The Worldwide Web   Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My anthology this week is World Poetry: An Anthology of verse from Antiquity to Our Time. If you are poetry reader, I recommend it to you, 1,300 pages of poetry from all over the world for over 5,000 years, available on Amazon as little as under $4.00 in used hardback ($15.00 new). Poetry as another kind of worldwide web,  stretching through all of human history (and pre-history) wherever humans were and are today.

Also this week, other poets, and my own stuff, a little more of me than usual because I wanted to.

Here's the bunch of us.

a hairbreadth

Ki no Tsurayuki
Three Poems on Spring Blossoms

Lady Ise
Four Poems

 Laurie Lico Albanese
Man Enough

the creators

too much time on Facebook

Pierre Reverdy
Endless Journeys

the gift

Meg Kearney

about the equine prone on the living room carpet

Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You in the Fields

bus stop passions

they’re making things too dern small

the dimmest star brighter than all our philosophies

Langston Hughes
Mother to Son

Dylan Thomas
In My Craft of Sullen Art

Philip Larkin

a ride in the Intestinal Falcon

Georg Heym
Final Vigil

Giuseppe Giocchino Belli

rain at midnight

American Indian and African poems

working  in the trades

Barney Nelson
Gettin'  On 

nothing ever changes

Marge  Piercy 
For shelter and beyond

Monday morning


I wrote this last week, after, apparently, exceeding my maximum daily dose of Facebook, the land where all the crazy people unfettered. The experience does make one wonder if there's hope for the human race.

a hairbreadth

pale, thin crescent
of a moon last night,
bad news
for those of us who look to the moon
as a forerunner for the day

dark night
overcoming the airless struggle
of the virgin bride
to shine
just as lunacy
is the ever-spreading rape of our time

there is no goodness in our day,
like the dark side of the moon,
the unseen ruler of our
time and tides…

it is today
as if the moon turned
its back side to us,
all its dark and hidden secrets,
its reflected glow
of solar
turned away from us forever

this is the perversity
of our time,
we deny the light; reach
for the darkest of all dark shadows

swallow the gun
our fingers hovering
a hairbreadth from the

Here are the first couple of pieces from my anthology this week, World Poetry. The pieces are in Part III of the book, "The Postclassical World." The poets are Japanese, from pages 276 and 277 of the 1,200 plus page book.

The first poet is Ki no Tsurayuki, born in 872 and died  in 945.

Three Poems on Spring Blossoms


On a spring hillside
     I took lodging for the night;
and as I slept
     the blossoms kept on falling -
even in the midst of my dreams

        (Translation by Steven D. Carter)


The hue is rich
     and the perfume is fragrant
          as in days gone by,
but how I long for a glimpse
     of the one who planted the tree.


The wind that scatters
     cherry blossoms from their boughs
          is not a cold wind -
and the sky has never known
     snow  flurries like these.

          (Both poems above translated by Helen Craig McCullough)

The next poems are by Lady Ise, who lived from, approximately, 875 to 938. The poems were translated by Etsuko Terasaki with Irma Brandeis.

Four Poems

Lightly forsaking
the Spring mist as it  rises,
the wild geese are setting off.
Have they learned to live
in a flowerless country ?

Because we suspected
the pillow would say "I know,"
we slept without it.
Nevertheless my name
is being bandied like dust.

A flower of waves
blossoms in the distance
and ripples shoreward
as though a breeze had quickened
the sea and set it blooming.

If it  is you, there
in the light  boat on the pond,
I long to beg you
"Do not go; linger a while
among us here in this  place."

I have two poems by Laurie Lico Albanese, taken from her book, Blue Suburbia, Almost  a Memoir. The book was published in 2004 by Harper Collins.

Albanese teaches creative writing to children in the Montclair, New Jersey school system. In addition to her poetry,  she published a novel, Lynelle by the Sea, and was awarded the 1997-98 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in fiction.

Man Enough

There, next to the car
is the scar
of our fight

a deep hole
from the night
Nick shouted at me

to back off, shut up
leave him alone
but I wouldn't

I followed him outside
until he slammed a fist
through the wall

Is this what you want?
Does this make you happy?
Is this man enough for you?

What is man enough for me
is not Nick
with his schoolbooks
and his glasses
and his cards
full of sloppy handwriting?

Nick at the threshold
of our bedroom
with Melinda in his arms
and a dishrag
over this shoulder.

Nick in the hollow
of our garage
where we stand
under wood beams
near the dark hole

splintered, trembling

our past harms
and undone
again and again.


My father
didn't go to his father's deathbed
in Florida

Dad said,
if I fly down there,
he'll  think he's

my grandfather
was ninety-two

he knew
he was

he knew
his son
didn't come
to say good-bye

only the two of them
knew why

maybe it had
something to do
with the way the old man
hit my dad
with a closed fist
year after year

or the fact
that he beat my grandmother
and left her
on the kitchen floor

maybe that was all there was.

This next piece is several  years old. I wrote it as a reminder to the debts all artist  owe to others. Today, I think I would direct it equally to a certain Republican candidate and to those who can't get past their adolescent love affair with Ayn Rand.

the creators

where wealth is
there are
calloused and dirty
from their work,
who created it

where wealth is
there is art,
by those same worn hands,
even though
they my never read a poem
or view an artist's painting

knew this, as did
and a few others

should remember it

all the art
we try to do
is created on the backs
of others

Here's a rant from last week.

There's really a lot of craziness in the air, reminding me of growing up in South Texas in the years leading up  to the assassination.

too much time on Facebook

too much time
on Facebook…

my god, the
lies and lies and lies -
what chance for the future
does a culture have
when facts have become lies
created for political
when up is down
if it suits your purpose,
when black is white
and a partisan can blame the
tragic depletion
of white
on political opponents

what do we do
when facts are captured
by possessive pronouns,
“my facts” versus “your facts,”
when facts are presumed
to take sides,
and, by god, when they don’t
take the right side,
we’ll just toss them out,
make some new ones that better serve us

how can we survive in a world
where people can
so hate
that they blind themselves to all conflicting truth
and find pride in their ignorance

like people who so hate rain
they will not
acknowledge the rising waters; people
who would rather
than admit the wet…


this morning
too much time on Facebook
where the inmates,
having overpowered their institutional
roam free
and unfettered in fantasies of their own creation

if this is the future
I don’t think I like it

Next from this weeks anthology of world poetry, I move forward in time and in the book to Part VIII: The Twenthieth Century, for a poem by French poet, Pierre Reverdy.
Reverdy, whose works were inspired by and subsequently proceeded to influence the provocative art movements of the day, Surrealism, Dadaism and Cubism. He was born in 1889 and died in 1960.
His poem was traslated by John Ashbery.

Endless Journeys

All those seen from behind who were moving away singing
Who had been seen passing along the river
Where even the reeds repeated their prayers
Which the birds took up louder and farther on
They are the first to arriveand will not go away
They counted each step of the road
Which vanished as they went along
                     They walked on the hard rock
At the edge of the fields they stopped
At the edge of the water they slaked their thirst
        Their feet raised a cloud of dust
And it was a coat embroidered by the sunlight
All who were going away
walking in that desert
And for whom the sky had now opened
Were still looking for the  tip of land at the world's end
The wind that pushed them continued on its rounds
       And the door closed again
A black door

Here's another poem from last week.

I'm struck by how many people avoid the subject of death, as if it did not apply to them.

the gift

my wife says
I am obsessed with
death; but that’s not true, I just,
as each year passes,
become more attuned
to my own mortality; I am flesh
and as flesh I will die
and each year I begin to understand
a little better
what that means,
that death
is the sum of life
and there is no avoiding
the final tally…

I do not fear
death, no more than
I fear the end of a book - a story,
once told has to end, good
or bad, the end is the end, and
there are no sequels

and I’m fine with that,
hoping, as I do
with every book, for a
happy ending,
that the end of my book
is not the end of all books
and that my story
is only one of millions
in a vast library of stories,
many better,
many worse, but all
never to be read
that I will lie in the end
on a dusty shelve
with all the others, the tattered
and worn company
of all the lost
and gone forever

but while the story lasts
I don’t know a better way
to live it
than to welcome each new sunrise
as the unearned gift
of another chapter, to understand
that though the final coda
will certainly come, the time for it
is not now -

for there is still another page
to read

Here's a poem by Meg Kearney, from her book, An Unkindness of Ravens. The book was published in 2001 by the BOA Editions, Ltd.


Nothing has changed after thirty-
nine years. The grown children
have come home for dinner. Each
sits in the usual seat, disliking
mushrooms, hogging the garlic
bread. They say grace, pass
the pepper. Slat has never been
allowed on this table, though
the youngest daughter will
fetch it from the kitchen cabinet
for a guest. Mother has barely
touched her food as she passes
the chicken and string beans
for a second time, urging, Eat.
Eat. Someone says Why don't you
eat. Someone says This is
delicious, and the rest nod.
Then the unsteady hand spills
the wine, a Rorschach test
spreading its red blotch across
the tablecloth. Each of them
sees the same thing. the phone
rings they go on eating. Someone
says get a sponge. The phone
goes silent. Someone says
it might come out in the wash.

Here's a poem from last week. I wrote a poem earlier that I was really not happy with, and made the comment when posting it on my regular forum that I was going to work on it more.

The next poem, written a day later, expresses my feeling about re-writes.

about the equine prone on the living room carpet
this poem,
whatever it turns out to be,
will be only whatever
it turns out to be
and that will be the end of it…

thus fitting my working definition
of my poems, there being
those written
and those being writ, with
no intermediate category
of poems in need of repair,
which is also
a pretty good example of my general
approach to life -

I do,
and then I am done

there is no reverse gear
in my transmission,
can’t be a backward-looker
in a forest
crowded with trees
since no one ever ran into a
tree they’ve already passed -
It being
only the ones ahead
that might obstruct you…

and it’s the same
with choices-past which cannot be
unchosen, or with poems
that cannot be unwrit

the poem i write
will be the poem I wrote,
all its value to me
in its writing
and there are too many poems
in the universe
waiting for me, waiting
to be writ
and too much passion
possible in their writing
to worry about stragglers…

but now,
I have committed
to rewriting a poem,
and I am sorry I did
since cabbage,
once chewed, incites
no interest, much less passion,
in me

and a poem with a broken leg
just needs to be shot, given
the same merciful ending
as you would give
a mortally wounded
given what I said I would do,
I will try to breathe some life back
into that prone equine
sprawled on the carpet in the middle
of the living room…

but don’t be surprised
if you hear
a gunshot from behind
the barn, one shot,
possibly two, since this poem
is limping,
more than I like

Next, we jump into the way back machine for a return to Part I of the world poetry anthology, "Poets of the Bronze and Iron Ages (2200-250 B.C.). The poem, a three to four thousand year-old love poem, is by an anonymous poet from "Sumer and the Ancient Near East," including, as defined, in the anthology, Akkadian, Old Babylonian, and Assyrian; Egypt; poetry from the Hebrew bible; Archaic Greek Poetry and the Homeric Tradition.

The poem is from the period 1567-1085 B.C. and was translated by Ezra  Pound and Noel Stock.

Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You in the Fields
          from Conversations in Courtship

you, mine, my love,
My heart strives to reach the heights of your love.

See, sweet, the bird-trap set with my own  hand.

See the birds of Punt,
Perfume a-wing
                         Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt.

Let us watch my handiwork,
The two of us together in the fields.

The shrill of the wild goose
Unable to resist
The temptation of my bait.

While I, in a tangle of love,
Unable to break free,
Must watch the bird carry away my nets.

and when my mother returns, loaded with birds,
And finds me empty-handed
what shall I say?

That I caught no birds?
That I myself was caught in your net?

Even when the birds rise
Wave mass on wave mass in great  flight
I see nothing, I am blind
Caught up  as I am and carried away
Two hearts obedient in their beating
My life caught up with yours
Your beauty the binding.

Without your love, my heart would beat no more;
Without your love, sweet cake seems only salt;
Without your love, sweet "shedeh" turns to bile.
O listen, darling, my heart's life needs you to love;
For when you breathe, mine is the heart that beats.

With candour  I  confess my love;
I love  you, yes, and wish to love you closer;
As mistress of your house,
Your arm placed over mine.

Alas our eyes are loose.
I tell my heart: "My lord
He has moved away,  During
The night moved away
And left me. I am like a tomb."
And I wonder: Is there no sensation
Left, when you come to me?
Nothing at all?

Alas those eyes which lead you astray,
Forever on the loose.
And  yet I confess with candour
That no matter where else they roam
If they roam towards me
I enter into life.

This is an old poem, another of my book rejects.

bus stop passions

I've seen him
in the neighborhood,
a broad smile,
a friendly nod
as he passes -
still an air
of  strangeness

he's standing
in a  small pasture
by Apache Creek,
about fifty yards
form a bus stop

he is,
very tall,
long thin legs
in blue, bluejeans,
wide white strip
above his feet
where his pant legs
are rolled up
like it was 1957
all over

he stands straight
like a high
jutting out
like sails
in a heavy wind

open before him
a large,
heavy-looking book
hard-bound book

a true
tome of a book

reading it seems


disclaiming  his
to the wind

for the bus

Feeling like doing book rejects this week, so here's another for its moment in the sun.

They're making things too dern small

they're just making things
too dern small


and the worst blow of all,
The Rolling Stone

by actual count,
well, not exactly count, but
by actual estimate, there
are 347 music magazines on the racks,
every cover featuring 
very ugly men
tattooed in-
cushioned women...

used to be
The Rolling Stone,
in its large  coffee table format, was
easy to spot amongst the detritus,
but now that they've sized-down
I have to look  at every one
of the 347 to find it

at least
I can still go home
and look at my new giant TV

too bad the shows
are all so

Here's something I don't think I've ever done here, a before and after version of a poem.

I wrote the original poem last week, didn't  like it and committed myself to a rewrite. The "prone horse" poem above was my reaction to the task of rewriting I had committed myself too. As the poem says, I don't like to rewrite.

But I did, two days later and here's the product. The first poem is the rewritten version, the second poem the original. Not sure either the original or the rewrite worth the effort.

the dimmest star brighter than all our philosophies

the rewrite

the clouds this morning
were thin and patchy,
passing fast,
and above them, covered,
then clear, then covered again,
an open sky, clusters
of stars shining
in the infinite

contrasting a frustrating discussion
with an intense Christian, whose ancient text
she believes to be literal truth
about a creature, an immortal, who created
her in his exact image, who listens
to her every breath, who responds
to her every call, who walks with her
through every daily chore, with her
down her every daily path,
who clears that trail for her,
marks the way,
and anticipates her every step…

i believe none of that,
having no faith in magic
or magical creatures,
and do not understand how
anyone can stand on a hilltop at night
and lift their heads to the sky
to see the vast dark mysteries that surround us,
to see the so-far lights bright in the dark,
to see the stars
that signal with their light
the possibilities
of so much more
then we can imagine, to see all this
and then still choose to settle
for myth and fantasy
when the reality of the real
is so much more beautiful
and grand and awe-inspiring
than the tiny corner of magic believers
allot themselves, that small place
where they fold themselves into
a submissive crouch,
forbidding themselves
to ever raise their head and
see all the wonders unimagined in their book……

our conflict, which seems inevitable
even as I seek to avoid it is,
that in their tightly-wrapped life
ever question is a threat, whereas
I live within the framework
of a universe where questions
are the very purpose of it all…

the only answer to this divide
is respect - so hard for True Believers
to extend to those who do not
believe, who threaten by the simple act
of disbelief

the original

the clouds this morning
were thin and patchy,
passing fast,
behind them, covered,
then clear, then covered again,
was an open sky, clusters
of stars shining
in the infinite

contrasting a frustrating discussion
with a very strong believer
in the God, whose ancient, often
edited and rewritten, text
she believes to be literal truth
about a creature, an immortal who created
her in his exact image, with fingers and toes
like her fingers and toes, with white hair
and a long white beard and blue eyes, coincidentally,
or maybe not, the exact same shade of blue
as hers…

I understand the fear of people, and the need
because of that fear to create
a greater, grander version of themselves
as a comfort in the night, a protector,
familiar to them as their own mirror reflection,
be-robed, tall and straight and powerful,
at home in the gardens of a magnificent palace
in the cloud…

our conflict, which seems inevitable
even as I seek to avoid it is,
is that in their tightly-wrapped life
ever question is a threat, whereas
I live within the framework
of a universe where questions
are the very purpose of it all…

I do not believe in magic
or in the existence of magical creatures
and do not understand how
anyone can stand on a hilltop at night
and lift their heads to the sky
to see the vast dark mysteries that surround us,
to see the so-far lights bright in the dark,
to see the stars
that signal with their light
the possibilities
of so much more
then we can imagine, to see all this
and then still choose to settle for some
threadbare magician, some traveling
snake-oil trickster on a fold-up
stage, seems incomprehensible to me,
the real universe, to me, so much more
wonderful and awe-filling than the
tiny corner these believers allot themselves, that small place
where they fold themselves into a submissive crouch,
forbidding themselves
to ever raise their head and
see all the wonders unimagined in their book…

the only answer to this divide
is respect - so hard for True Believers
to extend to those who do not
believe, who threaten by the simple act
of disbelief

From the ancients in the World Poetry anthology, to Part VIII. Twentieth Century, Section III, Modern Poetry in English, I have three poets.

The first is Langston Hughes, born in 1902 and died in 1967.

Mother to Son

Well,son, I'll tell you:
Life for me aint' been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
and splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no caret on the floor -
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there  ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now -
For I'se  still goin', honey.
I'se still  climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

The second of the three twentieth century poets writing in English is Dylan Thomas, (1914-1953)

In My Craft of Sullen Art

In my craft of sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When  only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all  their  griefs in their arms,
I  labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
Or the ivory stages
But for the common wafes
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these  spendthrift pages
Nor for the towering  dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

And last from Part VIII of the anthology, Philip Lakin (1922-1985).


There is an evening coming  in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.

Silken it  seems at a  distance, yet
When it  is drawn up  over the knees and breasts
It brings no comfort.

Where has the tree gone, that  locked
Earth to  the sky? What is under my hands,
That I cannot feel?

What loads my hands down?

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

a ride in the Intestinal Falcon

they let me watch
the procedure on  TV
as they were doing it,
kinda cool...
reminded me of that art
of the first Star  Wars
when Han Solo hid himself
and his ship
the Millennium Falcon
and the princess and the rest
from the Imperial evil-doer whosits
who were chasing them
in those little bug-looking ships
and of course it wasn't a cave
but a gigantic worm's
gigantic worm hole
and whooooosh
they barely made it
and since it was the first of the series
we weren't sure they would.

even though there weren't,
thank goodness,
any gigantic-hungry-for-a-space-ship
worms in my case, that part of the movie
came to mind as I watched the procedure
going on inside me

in the recovery bay
I was next to an old man singing
western ballads
in a creamy smooth Ray Price kind of voice

by far
it was the best part of  the morning

Having done both ends of this weeks anthology, World Poetry, an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time, I'll go  back closer to the middle time, Part VII: Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries. I have two poets from that period. The first is German and the second Italian.

Georg Heym was born in 1887 and died in 1912. His poem was translated by Peter Viereck.

Final Vigil

How  dark the veins of your temples;
Heavy, heavy your hands.
Deaf to my voice, already
In sealed-off lands?

Under the light that flickers
You are so mournful and old,
And your lips are talons
Clenched in a cruel mold.

Silence is coming tomorrow
And possibly underway
The last rustle of garlands,
The first air of decay.

Later the nights will follow
Emptier year by year:
Here where your head lay and gently
Every your breathing was near.

The second poet from this period is Giusepe Giocchino Belli, born in 1791 and died in 1863. The poem was translated by Anthony Burgess.


Which of the deadly sins  is worst?
Pride sneering skyward, avarice  shrieking More
Lipsticking lust, or  anger, one red roar?
No, gluttony, the fifth sin, is the first.
From  Adam burst a famine and a thirst
For a wormy apple offered by a whore,
A penny pippin. God has rammed its core
Down all our throats, a canker of the cursed.

That bitch, that bastard. God, I gape  aghast as
I contemplate the greed that could have cast us
Into the outer darkness - fed us, rather ,
To  final fire. But our ingenious master's
As quick to cancel as to cause disasters,
And to this end kindly became a father.

After several days of writing heavy, was looking to do something  a little lighter.

The rain helped.

rain at midnight

at midnight
so soft in the dark,
defying gravitational
concepts like

like leaves
drifting to the
in the cool, wet breeze
of autumn-arrival

a Greyhound bus
at a small, prairie-town
bus station,
a long and lonely
before the first orange
of sunrise
breaks the flat horizon…


headlights break the desolate

Next from the anthology, again Part VII: Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries, I have several short, anonymous  poems from various American Indian and African cultures.

These are from American Indians.

Chippewa - 19th Century

Translated by Robert Bly (after Frances Densmore)

Sometimes I  Go  About Pitying Myself

Sometimes  I go about pitying myself
and all the time
I am being carried on great winds  across the sky.

Nootka -c. 1900

Translated by Frances Densmore

Song to Bring Fair Weather

You, whose  day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors,
So  it will be beautiful

Inuit - 19th Century

Translated by Stephen Berg

Mother's Song

it's quiet in the house so quiet
outside the snowstorm wails
the dogs curl up noses under their tails
my little son sleeps on his back
his mouth open
his belly rises and falls
is it strange if I cry for joy

Uvavnuk - 19th Century

Translated by Jane Hirshfield

Shaman Song

The great sea
frees me, moves me,
as a strong river carries a weed.
Earth and her strong winds
move me, take me away,
and my soul is swept up in joy.

Takomaq - 19th Century

Translator unknown

I Think  Over Again My Small Adventures

I  think again over  my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed  so big.
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing.
The only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.

The next poems are from Africa, the same period.

San - 19th - early 20th Century

Translated by Arthur Markowitz

The Day We Die

the day we die
the wind comes down
to take away
our footprints.

The wind makes dust
to cover up
the marks we left
while walking.

For  otherwise
the thing would seem
as if we  were
still  living.

Therefor the wind
is he who comes
to blow away
our footprints

Pygmy - 19th Century

Translated by William Trask (after O. de Labroube)

Song of a Marriageable  Girl

Will a man come  for me?
The good spirit of the forest knows.
He could tell little Medje:
But he will not  tell.
There are things it is not right to  know:
If there will be dew on the grass tomorrow,
If the fish will come to the trap and be caught,
If a spell put on the gazelle
Will  let my father kill it.

Bagirmi - (c. 1900)

Translated by Ulli Beier (after H. Gaden)

Love  Song

I have painted my eyes with black antimony
I girded  myself with amulet.

I will  satisfy my desire,
you my slender boy.
I walk behind the wall.
I have covered my bosom.
I shall knead colored clay
I shall paint the house for my friend,
O my slender boy.
I  shall take my piece of silver
I will buy silk.
I will gird myself with amulets
I will satisfy my desire
the horn of antimony in my hand,
O my slender boy!

Here's another new one from last week.

working in the trades

of construction,
nail guns
like AK-47s, tattattattattat,
nothing like the sound
of individual carpenters swinging
by hand their individual


I have three
hammers, I love the feel of them,
weighted toward the head-end, the power
of a swing multiplied,
the joy of a
hammer driving
a nail
into virgin lumber,
for me,
the more useful feature
of the hammer, the claw opposite
the head that I use to pull
the two out of three
nails that bend
and turn crooked as I swing
with all my misdirected intent…


a roof - sitting side-legged
on the roof, each shingle, its
thin side carefully
under the thick side of the one above
to insure against leaks,
(or maybe it was the other way
around, thick end up - it’s
been a long time, 50 years, at least,
so perhaps I should not roof again
without close supervision),
each row of shingles
and complete, each row
a beacon of useful work accomplished…


I learned, once,
how to make construction blocks
out of compacted mud
and straw - then visited a country,
a city surrounded by mountain
slopes where such houses
were built, where annual monsoon rains
melted the homes of the people
on the mountainside, sent them washing
in muddy streams through the streets
of the city


a good cook adheres
to his recipes, a good mason
does the same - I am neither a
good cook or a good mason,
and imprecise
as in my poetry, each mix
of sand and cement
and water
an exercise in improvisation,
so my concrete
in the sun, melts
in the rain


the smell of hot tar,
shiny black liquid in its
fire pot -
if it’s your neighbor’s roof
being fixed, oh, well,
if it’s yours


electric power line
hardhats, heavy leather tool belts
swung low from hips,
linemen up top,
“grunts” down below,
“headache” yelled from above
means duck and cover,
something heavy’s coming down…


the art and technique
of manipulating a shovel,
taught to me
by a man three times
than me who dug four holes
to my one


the lesson
from my time in the
construction trades -
life favours those
who know what they’re doing,
but the rest of us sometimes have

It isn't that cowboy poetry is some kind of lesser poetic form, but that the constant rhythm and rhyme wears me out as a reader. But still, read occasionally,  it is a treat.

The next poem is from the book, New Cowboy Poetry, a Contemporary Gathering, published in 1990 by Peregrine Smith Books.

The poet, Barney Nelson, is one of an increasing number of female poets entering into the cowboy poetry field. Born and raised on a ranch, she is a professor at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, in the Trans-Pecos region of the state between the Davis Mountains and the Big Bend National Park. She teaches courses in Environmental Literature, Contemporary Rural Western Literature, and Rural Women's Literature as well as freshman composition and all manner of writing, from creative fiction and poetry to research and technical writing. She is also a professional photographer, specializing in the American West, the cowboy, ranching, rural women, cattle, horses, and wildlife.

Gettin' On

You cowboys can tell your bronc ride tales
of fannin' hats and glory,
Of how they spin, sunfish, and dive;
It's all there in your story.

But me, my stories ain't so wild,
I'm just a girl, of course,
And the worst trouble that I seem to have
is just gettin' on my horse.

I hafta find an old tree stump,
Or a water trough will do,
Creek bank, board fence, salt block,
Walk a mile before I'm through.

And it seems like when I hit a gate
And no high spot in sight,
It's three-stand wire with flimsy posts,
And my pants are awful tight.

Some women claim that cowboys
Don't want them on the crew.
And I guess for boring ladies,
That sure might be true.

But I've never had to beg or plead,
To get to go along,
'Cause their  favorite morning' pass time
Is watching we get on.

This is another new poem from last week. It's about a place where I  often end up when I  wake up very early, on this particular day, about 3:30 a.m. I've been going to the place in the morning for years and, even though I may get there only once every couple of weeks, nothing changes. The same people who were  there the last time are there again the next time.

nothing ever changes

pre-dawn diner,
no one here
but me and Teresita,
round little waitress, “mas
cafecita, mijo,” she says,
my cup never falling
below half-full

the regulars
have their schedules to keep,
and I’m in-between
their coming and going,
the table of cops who came
before me, leaving
as I arrived, six patrol cars
scattering in five directions
and we are left temporarily

but not for long,
the very tall guy with
the comb-over will be here soon,
a happy fella -
talks to the empty booths
all around him, seems to enjoy
the conversation, always smiling…

and then the fat preacher guy
with the guilty look, caught too many times
trying to look up young girls' dresses, doesn’t do it
anymore, but you can tell he’s thinking about it
all the time; and then there’s the dried-up
shrimp of a guy, reminds me of a plumber my dad
had a beer with after work every day, little guy,
half-smoked Bugler roll-your-own always
hanging from his bottom lip,
very clean, clean clothes,
clean hands, how does a plumber
stay so clean - I always wondered that,
my father, a mechanic, welder, blacksmith,
had grease in the cracks in his knuckles
that never came off,
no matter how hard he scrubbed with the thick brush
kept by the bathroom sink just for that
purpose, only the undertaker, finally
able to erase the marks
of fifty years of hard-hand work…

but the skinny guy at the diner
not so clean, no hand-rolled cigarette,
no Bugler tag hanging from the pocket
of his work shirt, but, even so,
a later version, weather beaten,
with the same gimlet-eyed
stare at the passage
of fools,
of that plumber I knew
from another place and a time
far gone…

and after him,
the old guy in the watch cap
who brings his own mug, likes
to run around the diner like he owns the place,
going behind the counter, getting his own
coffee, and then another fellow, tall, broad shoulders,
silver hair and sideburns that flare out over his ears,
boots shined like a mirror, always in a
western style suit, sharp creases in his pants and
leather patches on his jacket,
like the old cowboy shirts Roy Rogers and I wore
when I was a kid…

and now we’re about 30 minutes from sunrise
and Lorna, the other waitress comes in,
drives in every morning fifty miles
from her place on Lake Medina, a “tough broad”
I would say if this was that kind of story,
been in the waitressing business forty years
and it’s written on her face and hands,
written there with the follies of man and her ten thousandth
plate lunch special and the millionth time
she’s heard the joke about the blond waitress
and the encyclopedia salesman…

and, 30 minutes before sunrise,
the night-walkers begin
to fade back into the shadows, old men,
the forgotten-how-to-sleep
brigade, beginning to fold the ends
of another night like
a ceremonial flag, so carefully folded
when the ceremony comes to its end,
and I guess that includes me, too,
my flag flagging as first light
breaks to the east
and I leave this place where
nothing in the dark
ever changes

This next poem is the last from my library for this  week. It is by Marge Piercy, and it is from her  book, The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing, published in 1980 by Alfred A. Knopf.

It's  a tough poem.

For shelter and beyond

For battered women,battered
by the fist of your keeper,
by the nailed boots of the man
drunk on the bottle or the booze of his will,
by  the angry man, by the self-pitying man,
by the man kicked by those who can afford
to pass on rage.

For battered women, battered
and bled by hunger,  by  bills coming
in with the old bills unpaid and  the phone
turned off and the children with no
shoes to wear to school,
For battered women, battered
by the rapist in the street,
by the rapist you thought your friend,
by the rapist your uncle,  the rapist
in every man who uses women
like something he can wipe himself on.

For battered women, battered
by birthing methods invented for doctors'
profits, with your baby
yanked out of you strapped down,
battered by social workers prying,
battered by jail, battered by divorce
court,  battered by electroshock,
battered with drugs that slow your body
and snuff your mind.

For battered women, battered
by insults on the corner and on the job,
by the lack of love, by the loss of love,
by the rancid, garbage abuse that comes
to the aged, by the death of children,
by the death of respect for you
and who you are
battered but alive,
woman ready to to give birth again to hope,
ready to midwife hope
for other bleeding women.

So much crazy stuff going on, crazy Islamists, crazy Jews, crazy Iranians, crazy Republicans, it's hard to  get my mind out of it when trying to write a poem. Concentrating intently on the most immediate  realities seems to be the only.

Like this poem, even if  it's one of my own.

Monday morning

through the large windows
that run the length
of the room,
a small grove of young
oak trees,
incandescent green
in the morning
beyond them
the street,
Monday morning coming
as I watch

at home
my largest oak,
a fast-growing red oak
tripling its size
in the last ten years,
has dropped a festival
of acorns this season,
huge acorns,
with their smooth brown
and gray crowns,
the size of a bumbozer marble…

a gift
from the tree
this year to fat squirrels,
lounging in their treetop nests
all winter

As usual, everything here belongs to those who made it.

I am allen itz, owner and producer  of this blog. My stuff is available to ever who might want it for the simple price of proper credit for "Here and Now" and me.

And I still have books to sell, available at most of those places  where eBooks  are  sold.

That  includes:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore, most all of the Apple machines, plus
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


(The Dreamer)

a small book
of very short stories


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