Still having some major template difficulties, real problems in getting text posted. Going to quite trying to fix style issues and
post what I have.
My anthology this week, Reversible Monuments, Comtemporay Mexican Poetry. It was published in 2002 by Copper Canyon Press. It's a bilingual with all poems in both Spanish and English.
Some very good poets here. If it's true that Americans don't read enough poetry, it's equally true that too many American poetry readers limit their reading to their native shores, even though excellent translations are available of poets from all around the world..
My photos this week are a random selection of pictures taken over the course of several years in a number of different places. Many of them are pretty snapshotish, but for the most part I think they haven't been seen here before, or at least not often. I also tried to find photos that I had done minimal process on, though it's true I do some work on all my picture. My problem is, even when I do something I like (like a couple of these this week have a pastel look to them I really like) I can't replicate the effect since I never remember exactly what I did to get it.
one of those old men
If the Dead Came Back
rain all night
Eggs Laid by a Tiger
the other fellow looking back
How Robert Schumann Was Defeated by Demons
eyes of Sister Jude
Making the Grade
first in line
Thirteen Propositions against Trivial Love
explaining it all to my dog Reba
face to face
Sally Van Doren
Sex at Noon Taxes
face to face 2
the lessons of spring
at the doctors
breakfast in Texas where things are as they should be
On the Beach
Return to the City
Conrail Wax Museum
What Do I Do Not Know
Jorge Fernandez Granados
The Promised Land
Sandra M. Gilbert
At Cleopatra Bay
face to face 3
You know who I'm talking about.
car next to me
at the bank’s drive-in teller
in the passenger seat,
line his cheeks
under thin parchment skin,
cut flat, like ironed to his head
in absolute still,
staring straight ahead,
like a skillfully-embalmed
like a wax figure
at the wax museum
on Alamo Plaza,
like an fossil-scared rock standing
atop an ancient hill,
stone turned to flesh
turned to stone
I hope I’m never an old man
like that old man
is an old man
I don’t want to be
one of those old men
who lose track of the world,
who drive 55 on the expressway
because that was the speed limit
in 1957 and that was the right
and it is crazy
to be going any
than that because
will just lead to no good
just like it always
I don’t want to be one of those old men
who complain about the
way young women dress today
while wearing out their
trying to look up every young woman’s
and I don’t want to be
one of those old
who complain all the time
about their feet
or their hemorrhoids or
or how they have to pee
all the time
or how they dribble
when they pee
and how they miss
the soul-satisfying release of a good, strong
when they piss in the morning
and I don’t want to be
one of those
who thinks the longevity of his tenure
on the planet
enhances his right to be an ass
and I don’t want to be one
of those old men
is a measure of wisdom
when in most cases it only encases
the ignorance of his youth
I don’t actually
want to be an old man
but if I must,
I just want to be an old man
glad to be alive,
sitting quiet in corner
thinking about the good life he’s had,
trying to figure out
what his little piece of life means
and how it’s all going
to turn out
when someone writes that short
history of his time
First, from this week's anthology, I have have three poems by Elsa Cross, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Born in Mexico City in 1946, Cross has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has been consistently publishing her poems since the early sixties. She teaches philosophy of religion and comparative mythology at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and has taught workshops and classes in many Mexican cities as well as at the Naropa
Institute in Colorado and Madrid's Universidad Complutense.
Your body is night
descending toward me.
Will for form.
Points of light give order to your profile
on high and far below,
in the narrow and the ample,
in the lost,
in the forgotten,
in what is recovered.
And there is nothing untouched by your presence.
Sometimes you show yourself
and in the moment when I turn
toward your image
Where do you go?
Where are you hiding
all this time lost in returning?
You come in dreams
and when memory tries to capture you
Only your eyes stay for a moment.
And to hold them:
all these labors night and day.
Rope strung over an abyss.
I move along it,
walking with tentative steps,
And if I fell?
And if I fell, what then?
Where can I fall that you are not there?
I decided to use several poems this week from my first book, Seven Beats a Second, published in print in 2005. It was my first book, so it included poems from several years before, maybe as far back as 1998, when I returned to writing, or maybe even the late 1960s when I first published.
The book includes full color art on every page by my collaborator, Vincent Martinez, a friend of my son's and a senior art student at Texas State University a few miles up the road. Originally, each book came with a CD of improvisational jazz-tinged electronica by The Ray Guhn Show Choir produced by my son, Chris Itz, featuring primarily Chris on basses, trombone, and keyboard and his fiend, Andres Londono, on keyboards, electronics, piano, and melodica.
Here's the first of the pieces I'm featuring.
in the dim light
at end of day
I watch you sleep
from the shower
curled on your side
in white linen
like the center
of a fresh sliced peach
in a bowl of sweet cream...
your foot moves
brushes softly against mine
with a quiet rush
of warm air
the sweet breath
of cinnamon dreams
Now I have two poems by Robert Pinsky, taken from his book, Gulf Music, published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Pinsky was born in New Jersey in 1940. He received a BA from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and earned both an MA and PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University, where he was a Stegner Fellow in creative writing.
Widely published as an author of poetry and prose and as a translator, Pinsky's served previously as Poet Laureate of the United States. His other honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, both the William Carlos Williams Award and the Shelley Memorial prize from the Poetry Society of America, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate.
Pinsky has taught at both Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He served as a Chancellor for The Academy of American Poets. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I have heard of Black Irish but I never
Heard of White Catholic or White Jew.
I have heard of "Is Poetry Popular?" but I
Never heard of Lawrence Welk Drove
Sid Caesar Off Television.
I have heard of Kwanzaa but I have
Never heard of Bert Williams,
I have never heard of Will
Rogers or Roger Williams
Or Buck Rogers or Pearl Buck
or Frank Buck or Frank
Merriwell At Yale.
I have heard of Yale but I never
Heard of George W.Bush./
I have heard of Harvard but I
Never heard of Numerus Clausus
Which sounds to me like
Some kind of Pig Latin.
I have heard of the Pig Boy.
I have never heard of the Beastie
Boys or the Scottsboro Boys but I
Have heard singing Boys, what
They were called I forget.
I have never heard America
Singing but I have heard of I
Hear American Singing. I think
It mush have been a book
We had in school, I forget.
If the Dead Came Back
Wheat if the dead came back not only
In the shape of your skull your mouth your hands
The voice inside your mouth the voice inside
Your skull the words in your ears the work in your hands,
What if they came back not only in surnames
Nicknames, names of the dead settlement shtetl pueblo
Not only in cities failed or condemned also countless dead
Peoples languages pantheons stupidities arts,
As we too in turn come back not only acculted
In legends like the conquerors' guilty whispering about
Little People or Old Ones and not only in Indian angles
Of the cowboy's eyes and cheeks in the Dakota molecules
Of his body and acquired antibod8ies, and in the lymphatic
Marshes where your little reed boat floats inches
above the mud of oblivion O foundling in legends
The dead who know the future require a blood offering
Or your one hand accuses the other both lacking any
Sacrifice for the engendering appetites of the dead
A former marine, Rattan, ranches a hundred miles west of Fort Worth near Cisco, a small town of about 3,000. Shortly before this book was published, he retired from the English Department at Cisco Community College. He has three sons, all doctors.
Making the Grade
Living on a flat land ranch
and teaching in a college on a hill
is a simple life. six miles
from the college, I sequester myself
on my principality, but the worlds
are connected. Occasionally the radio
and my tv tell me about the other world -
schedules and such. At night
Fred and Ginger sometimes tap
out messages about up-hill battles.
From my place, I can see the highway
weaving its way up the hills,
connecting the quilt of country
to the college where I am mastered,
often,. Each morning I eye my gate
reluctantly, pierce reality and draw
myself toward a tapestry of minds seemingly
interested only in things as simple as ABC.
Saddling my horse in the early morning
dark, I try to remember how many high-headed
colts have become heavy, resigned old horses
under my saddles. How many times have I
stood at the gate feeling for the latch
fearing a snake might be near. Have I
known where dangers lay? Trotting
out further in the black, I wonder
if my father had such thoughts
on this road. How many times will my sons
wait for the amber glow of morning this was?
When I see the outline off cow and calf
in the beginning light, I put aside
these thoughts one more time.
Uncle Emit died of a mad dog bite
at age nineteen. Fifty-year old Uncle Fred
from a horse who fell backward and drove
a saddle horn through his chest. Uncle
Bob from a heart attack at age forty-two.
Uncle Wade was attacked by his heart
unto death at age fifty-nine. Cousin Ralph
lasted until he was forty-five - heart too.
I'm ahead of the game and feel like a winner,
but cousin Ike, who finished high school,
said he thought there was no point
in my having earned a doctorate if I had to die
too. I nodded slowly and sipped cautiously
another glass of cousin Ralph's homemade wine.
Tumbleweeds cover the fence
outside this west Texas motel.
They have come storming in
with the sand. We look out
from our room to a world
dark as nature. This night
stolen from another world
holds what the wind delivered.
No rain here since early July, very hot and very dry since. Last night was like a vacation on another planet.
rain all night
rain all night…
in the early morning
clear and clean and cool,
every corner, angle and curve
sharp and precise…
in the east, the sun
behind broken black clouds
in a patchwork of spotty
the sky dark blue,
like tempered steel,
polished, deep, gun barrel blue,
the color of
storm showing us its black
back, moving toward
the desert and the mountains…
the downtown valley
under a layer
of daybreak haze,
reaching above the mist,
their jagged heights
against the razor-sharp
the north hills
for a morning ramble
and goats and sheep
and horses and
in new-resplendent green...
summer broke open
and cool breezes
and I’m thinking this is going to be
a very good day
My next anthology poet is Antonio Deltoro, with two poems translated by Christian Viveros-Faune.
Deltoro was born in Mexico City in 1947. He studied economics, is the author of numerous books of poetry and has been on the board of contributors of some of Mexico's most prestigious literary magazines.
Eggs Laid by a Tiger
...marvelously original things
like eggs laid by tigers.
Fascination for what is seen and heard from the heights, in the streets
from the sidewalk.
Hypnosis triggered by a lone footprint in the cement, by the lack of
footprints on the beach,
by an anthill of shoes at the entrance of the subway.
Sadness for shoes orphaned of feet, tracks of the unlucky,
more human still, now that they mean abandonment.
Horror of the shoes left by flight like false leads
for death to enjoy: foreshadowing of casket, bad omens.
Pathos of shoes abandoned amidst the massacre,
of those who fell before their footsteps, more painful even than
Blindness of eyes to brilliant feet, of memory to that shoe
fallen among so many others on the wet street.
Seduction of the feet of dreams, of the feet of laughter.
Bedazzlement of jumping feet, magic of feet in the treetops.
enchantment of feet in the sky when they ascend horizontally, from
Attraction for feet when contemplating you from their soles;
love of the tongue that walks their path.
Freedom of naked toes when they leave their prison,
squirming like bird cubs in search of sustenance,
their nails fossils emerged from the Precambrian era.
Joy of feet liberated from their leather boxes.
Clarity of feet o the beach, echoes of flesh, shadows erased by the sea.
Hallowed be thy feet, eggs laid by a tiger.
I feel alone,like a finger without a hand.
Sunday is a hybrid day, an animal with Saturday feet and a Monday
a no-man's-land breathing boredom, family lunches.
Sunday is card game where no one raises, muted music, after-dinner
Sunday is anachronistic, it runs slowly for fear of cliffs,
Monday's coronary, hell itself; on Sunday the bold bet more than
during the entire week.
Sunday is a day by official decree, a false day.
Sunday is late to rise and early to bed, premature evening, trapped
between walls, dense.
This one, from my book Seven Beats a Second, was written probably about 2002 or 2003.
wore my cowboy hat today
to keep the rain off my head
and my boots, too, for the puddles
reminded of the old days when me
and my colored friend Toby
would shoot pool and drink Pearl beer
in little West Texas highway honky-tonks
that didn't often see a black face
come in the front door, except by mistake
but I was a big sumbitch
and Toby was mean s a snake when riled
and looked it even when he wasn't
so we mostly got along, drank some beer,
played some pool, made a dollar or two
to get us started back on down the road
honky-tonk cowboys is what we were
never punched a cow,
but kicked some ass in our better days
My next two poems are by Philip Levine. I took them from his book, 1933, published in 1981 by Antheneum.
Born in 1928, in Detroit, Levine is best known for his poems about working-class Detroit. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize and recent Poet Laureate of the United States, he taught for over thirty years in the English Department of California State University, Fresno and held teaching positions at other universities, as well.
After the Peace of Ghent
he took the streetcar
half way home, transferring
at Grand Blvd. The sky
hung just above the elms
and ow and then a star
broke through. Near dawn
after the last cigarette,
a warm wind and the snows
hushing, wind tugging
at his long coat.
He started to walk.
The school yard silent,
the first green
shining through, the pond
he skated once, small,
gray floating curls
of newspapers. He climbed
the fence, heaving up
and over. Block after
block of brick flats
and nothing moving until
a cardboard suitcase
spilled its tripe
in the snow.
to say What happened
or Our Father
but he was gone,
the streetlight dimmed
in the first flush of day,
the star gone.
After I die
go out and dig all morning
in the garden working,
your scarred hands
down through the light loam
until you find that root
like wood, like the four
walls of my life,
until you find
the bad penny I paid
the earth, and rub
its face for luck
and shine it with spit
until it glows again.
They would waken
face to face, the windshield
crystaled, the car
so cold they had to get out.
Beyond the apple orchard
where they saw where the dawn sun
fell among plowed fields
in little mounds of shadow
and a small stream ran black below
where the rocks slept.
Her wrists pounding
against it, she rubbed
the water into eyes
and temples, the iron taste
faint on her tongue.
And they'd get going, stopping
for cokes and gas
and cold candy bars all
and when the sun failed
north of Toledo
they were almost there,
the night sky burning
up ahead at River Rouge
like another day.
Now he was gone, the children
grown up and gone
and she back home,
or whatever you would call it,
A wafer of sunlight
on the pillow, and she rose
and heard the mice startled
beneath the floorboards, Washed
in the sink,lit the stove
and waited. Another day
falling into the fields, tufted
like a child's quilt.
Beyond the empty yard
a wall of poplars stared back,
their far sides
still darkness, and beyond,
its teeth dulled with rust,
the harrow tilted
on one frozen wheel, sliding
back to earth.
It was a nice cool morning when I got up, left over from the rain two nights before.
the other fellow looking back
it was cool
when I went outside,
an after-wet morning
with stars bright
a fresh breeze blowing in
from the northeast,
and a 500-frog fanfare
from the creek
is in her shy and hidden phase
so the dark morning
was dark enough to make each star
distinct in it’s part of the sky,
each a fireball,
many with little orbiting litters
of places like mine,
on one, probably more,
people like me, maybe, including one
under a dark alien sky
counting stars, among them
my own, thinking, perhaps like me,
of the other fellow
Next from the anthology, I selected excerpts from a very long poem by Francisco Hernandez. The poem was translated by Christian Viveros-Faune.I'm afraid the poem might not make a lot of sense as I pull it apart, but the quality of the writing is worth any confusion.
Hernandez was born in Veracruz in 1946. He dropped out of school where he was studying engineering and began writing poetry in the 1970s, while earning his living working in advertising. He is widely published and winner of numerous prizes and honors.
I think there's a good chance you'll want to read the whole poem after reading these pieces of it. The whole of the 30-part series of poems are included in the anthology.
from How Robert Schumann Was Defeated by Demons
I see the music of Robert Schumann
like one sees a book, a coin,
or a lamp.
It occupies the room,
settling with feline movements
into a place between my father's memory
and the color of the rug.
Suddenly, dead birds
crash against the windowpanes.
I see Schumann's music
as I write this poem
which grows with the night:
A piano covered with white butterflies.
A river carrying nine hundred violins.
A cello crushed by war machines.
Deformed fingers that caress a book.
(This is how I dream of you, suffer you
sleeplessly, numbed by distant noises.)
When you were born a strange
restlessness invaded the forest.
tiny Beelzebubs poured
Gemini's quicksilver mercury
into a clearing,
and burning unicorns
shook with their galloping
the vertigo of dusk in dissonance.
"This child will be a saint in his own way,"
you father said upon seeing your hands.
"He'll be my intense light," your mother said
with her eyes bandaged.
The table had spikes
and tears sparkled in the walls.
The chapel bells tolled
and no one touched them - not even the wind.
Owls dethroned by crows
intoned your lullaby
and night took you in its arms
like newborn lightning.
The pianist has not fingers.
A light rain falls on the keys.
Bees chase you in the country.
You run, leap, vibrate, jump into the river and,
beneath the water, hear for the first time
the music of your soul.
The rice in the kitchen smells of distant villas
and my children invent better worlds inside their bedrooms.
I sit by a lamp and observe my surroundings:
a fishless lake erupts from the room's center.
The ferns confirm a nostalgia for Borneo
and stretch their suckers toward waves of sound.
the orchestra buries its arms in golden songs,
Casals is a slow path of ashes.
In the window there are clouds descending to hear you.
On the balcony a dove hatches its version of silence.
It is March outside. Sunday wets its fingers in the fountain,
the prout traces the unsteady movement of freshness
and the wind shakes the tree of your music.
The pianist covers the keys with roses.
He doesn't care about their perfume. He does it for their thorns.
Little Clara walks on the beach
at the precise edge of the weaves.
The color of her skin touches the sea foam.
The sea snail learns her words.
Little Clara walks in the woods
with pine needles in her mouth.
A blue made of invisible feathers drifts by.
A wall of ivy rises from the ground.
Little Clara walks in the snow
with her eyes closed and hands open.
Her fingers hold Thuringian flowers,
her eyes are Bengal tigers.
The pianist dreams of drowning;
a wolf of fire devours his hands.
the make the moon turn, the music of Schumann.
To paint a forest, the music of Schumann.
To polish a medal, the music of Schumann.
To bring forth Fridays,the music of Schumann.
To follow the ants, the music of Schumann.
to light bonfires, the music of Schumann.
To make the nightingale sing, the music of Schumann.
to remember Jomi, the music of Schumann.
The pianist searches out harmonies inside the cathedrals.
He finds chicken feet on the altars.
What the dead are missing out on.
an intensely azure sky
with quickened clouds.
Fresh water in the throat.
Yellow flowers in the trees.
The sea is high at noon.
The sea staring north.
A woman's body.
The pianist touches his lover's breasts.
Ships toot their horns, whales moan.
You dream a sustained note.
You dream flowers that become scars.
You dream that your children go crazy and write verse.
You dream the echoing laughter of Felix Mendelssohn.
You dream that your remains are devoured by hyenas.
You dream that you cross the river Mulde
with Little Clara by the hand
and the the entire town sings your music.
Four tall Easter candles illuminate the closed patio.
A lullaby floats in the air.
This is another poem from my first book, Seven Beats a Second, published in print in 2005 and available now at Amazon.
eyes of Sister Jude
like tempered blades
that cut clean through when angry
that weigh and judge
and stand ever alert for betrayal
dark eyes, deep,
softened once for love,
the moistened by a long night's weeping
but only once,
and it was long ago.
I have several poems by Cleatus Rattan from his book The Border, winner of the Texas Review Poetry Prize, published by The Texas Review Press in 2002. He previously won the prize in 1982. He also won the Mesquite Prize in 1996 and the New Texas Poetry Prize in 2002.
It seems the older I get, the faster I want to run, the old sand through the hourglass, time running out thing.
I allow myself
to be rushed too much -
always pushing against an imaginary
clock, thinking if I get there first
someone will say
give me a prize for firstness
I could hang on my wall or laminate
to carry in my wallet
I’ve won that prize
and my wallet’s full
and my wall’s are full
and I don’t remember ever
getting another damn
I think I need
a campaign ribbon
for slow-poker extraordinaire,
snug-a-bug of the month
or an advanced degree - Doctor
of Lackadaisicality -
but I don’t know where to go
to school for that, think maybe there
isn’t even a school for that…
if they ever open one,
I’ll be first in
My next anthology poet is David Huerta.
Huerta was born in Mexico City in 1949. He has published a number of books and is the author of the longest poem ever written in Mexico, Incurable. (A weird kind of distinction.)
He is also a journalist and lectures frequently and coordinates numerous literary workshops. His numerous awards and honors include a Guggenheim fellowship in 1978.
This is kind of a long poem (but not the longest ever written) and it was translated by Mark Schafer.
Thirteen Propositions against Trivial Love
If words are the beginning of action,let us free
words from domestic slavery, filling them with
cancer, with the most toxic and incurable virus,
and let us cast them at the body of trivial love
LUIS FERNANDEZ, El Anarquista Desnudo
Widowed reasons why
"it happens that I grow tired of being a man"
frayed fertile liquid
of the woman I am not; glistening,
crystalline liquid trickling
from the breasts I lack.
Always the enigmas of coitus
with myself: Uroborous,
Mobius strip. Proof
of a heard, of a crowd
that spreads within me
- circulates, wants something: loves, loves itself.
There are women, a bad dream of mine,
dead inside me, tossed like heads of hair.
In photographs of me as a child I am
undifferentiated, a jumbled mass
of throbbing, carnal energy, un-
smiling, unafraid, unneurotic.
Mysteries of my lips beneath my mustache,
imperious and solipsistic, the hairy landscape
of minor characters.
On occasion touch and sweat,
male, my own, upon shadowy flesh
delighted, unfamiliar flesh, parched;
indelible flesh, with a heart,
slender and light, and other millinery beats,
abundant flesh embracing me, my
concrete fictions as a person, my turbulent self.
A drought divides us,
my vetebral flame
and your nervous vertebrae
knew this incessantly.
Oh! Instantaneous chasms
of my appetite, mostly advanced in years
with their thwarted paradises, parasitic
gardens of individualism's hunger
that coldly fingers the skull of the male
its teeth clenched.
Phallus and sperm, great symbols
and tiny adornments of trivial love
- glittering slab on my grown-up loins
But who's interested in blame? On the other hand,
dead scraps of the phallus-eel,
dead scraps of the vulva-cave: Blame
I don't want blame
pinned like a thousand scapulars
to the lining of m mannish skin.
I give my word as a man and how weighty it is,
how it circulates sternly, exudes a muscular and
polite scent of after-you, of walking
on the edge of the sidewalk, of
extending one's hand - nothing but tendons, veins.
My words would
stanch that wound: the
bite of trivial love.
Love, love, still your unchaste step.
This piece is also from Seven Beats a Second. Reba is still with use, but very old, now, and for not much longer we fear.
explaining it all to my dog Reba
head cocked to one side
she stares at me
big brown eyes
hanging on every word
like it was God's own true
revelation she was hearing
and I'm thinking
I'm really on a roll tonight
in the techniques of instruction,
with my own higher-being intelligence
Next, I have several short poems by August Stramm, from the anthology Music while drowning, published in 2003 by Tate Publishing.
While German expressionism is never a fun holiday on the beach, Stramm is one of the less grotesque of his contemporaries. Considered to be one of the first of the expressionists, he was a German poet and playwright, born in 1874 and, as a German soldier in World War I, killed in action in 1915.
Except for the one otherwise noted, the poems were translated from German by Patrick Bridgewater.
Over there a glaring stone shatters
night grains glass
the times stand still
Your walking smiles across to me
rends my heart.
Your nodding hooks and tenses.
In the shadow of your skirt
You sway and sway
my grasping snatches blindly.
The sun laughs!
craven wavering limps away
Heaven films the eye
earth claws the hand
in the stranded hair.
The next poem was translated by Will Stone and Anthony Vivas
Your look cracks
Streams the bleeding over me
Runnels of sea.
You flash and flare.
These little poems were inspired by a book I bought off the remainder shelves at Barnes and Noble, Face to Face, the Art of Portrait Photography.
It's a very large book, with a couple of hundred photographs and I'll probably make a series of poems brought to mind by the photos in the book, and post them as I do them.
At least until I get bored with the idea.
Lucy, Paris, 1990
a hint of teeth…
falling over the corner of her left eye,
staring deep into the camera
Photograph by Paolo Roversi
Fathma, of the Ouled Nail Tribe, C. 1900
by a cloth that falls down
behind her head,
at the side of the photographer,
like a cat
a snake in its gaze
a light cape held by very large, heavy
looking metal ornaments, like
a necklace, but more like
that hang down in front, fastened
to the cape on either side by metal rings
a tiny cross tattooed high on each cheek
directly beneath her eyes;
white lines drawn
from her lips down her chin
maybe a year older or a year younger
tiny nipples, dark aureole's
on dark skin
Photograph by Lehnert and Landrock
Arnd, Remscheid, 1991
into the camera…
the pride of his clan
between his legs
I do not recall his face
Photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans
Albert Einstein in Leather Jacket
dark-rimmed spaniel eyes...
a rake, it is said,
a philanderer, a man of
and frail humanity...
what all goes on inside that head
that I will never
Photograph by Lotte Jacobi
Next from the anthology, I have a poem by Ernesto Lumbreras. Born in Ahualulco Del Mercado in 1966, has written plays for children, artists' monographs and poetry books. He collaborated in the publication of Pristina y ultima piedra, an anthology of Latin American poetry.
In the absence of progress:
0 12 123 1234 12345
The roads toward Poetry evade sijulatio, generality, repetition. They sense in distictions, not a short cut, but the possibility of deviation.
This equivalence seduces me: Poetry = Harmony. I clarify, I am not
talking of order.
The nature of harmony is multiple. The symmetrical is one of its faces,
the most legible of all.
Who sleeps at the foot of a blazing fire - let's reconstruct this image in
our mind - seems to dream a wounded lion.
When we stare at the fire we feel a tutelar presence. If to sing its misery
renews the mire of our mysteries, to confound us with its foliage calms
the soul of the damned.
Poetry calls us together around a bonfire. Places in our heart a seed of
piety. Keeps a black beetle for our eyes.
Some time ago I surprised some children playing in the garden. The
game was very simple. It consisted of forming new species. Thus kept
spring forth, a ant with the back of a centipede, the caterpillar with
the head of a grasshopper, the earthworm with the extremities of a wasp.
Of the game's participants, there was a little girl who hesitated toshow her specimen. With a little penknife, absorbed and nibbling at her lower lip, she was cutting I don't know what. Finally, at everyone's expectation, she permitted us to see her creation: a dandelion with a scorpion's sting.
I, who was watching the children play, imagined my invention: a child covered, to the neck, with dead leaves. His name could not be other: autumn with the face of a child. Idleness suits the maker of poems. But Poetry is not only an accumulation, scholarly handbooks, sucker punches at reason. Poetry is a gradual affair.
This next is an old piece from Seven Beats a Second. I wrote it after Janet Jackson's great boob escape in the Super Bowl halftime show.
in medical news
a loose boob
at the super bowl
across the nation
powers that be
for the five carriers
who actually saw
at said televised
and who are now
and horny little
alone in their
what they wish
as only horny
at the potential
cost of loss
of your miserable
as they may have
they are now
primed with the
at the least
but it's all right
and I know
where I can
get a picture
of that runaway
breast on the
so i'm ok
Here are three short poems by Sally Van Doren. I took them from her book, Sex at Noon Taxes, winner if the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, published by the State University of Louisiana Press in 2007.
Born and raised in St. Louis Missouri, Van Doren teaches creative writing in the St Louis public schools and curates poetry workshops for the St.Louis Poetry Center.
Sex at Noon Taxes
After a painting of the same title by Ed Ruscha
From the ghost town's
fencepost, my lariat ropes
your palindromic peak
and hauls it to our bedroom,
where the timbers arch to hold off
the mountain's hooves - no
avalanche turns snowfall into
the steeds bear us up slope.
We reach the muddy cleft
between Maroon Bells
and Crested Butte,gnawing
on caribou and warmed
liver of once noble elk.
the knuckle off the house
Was flustered. Soot spread
Into its creases,blighting
the thumb pad. The concentric
Ovoids, which once confirmed
Its spiraling identity, flapped
Against the clapboards,
The shutters loosening from their
Pegs. Shovel, blow poke and
Colonial tongs blackened
Under the smoke's panicked
Flood up the stone chimney.
Flames ironed he house's hand
And like kindling, it crackled and split.
The overactive mind can blame the hummingbirds
or the bees which hover in and
around the chuparosa mining the red tubes
for midwinter sustenance.
The sanatorium succeeds
with blue skies and lucid air
the roots of the Smoke Tree finding
water deep below the desert wash.
Breath produces oleander and
bougainvillea, and any encounter
with a cactus is just that; pluck out
the offending needle and
continue. This is the time for succulents
and fan palms; take to the transplant.
Here's a second batch of poems inspired the photography book, Face to Face.
Face to Face 2
Portrait of Isak Denesen, Baroness Blixen, Denmark 1959
are where life resides
and despite the withered skin, sagging
down the plane of her face and the fun house dark
and the fingernails dirty
on a hand of bone sheathed
in thin skin,
are where life
and her eyes
are as full of life as ever
and the spark
of it shines from the wreckage
of her face
facing the world with
curiosity, questions long ask
and she intends to remain
until they’re answered
Photograph by Pierre Boulat
Isabelle Huppert at the Carlton Hotel, Cannes, 1976
looking no different in 1976
than in the movie I saw last night
eyes directly at the camera,
hand holding terry cloth robe
with one hand, hanging low off one shoulder,
small slip of nipple
above the casually draped robe
like tiny pebbles
on a sandy
Photograph by Helmut Newton
Helmut Newton, Paris, 1976
on the edge of a divan,
camera in hand,
large round glasses
a nude reclining
on the divan, black at the joining
of her legs
stark on white skin
down at his shoes,
shined, gleaming in the photographer’s
like the guy at the hardware store
finding a naked woman
lying among the nuts and bolts
and clamps and tools
that are his trade
Photograph by Alice Springs
Mao on Beidaine Beach, China, 1954
Mao on a beach,
shirt buttoned to the neck,
in his long black overcoat
the tide advances, waves crashing
on the beach,
the all-consuming tide
Photograph by Hou Bo
Marilyn Monroe Relaxes Between Two Tales for the Film “The Misfits,” Hollywood, 1960
the sheet, that sheet
not all, but just
the mystery revealed but intact
Next from the anthology I have several pieces by Natalia Toledo.
Born in Juchitan, Oaxaca in 1967, Toledo writes in Aapotee and Spanish. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies of indigenous-language poetry, and she appears frequently at international conferences of indigenous poets. For the last eight years she has worked as a gourmet chef specializing in Oaxacan cuisine, particularly that of the Isthmus of Tehuantepee.
Her poems were translated by Alberto Rios.
Eye in the center of the triangle
of a God who sees nobody.
The hand of Minerva strikes my arm,
long and thin like a water snake.
clot of life.
The eye has a violin:
in what swamp did you leave your cowardly body.
The sweet basil shakes.
the thorn of my skin falls.
at the edges of the river.
Men who swing their balls
over the head of fear.
(she sold food, made candies, and in her youth rode horses)
In the seacoast alley
next to the orange flamboyant tree
lives Na Aurea singing
in a corridor of wide walls and gray balconies
solitude and her voice:
a house full of lime and aloe plants.
While she sleeps the firewood burns
in a clay oven.
Na Aurea's happiness is
all the drums entering the church
an everlasting assembly of crickets.
Na Auara's happiness is
the cry of a forgotten mermaid.
Calm and lit up
in her eyes and hands.
Being alpha and omega
of all the skies that do not begin, do not end.
Saint Teresa child of the sea makes herself present
to gather from your hands the withered sweet basil,
the purple onion, the lemons dark
with gloomy skins.
With the breath from your lips
you blow the dust from the eyes,
you give back color and joy,
you free the fever from the body
and sweat begins to find the senses.
Here's another old piece from Seven Beats a Second.
the lessons of spring
new buds, tight
like little baby fists,
emerge as seasons prepare
to pass, as another year
begins to slip away,
like a river flowing
past the markers of my life,
passing by in the silence
of already done,
our piece of the river,
the cool and wet of the river
that was the better part
of all I knew, passing
in ripples and eddies
that swirl and bubble,
and are gone
new buds that will flower
with or without me
is among the lessons of spring
Here are several short poems by Ivy Alvarez, from her book Mortal, published in 2006 by Red Morning Press.
Born in the Philippines, Alvarez grew up in Tasmania and now lives in Wales. She has held fellowships to both the MacDowell Colony and Hawthonden Castle.
they had to unzip me
to let the cat
out the bag
blood bathed my belly
and baby Seph
I stopped counting stitches
forgave the marring
of my clean envelope
when her suckling cry
murmured at my neck
when the blood in my body
turned to milk
and her gums
took my flesh
her first teeth
nipping like a cat
door crack look
my mother's open mouth
the smell of ink
between my toes
her side wound is a gill
for lost oxygen
and the time
before it got caught
at the doctors
she asks you to take your clothes off
lie down on the bed
you can paper your nakedness if you wish
the robe is a joke
you both know what you look like
the horns of bread-sellers blow
to greet the dawn
who herald the warm pandesal in baskets
bread crumbs crust their fingers
gritty as sand
a sleep-crusted morning
washed down with gritty coffee
the bread yeast smell
like a lazy sun
the bread in my mouth
the sun in my eyes
Looked through my "Face to Face" photography book this morning, looking for inspiration. Finding none, I decided to be inspired by my breakfast instead.
breakfast in Texas where things are as they should be
having a basic Texas born-and-bred urge
for a real Tex-Mex breakfast
and my regular breakfast place,
being of Colorado origin
and a victim of the black bean fallacy,
I did a Marty McFly
and returned to one of my back-to-the-future
of yore, a traditional Texas diner
where the role of the pinto bean
is recognized and
as the centerpiece of Mexican cooking,
not some yuppie, mountain-based
bean of the night,
beloved in those states southwest
so shy when it comes to their Mexican
preferring, instead, to identify their cuisine
with the Spanish imperialists
and their conquistadors,
black bean eaters, all of them,
not like those proud
native to the lands
along with their simple pinto bean
by the colonial priests
and their soldier
and how proud I am this morning
to be in Texas,
where the conquered conquered
eating my huevos rancheros
and refried pinto
in true Tex-Mex fashion,
in a restaurant where no black bean
has ever passed through
My next poet from the anthology is Manuel Ulacia.
Born in 1953, Ulacia received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He was a poet,critic, and translator. He died in 2000, drowned while swimming in the ocean in Zahuantenejo.
The poems were translated by Indran Amirthanayagam.
On the Beach
On the beach
words of salt and spray
The sea's waves
name the earth.
Perhaps all that's lacking
is a change of light
on the water's surface,
that meets another glance
to leave behind,
without knowing it,
a sure world.
You were on the bank of the pond
watching the small sailing ships
when He invited you to go deep into the wood.
And without saying a word,
iron after the call of the magnet,
you followed him in.
how much sun spilled
among the green branches,
how much pleasure while your legs
trembled with fear.
Today you remember neither his name nor face.
Perhaps the only trace left imprinted by time
is that smell of tobacco and eau de cologne,
which for fifteen years has stayed with you
through all the cities, and is now is none.
Return to the City
The light among the leaves -
and I regain my childhood...
Everything changes - my father said on the street called 5 de mayo.
I saw the evening flee in flocks of clouds.
Conrail Wax Museum
Sitting on the train,
irritated by the daily monotony -
from suburb to city,
(from city to suburb -
Next stop Westcoast,
he opened the New York Times,
she a gourmet magazine,
stations forever seen and forgotten,
pages rubbed out
like the railroad tracks in the landscape.
Soon, sleep overcame him;
in front, some young people were kissing,
tears sustained the woman's face,
night breathed through the window.
And she thought how desire had once dwelled
in him too, as she turned the pages:
Goose au citron, feet strung up.
Again, from Seven Beats a Second, my book from 2005. (Available at Amazon)
What Do I Do Not Know
I do not know
the price of tea in China.
I do not know
the effect of super string theory
on the certitudes of revealed religion.
I do not know
the square root of twenty seven thousand
three hundred and forty three.
I do not know
how Superman can circle the world at
the speed of light causing the world to
reverse in its rotation so that he can save
Lois Lane by backward go time making.
I don't get that at all.
What else do I do not know?
I do not know
how a hummingbird can fly so fast
and not run into trees and things and
I do no know
how pelicans can fly at all, front-loaded
as they are with fish and salt water and god
knows what else in their droopy pelican cheeks.
Many lesser things I do not know,
curiosities, facts and fiction, trivial pursuits
good for crossword puzzles and nothing else.
And the other things I do not know.
How love grows
and why it fades,
why hearts break and
how they're mended,
why we laugh
and why we cry,
how we grow
and when I'll die.
All these important things I do not know
and probably never will.
So what do I know?
Well, that's a subject for
This poem, you see, is about what
I do not know.
Next I have fragments from the surviving works of the Greek poet Sappho, the only woman whose poetry has come down to us from antiquity. The fragments are from The Love Songs of Sappho, a Signet Classic published in 1966.
According to Page duBois who wrote the introduction to the book, Sappho is unique in that she "sings not of work and war, not of the instrumentalizing of the body, but of the individual and her subjective body, of 'the most beautiful,' of erotic desire and yearning.
I Am Glad To Say
Andromeda has been prettily paid back
Alcaeus to Sappho
violet-decked,virtuous ,honey-sweet smiling Sappho,
I've something tell you - ah! - shame stops me.
Sappho to Alcaeus
If you were after the good and the fair, sir,
and your tongue were not concocting a guilty message,
You wouldn't have shame in your eyes, sir,
But say your say like an honest man.
Fair is fair, young man, but only meets the eye.
Good is fair as well, or will be by and by.
So, You Fine Youth
Stand up and face me
friend to friend
Uncover me that charm
within your eyes
No! It Wouldn't Work
If you love me choose a younger
partner for your bed and board:
I could not bear to live, and elder
woman with a younger lord
The Lean Months
Four months of continence -
I've never found you quite so boring yet
A Pretty Thing
But need you be
quite so proud
of a ring?
I Loved It
When the gentle feet of the Cretan girls
Danced in tune round some intimate shrine
Treading he smooth soft bloom of the lawn
And the moon rose clear and full
On girls grouped round the altar
That night of ours.
O, I can tell you
I begged it could be doubled
I See It Still and Feel It: The
...shall be to me
...shining back at me
I'm 68 years old, edging up on 69, not so old these days, but old as the oldest hills around in my youth. I still carry that perception and think more about mortality than I ever did as young man. I doubt that makes me particularly unique as far as the older contingent goes.
I caught myself
thinking about the future
for a man my age whose
future is measured
in short blocks
and three day weekends
it’s a habit -
done it all my life,
the future a tangible,
reachable series of events,
no matter what my current situation,
a promise of life’s constant
it’s the greatest loss
of age, forget the sagging muscles,
the dimming vision, lagging vitality and
the mind that limps along on a fog-bound path,
where it once raced in the clear sunshine of
things known now forgotten,
where once there was clarity,
in a mind once known for its capacity
to decipher complexity
and decide on the run with insight
those losses bad,
but not the worst, the worst is the blank wall
where once the pathway shone in a light of glorious possibility
what do I wish most to have again
from my youth…
not youth itself,
but the future that as a youth
I assumed would always
some would ask - but I never cared
because I knew a next
was coming and that assurance
was all I required
This is the last poem this week from the anthology. It is by Jorge Fernandez Granados.
Granados has five published books of poetry, one of which won the Jaime Sabines International Poetry Prize in 1995 two which received the Aguascalientes National Poetry Prize in 2000.
His poem was translated by John Oliver Simon.
The Promised Land
A man wanted to see the world
that was always far away.
He bought a huge canvas suitcase
and a notebook, which would be
his future traveler's journal,
a gray hat with a rain-sheath, a cheap ticket,
and the most expensive dictionary.
Several times across the course of his life
he found himself in other lands
on the far side of his own country.
Travel was the ritual of his savings.
He was clumsy and emotional, eager
to look with odd childish indulgences.
His heart was a mixture
of lyricism,cruelty, business, and prayer.
Gradually, he filled up the house
with fans, coins, and carpets
with a large globe of the world, an emblem
of his instinctive love for voyaging.
But the best part was the coming home:
the elaborate booty of his eloquence
around the stupor of after-dinner conversations;
ramparts, archipelagoes, sarcophagi, and lions,
palaces in the snow, kingdoms
which promised only in his words
tdhe magnitude of an adventure
more truthful in his head
than in the poor mirror
He traveled as long as his legs would carry him;
but is memory kept the foreign names
on a string.
When he was old, he bought a large tomb
in the cemetery of Xihaulpa,
the town where he had lived all his life.
He put an expensive iron fence around it,
painted it white, and cut the grass
every year after that
as if he were caring for his own home.
He died the last night of Apri8l
three months after becoming a widower.
we buried him in his tomb,
which, thanks to him, was a lovely place,
and from there you can see his town
of short, brown people
who are always carrying something on their shoulders
and always in a hurry.
His death will be full of rain
facing the fields of maguey,
the church and the old plaza,
and the oyamel trees on the dark mountain.
This is my last poem this week from Seven Beats a Second. Though the book was published in 2005, the poem was written either after the stolen election of 2000 or the follow-up election of 2004, the second time a man I knew from personal experience was unworthy was up into office over better men.
This is one of the longer poems in the books.
my mind is blind
to the crisp autumn sky
and the creek running clear
and the squirrel
teasing my dog,
a backyard clown
mocking the quivering
of a small dog
facing a large world
my eyes see none of this,
for like a fist
clenched tight on itself
I am closed to all but anger,
a simmering constant
since the last election,
not just at the loss
of mine against theirs
but at the outcome
as a symptom
of the nature of my life
in these later years,
like a liftime
of being on the wrong side
I feel the passing of time now
like never before
time and opportunity
like space lost
like water squeezed
from a cloth,
disappearing in an eddy
down a drain,
leaving an approximation of me
to fill the place I had before
until the day I need no space at all
as I read the obituaries in the morning
orstand at the grave of my father
as I did last week in a park
green with the growth of recent rain,
I cannot reconcile the contradictions
of death and life, how the life I see
in the obituary photos and thelight
I remember in my father's eyes
can disappear in an on-rush of dark,
one miute to the next, life to death,
how it is that I,too, will some day slip
into that vortex of night and never return
I think of the eternal nature of atoms
and how they combine and recombine
over uncountable eons to create
illusions of form an
in some of thsoe illusionary constructs
a spark of life and consciousness
and beings like you and me
and all those whose obituaries
I read every morning
and my father, dead 25 years,
the illusionn of him gone forever
to seed the soil he lies in
and the grass and trees and clouds
over his head and, someday,
in the great recycling that brings
all the old to something new,
perhaps another form of life
and a sense of self and universe
outside of self that is the cradle
where rests the truth, for life to last
forever, we must over and over die
The last poem from my library this week is by Sandra M. Gilbert. It's taken from her book, Kissing the Bread - New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 2000.
Born in New York City in 1936, Gilbert received her B. A. from Cornell University, her M. A. from New York University, and her Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University in 1968. She has taught at California State University, Hayward, Williams College, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, and Indiana University. She held the C. Barnwell Straut Chair of English at Princeton University from 1985 until 1989. Most recently she was named the inaugural M. H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor at Cornell University for spring 2007, as well as the Lurie Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Creative Writing MFA program at San Jose State University for spring 2009.
At Cleopatra Bay
where the great yachts pause, and the smaller craft,
the Turkish boatmen say
She stopped here once.
and I struggle to see the fire of her barge
standing among the outboard motors,
the para sailors, the day-trippers,
as if she and her straining mariners
might drift from the Mediterranean sky
englobed in gold,, or better still
explode from the cold
where the sunken cities loll,
her handsome imperious face,
with its lith cruel brows, tipped eyes,
lips that taste of bitter leaves,
unmoved by our futuristic engine-grind.
Three thousand years - a splash of centuries -
and the bay is still the same,
the rocky coves where dabs of fish
stitch little seams of light and dark,
the feathery southern pines
that stoop above the streams they shadow
as if searching for new images
through mirrors of themselves,
the spit of sunstruck island where perhaps
she might have walked an hour among
trivial grasses, armguards flashing
as she took the measure of her men -
Then Ahmet breaks the spell,
"Everywhere you turn around here
there's another place they swear she stopped,
every other inlet brags
it's Cleopatra bay!"
she was everywhere, is nowhere.
There are no footfalls
on the vanished stair,
the drowned landing.
Here are my last pieces for this week inspired by my Face to Face book of portraits.
face to face 3
Alice Liddell as “The Beggar Maid” - c. 1858
the ragged dress,
the insolent pose, the bare dirty feet
(such big feet for such a little girl)
and the thin face, eyes challenging
the man of stories,
such stories to grow from these dark eyes,
of crocodiles and pirates and lost boys
and a boy who can fly
and another little girl
who needs only
Photograph by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodson)
Untitled (Girlfriend) 1993
and burning eyes and
long black hair,
parted in the middle and hanging
over her shoulder, fluffy blouse
and jeans and sandals
posed on a motorcycle a challenge
to any man brave enough
to ride, brave enough, even,
to ride with
Photograph by Richard Prince
Auguste Rodin, 1907
and bearded white
in a pose approximate
to the one he made that all know
not the pose of a thinking man,
but of a man who thought
and found his
and plans now its execution
Photograph by Edward Steichen
Moro del Rif (Moor of the Rif) 1909-1915
wrapped in robe,
wide striped, and headdress,
seen only in sharp profile,
that small part not
young, strong, straight nose,
full lips, tight together,
eyes looking back at the photographer,
and a large black tassel,
like a black flower, attached to
his robes, his head dress, a black strap
hung over his should, very had to see,
attached maybe to a water
bottle, a firearm, a map case, a black
strap with a black tassel, another
mystery like his barely seen
Photograph by Jose Ortiz-Echague
Edith Sitwell, 1962
she looks down
in near-shut eyes,
the effect, with her long sharp nose
and a head wrap, tight to her head in the back,
rising to some large lump of black
something directly over her forehead,
her whole thin face following the path
of her downcast eyes, is like a tall great building,
the work, like the great cathedrals of Europe, work
of generations of master builders and peasant labor,
tilting from the wind or age or geologic shift
or some architect’s grievous error -
all together striking, not ugly striking
like the wicked witch
of the west was striking in similar appearance
before her denouement
in watery melt,
but striking like you might imagine
the Queen-Mother Hera contemplating
the feats and follies of her immortal sons
hands clasped under her chin,
long thin fingers tight wrapped
large-stoned rings on several
wealth, or, depending on the stones,
pretension of it
Photograph by Cecil Beaton
We're done for the week.
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Places and Spaces
Always to the Light
Goes Around, Comes Around
Pushing Clouds Against the Wind
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Seven Beats a Second