
is on endless and merciless
hunt
in the shallow waters
of good sense…

time to close the beaches,
that’s what we need
to do








Here  we go again, another week complete.

Everry thing here belongs to its creators. My stuff is, as usual, yours for the price of proper credit for me and for "Here and Now." I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog and a poet with books to sell.

Here are places where you can get my books, and with them,  this is not a  promise, but a definite maybe, a possibly life-defining opportunity:

Amaxon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore, most all of the Apple stuff, 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  print-bent, available
at Amazon
and several coffeehouses in San  Antonio
 
 
Seven Beats  a  Second




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