Perhaps it is the Poet
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
(Posting a little early so that I'll have more time to obsess over my host's unruly template.)
My anthology this week is Breaking Silence, An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets. The book was published in 1983 by the Greenfield Review Press.
My photos, if I were to ever publish them (and I've thought about it), would be called something like, "Roadsides, Central Texas, Winter."
perhaps it is the poet
The Horizon is Definitely Speaking
it is a pity is what it is
peace on you, brother
"Lucille Ball, Naked on the Web"
Old Photo, 1942
Three poems from Dream Song
a walk downtown - 1968
what I’m supposed to be doing
from Stone - poems and prose poems
what a strange home I have
Stephen Shu Ning Liu
I Lie on the Chilled Stone of The Great Wall
And Another Thing
I sing for the body
A Day in a Long Hot Summer
you’ll just have to take my word for it
The poet sees what he sees. But what more is there he doesn't see?
A good question for someone like me who reports what he sees, without remembering to add the proviso that what he sees is not the real, but a well-filtered version of his own obsessions and expectations.
perhaps it is the poet
they look like
the couple in the TV commercial
who just discovered
the wonders of
Seran Wrap - tall, thin,
mid-forties -their previous
good looks faded
but you can still tell
that they were shoo-ins
for most handsome and most beautiful
in their high school yearbooks
(he had more hair then
and neither then would anyone
ever imagine the slight sag
in her jowls today)
the perfect TV commercial couple,
naturals for Viagra spots or Cialis twin bathtubs
on a beach against a rising (has to be)
sun, but good also
for most any product
that called for slightly faded
a happy, loving couple
in life and on TV,
just a hint
behind the glistening capped teeth
and slim, spa-toned bodies
of the dull-edged disappointment
that TV commercials were the best
they ever did, that they had
the chances they had assumed
would someday be theirs, no room
in the movies for a middle-aged hero
no one ever heard of before,
no room in the movies for a perky/sexy
ingenue with slightly sagging
but disappointments aside,
they’re still having breakfast together
at the beginning of a sunny
Autumn day, and seeing them
together in the booth in front of me
is almost like being on TV
even as they appear to live it
making the poet
reconsider what he has seen,
perhaps there are
I remind myself,
and it is only me who cannot see
past shiny, reflecting
surfaces; perhaps it is the poet
who sees the mirror
where others see the glass,
perhaps it is the poet
who is lost
between the trees of chances slipped
My first poet from the anthology is Diana Chang. I think I must have used her work here recently. Although I don't remember her poems, I do remember her biography.
Chang was born in New York in 1934 to a Chinese father and Eurasian mother, but spent her youngest years in China, including Beijing, Nanking, and Shanghai. She attended high school in New York, and graduated from Barnard College. After graduation, she worked as a book editor. Primarily a novelist and poet, She has also worked as the editor for the PEN-sponsored journal American Pen and as a creative writing teacher at Barnard.
The Horizon is Definitely Speaking
When clouds inch
and the hill stays
what are we to know?
chew the fat all the way
Trees like wishbones
are nested with knowledge
I stare into a bush
until I become secrets, too
All around, suggestions
that the sky is in pieces at our feet
the water is too still
and we are on edge
How do I feel
Fine wrist to small feet?
I cough Chinese.
To me, it occurs that Cezanne
Is not a Sung painter.
(My condition is no less gratuitous than this remark.)
The old China muses through me.
I am foreign to the new.
I sleep upon dead years.
Sometimes I dream in Chinese.
I dream my father's dreams.
I wake, grow up
And someone else.
I am the thin edge I sit on.
I begin to gray - white and black and inbetween.
My hair is American.
New England moonlights in me.
I attend what is Chinese
We are in the air.
I shuttle passportless within myself.
My eyes slant around both hemispheres,
Gaze through walls
And long still to be
At home here,
Strange to say.
Now that my little book of short stories is at the publisher, I've started in on my next book of poetry (tentative title New Days and New Ways - aimed at publication next year). I've done the initial screening, picked about 120 poems out of the 365 I wrote in 2011 and now am in the second screen to come up with a final 80 85 for the book.
So this week, for my old poems, a novelty, rejects from a book not yet published.
Like this one which I am certain will never find a place between the electronic covers of the next book.
got a haircut
do it a couple
times a year
whether i need it
shaved for the occasion -
there are persons
of a status among the finer folk
i do it more often
both the shave and the haircut
even offering to gather up
the six bits
i say, why,
i bathe every day,
behind my ears
and between my toes
and, even at my ordorifish worst,
don't stand our from the rest of the herd -
they say i should be
and i say
well present this, Sherlock -
i look at myself every day
in the mirror
and have never
said to my self
i am today
i kinda like the view -
kicking is what i see,
and that’s good enough
The next poem is from a book I received in the mail today from a friend in the rare book business. The book is 30 Songs of Dissolution, published in 1977 by San Marco Press, and the poet is Glenna Luschei, a very fine poet who I should have known of but didn't. As I told my friend, the advantage of doing "Here and Now" for five or six years is that I now have hundreds of favorite poets whose names I can't remember instead of just a dozen or so like before.
In the morning
I think I hear he mourning dove
but it's only the soft
cooing of my heart
beat at of my heart's wings.
How I rested beneath your chin
as under eaves.
I must now grow two wings
to balance the one that remains.
How we flew together
from Tierra del Fuego to Anchorage.
But lately it was on the ground
and to you
a three-legged race
Let me go!
I won't hold
Was I one of the cities
that died of fear
inold New Mexico
One of those ruins that review the ghosts
one off the bats
that fly from the chamber to chamber?
I used to rest under you chin
as under a dormer.
Losing the marriage
is losing my father
or an old friend
in the morning.
I wake into grief
and can't take my head
from under the wing of sleep.
During the day
I fly so far looking for food
I forget I'm in mourning
but then in the morning
I can hear it coming
my heart's coo
In this circle of drakes
my neighbors hose down
the swallow nest
Don't you know that every home
and I am in mourning?
hold bottles of the heart
and mud falls in slices
in broken glass.
Not even the poet safe from the ravages of time.
it is a pity is what it is
I was looking
at the top of my head
and the bad news
was clear and present -
my bald spot has spread
like a raging Kansas
just a year ago (or so)
the size of a small suburban lot,
now grown to estate
acres, big enough
for creeks and hills
and deer and bluebirds
running through it,
and can even be seen now
by those not taller
laying waste to my previous strategy
of avoiding people taller than me,
hell, even tiny little shrimp-sized
know my secret
I’ve been growing my hair
back long again,
in memory of the good old
when I go rolled on a regular basis,
was too rarely sexed, and
serially abused vast stores
of baby aspirin slipped across the border
by my dealer
but now that the stay-away-from-tall-people
won’t work anymore
I may have to defoliate and shave it all off again
so it looks like
I’m bald on purpose,
emulating the advanced baldy’s tactic known,
like tripping on step
and doing a little jiggity-jump dance
with a smile and a
TA-DA!!! at the
as the I-meant-to-do-that
it’s a pity is what
it is - but
a blad-headed man’s gotta do
what a bald-headed man’s
The next poet from the anthology of contemporary Asian American poets is Fay Chiang.
Born in New York in 1952, Chiang is a writer and visual artist who lives in New York's Lower East Side. She
attended Hunter College of the City University of New York majoring in art and is one of the founders and, for years, the Director of Basement Workshop on Elizabeth Street. She was instumental in the creation of the Basement Workshop's journal Bridge and its pioneering publication Yellow Pearl. She was a 1985-1986 Revson Fellow. She worked as Programming/Development Director of Project Reach, the crisis counseling anti-discrimination youth center located in Lower East Side/Chinatown, New York and as 2003-2004 Artist in Residence at New York University Asian/Pacific/American Department.
snow falls in a hush under night lights, lampposts
I feel hopeful, though logic says to worry. we run
out of money with budget cuts in the arts, in
unemployment, food stamps, medicaid, housing. we've
got two hands apiece, we'll figure something out.
it snows now. tops of buildings covered white
and figures walking slowly past drifts on streets
below, pure spirits smoke like float on each snowflake
searching for kin.
put away the papers, stack the work for tomorrow,
turn the calendar page, each time the ritual
prepares for a new beginning. I walk slowly down
seven flights of the darkened wooden stairs, past
other lofts filled with oiled machinery for small
industries. the front door opens and my coat is
caught by chill seeing through a hole in the
right pocket, shuddering I walk towards spring
street, past the iron security gates of the
carpenter, the chinese family coffee shop, the
rice and beans restaurant, the corner smoke shop.
people have gone home. they must be eating supper,
maybe watching t.v. or preparing a sandwich to
take to work, school, or maybe sick in bed with
down spring street there are silent side street5s,
loading bays scattered in snow, by workers
hurrying home at 5 p.m. windows reflect snow,
lamplight, they are eyes. I look past instead
staring skyward and search the darkness for
the source of this snow. but there are many
snowflakes and they swirl in patterns like
messengers, their secrets entwined in one
another, my figure swept up by their dances,
I am excited, a warm glow in my chest expanding,
breathing. there is a song about living, about
being. I hear it when I walk through snow
under lamplight in city streets.
Here's another reject from a book that doesn't exist yet.
But maybe not a reject - on a scale of one to three, one being for sure in the book, three for sure not being in the book, this one is a maybe two.
I've grown pretty candy-ass since I wrote the poem back in 2010, not sure if I want to offend so many people all over again.
and the faithful gather,
pumped by their weekly sermon,
and fed full of
of their own moral
to all the rest,
the Christ-killer Jews,
and the sneering bearded bomb-bearing Moslems,
and the dark Hindu,
and the slanty-eyed Buddhist,
and, of course, the straight-to-hell
atheists and the wishy-washy agnostics,
and the believers in earth and sky spirits,
I mean, how dumb is that, they say,
and alien abductees,
and wife-hoarding Mormons,
and believers in the powers of plastic
and artists and intellectuals
who might try to think their way
out of this mess we’re in
of forsaking sense and bowing
before the loving God
of mass extinction,
and Democrats of course, that
goes without saying,
and illegal poachers on America’s goodness and righteousness,
of all stripes, colors,
sizes and shapes,
and, or course, all the cocksuckers
who threaten the security of our Christian-nation
by seeking to serve in its
and the horse I rode in on
- even old Nelly ain’t safe
I forgive them
for their arrogance
and evil thoughts, for they are
and must be as un-Christian
as those who oppress
peace on you,
and a happy Sunday
The next poem is by Frances Trevino, another San Antonio poet. The poem is from her book Cayetana, published by Pecan Grove Press in 2007.
In 1999, Trevino was a fellow for the National Endowment for the Humanities for integrating U.S. Latino Literature in the secondary classroom She is the recipient of the 2000Premio Poesia Tejana Award for The Laughter of Doves and in 2001 she received a grant from the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. For several years she was a member of "Women of Ill-Repute: Refute!" - a performance group dealing with issues of culture and identity. At the time of publication, she was teaching British
Literature for the San Antonio Independent School District.
- Day o the Dead
When Mary and Fred of Southside
San Antonio to to Graytown
every November 2nd is a ritual.
Leaving the city limits, Mary sits quietly in the front seat.
Fed sings Vicente Fernandez's Cielito Lindo,
drives into the dusty heavens of a pale Graytown sky.
Parked outside the scrolled iron gates, at the cemetery
the early morning has become warm.
Mary takes last year's flowers
imitation silk now faded by the
scorching Graytown sun, places
new ones into vases welded on the tombstones.
Monuments of weathered
cement settled crooked in the earth,
etchings that read,
Gregoria Sanchez Gomez 1904-1967
Marian Arrocha Gomez 1896-1958
the graves of him mother and father.
Some tombstones have faded pictures,
sepia blotted photographs of ghosts
staring into farmland horizons.
Those who once knew Graytown.
Those who taught, their underwear in branches
while climbing trees, those who danced at wedding,
passed along a little gossip,
sold a little moonshine on the side -
Graytown, Texas in the 1940s.
Now families have left the ranch for city life,
traded seasonal work and seasonal food for
year round benefits grocery store name brands.
Graytown, Texas now a ghost town
of a cemetery off a farm road.
the car is cold, the afternoon hot.
November feels like August as they depart
and leave the souls resting beneath the
South Texas limestone in Graytown, Texas.
Well, I certainly never knew.
"Lucille Ball, Naked on the Web"
she was as regular
to my family’s weekday evening
as meatloaf and mashed
and now this -
Ricky knew for certain
and Fred probably suspected,
but who else would have ever figured
LUCY WAS A BABE!!!
I never even
From this week's anthology, here's a poem by George Uba.
Uba, born in Chicago in 1947, earned his PhD at the University of California. He has served as joint professor of Asian American Studies and English, and as a former chair of the Department of Asian American Studies. His teaching specialties include Asian American fiction and poetry; 18th and 19th-Century American literature; contemporary poetry; and creative writing.
Old Photo, 1942
My father, fresh out of dental school,
decked out in short sleeves
and baggy slacks, his hair
cropped to short near the ears,
stands close to my mother,
his arm secretly about her waist.
My mother in white blouse and skirt,
in white bobby socks, in loafers
pressed together in a regimental line,
looks like a pretty schoolgirl
politely waiting for a bus.
They have recently become engaged,
hence the liberty my father takes.
Back of them is a double row
of barracks silently fronting
a perfectly level, unpaved space.
I know what is behind each door:
an iron stove of the kind
they no longer make,
a card table and folding chairs,
an improvised bookshelf,
and an army-issue bed
topped by the same stuff
the curtains are made of.
This is no military base.
There are fiberboard walls
stapled at angles to form rooms;
in the rooms are lives named
Tanaka, Funakoshi, Uba,
and pictures of loved ones
not yet eligible for war.
From the window there is a glimpse
of a gun emplacement, of a gun
secretly raking my parents
from the deck of a watchtower,
while,off in the distance,
over my mother's shoulder,
rises a solitary peak, Heat Mountain,
that my father could easily
cup in one hand.
All of this covers less
than half the photograph.
The rest is sky,Wyoming sky,
that, because of a trick of light
appears the exact color of earth.
Here's another probable book reject.
I don't know if it's just the luck of the draw or if 2010 was a particularly philosophical period for me, but there seems to be a bunch of this type of poem in my file for that year.
about the soul,
what can be said -
to find, to define -
the body part
that doesn’t appear
in any part of the body
but certainly we under-define it
by thinking of it as
something so unexceptional
a part of our body, betraying
our own provincial limitations,
of something that is neither
to be possessed
nor exclusively ours
the soul, body part or not,
of a creator -
my soul is something else -
it is me,
all of me I ever was,
or could be,
or can be
or will be, wrapped in a mantle
of all that is, was, or will be outside of
the gathering of everything that ever was,
animate or inanimate,
the “Oversoul” as Emerson named it,
the greater spirit
of all lesser spirits as in the most ancient
beliefs, the spirit of the proud eagle, the fierce bear, the shy prairie
mouse, the rock eons hard, the river that, like the moon, ebbs and flows
and the tree
spring green or winter bare,
souls all, souls of all the created
becoming together the true creation,
Gaia, by one name, The All by definition,
not a god or a creator, but the universal force
of all ever created,
with our own soul
part of everything, never lonely or alone
in the midst of All, intermingling
in the All
to a mind always seeking
place in the
outer boundaries of what could be;
a non-believer in gods
who can still imaging things larger and greater
Next, I have a couple of poems by my old friend Anonymous from his latest chapbook, Dream Songs. The entire chapbook can be read online at White Knuckle Press at
Dream Song 227 [no Henry, no Mr. Bones]
and no John fucking Berryman; coward bastard taking a flight without a real plan. I saw a ghost; or rather will choose to call it a ghost; it was no apparition, no long lost soul feeling bitter sweet and lukewarm about the afterlife. I walk barefoot because I like to feel the need; like to feel the ever so slight quiver in the floorboards as you practice your morning yoga. You tried to teach me once: half moon pose; lotus; heron pose; pyramid pose. I prefer rivers: their crooked shores, their lonesome rocks; sand, smooth as a blood moon.
Dream Song 228
Sometimes there are no dreams. They are replaced with sounds; sound visions. More often they’requiet: the low shuffle of grass in a summer breeze; the rumble of wings [always black] against a humid sky; a voice [background singer] a cappella. I’m too young to remember stories with happy endings; the street where I grew up is long gone; the dirty white house at the end of the block, painted melancholy green. The window I cracked open to sneak a smoke is boarded up; I would take you there but I’m too afraid you might be disappointed with the silence.
Conversation, even sometimes with obnoxious people, can sometimes bring a memory that can sometimes bring a poem.
its great brown head
to the main road
his nan from a wooden
soft and chewy bread
when fresh and warm,
roofing tiles when cooled
a line of small children
for school, meet us,
going the other way
a ramshackled book store,
books piled in the storefront
read, then thrown aside…
two books to take home,
Mao’s Little Red Book, red plastic cover,
freshly shipped through the mountains
from the cultural revolution
and a book
of Pashtun poetry, translated
by a professor at the state university
we pass on the road,
some poems of his own composing
atop the Spirizan Hotel,
an international gaggle of foreigners
looking for a place something
chilled in a glass
pass the Soviet Embassy
in an open stretch of desert,
red brick, like very large prison
we stop and go in,
knock and are
as low-order American spies
on a busman’s holiday, apparently
not considered much of a
threat, so we buy
more books, maps -
a smell inside, the sour odor
of a very bad future
a pleasant walk
in the high, mountain air,
the city’s rough houses
climbing the bare mountainside
all around this green
impossible to imagine
and savagery to come
all quiet at the USAID
looking out my window
at deep-shaded courtyard
and the smaller house
a cat on the roof
it’s silver belly
rising and falling
in deep cat
Next from the anthology, I have Arthur Sze, a poet who has appeared here a number of times.
Born in New York City in 1950, Sze was educated at the University of California - Berkeley. His many honors include a Lannan Literary Award, an American Book Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, and a Western States Book Award for Translation. He has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Witter Bynner Foundation. In 1984 Sze began teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he is Professor Emeritus. He has also been the Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University, the Doenges Visiting Artist at Mary Baldwin College, and spent residencies at universities such as Brown, Bard College, and the Naropa Institute. In 2012, he was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Your father had gangrene and
had his right leg amputated, and now has diabetes
and lives in a house overlooking the
The wife of the clown at Moenkopi
smashes in the windows of a car with an ax.
and threatens to shoot her husband
for running around with another woman.
A child with broken bones
is in the oxygen tent for the second time;
and the parents are concerned he
has not yet learned how to walk.
People mention these incidents
as if they were points on a chart depicting
uranium disintegration. It is all
accepted, all disclaimed.
We fly a kite over the electrical
lines as the street lights go on:
the night is silver, and the night
desert is a sea. We walk back
to find your grandfather working in the dark,
putting in a post to protect peaches,
watering tomatoes, corn, beans - making them grow
out of sand, barren sand.
Now, another poem from 2010 investigating the mysteries of life's purposes. I'm thinking it might not be a reject since discovering, after reading it for the first time in a couple of years, that I kind of like it.
what I’m supposed to be doing
this is the time of day
when i usually demonstrate my
bonafides as a poet
and the problem today is
i can’t remember
if a cue is a nudge
and a wink
or the long striker stick
used to reposition
colored and numbered balls on a green-felt table
in a brisk game
- pocket pool
i would have said, but that
is often construed
which complicates things
since i’m not sure
if i should start writing now
over to Fat Annie's
for a pick-up game of
which reminds me
good pool-playing stories
i could write about
if if knew
that’s what i was supposed
to be doing
at this exact minute,
but since i don’t know
i won’t write anything,
but that’s ok
since i didn’t want to write
a poem this morning
but if Fat Annie’s is open
i might just resolve the question
by connoting that’s what i’m supposed
to be doing...
there is the moon
like a sliver of shaved soap
in the dark night-tide
that cares nothing
about my poem
or any lack thereof
Osip Mandelstam, born in1891, was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets. He was arrested by Joseph Stalin's government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile. Given a reprieve of sorts, he and his wife moved to Voronez in southwestern Russia. Then, in 1938, he was arrested again and sentenced to a camp in Siberia. He died that year at a transit camp.
I have several short pieces this week from his most famous and greatest work, the long, 81 piece poem, Stone. I've taken this weeks pieces from the book of the same name, published in 1981 by The Harvill Press. It is a bilingual book, with Russian and English translations on facing pages.
Perhaps, Night, you have no need of me;
I am here on your seacoast, hurled
As a shell without pearls might be
Up out of the depths of the world.
You churn up the waves into froth
Not caring; you sing stubbornly on;
You will love, you will know the worth
Of a useless shell's deception.
You will lie by its side in the sand,
You will draw your cope over the shell
And inseparably with it bind
The surf's great bell.
You will fill the frail shell's rooms,
Like the house of a heart not lived in,
With the whispering of foam,
With mist, with wind, with rain.... 1911
Oh sky,sky, I'm going to
dream about you!
It can't be that you've gone completely blind,
That the day,like a sheet of blank paper, has burnt through
Leaving only a little smoke and ash behind! 1911
No, not the moon but a clock dial gleams
For me - and am I to blame
If pale stars look milky to me?
I hate Batuuskov's arrogance:
"What's the time?" they asked him once
and he answered, "Eternity." 1912
...The courage of midnight girls
And meteors in reckless flight;
A tramp clutches my coat - do I have
The price of a bed for he night?
Tell me who will deaden
My consciousness with win,
If reality is Peter's creation:
The granite, the Bronze Horseman?
I hear the salute from the fort
And I notice how warm it grows;
They could probably hear the report
There in the cellars below.
And beneath the incoherence
Of my feverish brain
Are stars and talk that makes sense,
The wind west off the Neva again.
A poem from an old photograph.
what a strange home I have
a picture rescued, scratched and torn,
found in an old trunk
when a great aunt
then enlarged after I found it
to poster size, hanging
now on the wall in my den
the picture from 1898, my
grandfather, youngest of six
brothers, all of them lined up on a rocky
Central Texas hillside, three, including
Grandfather August, astride their horses,
three standing holding their horses’ reins,
a small pistol in the vest pocket
of the oldest, Uncle Karl…
also Karl, the only survivor
of his three brothers killed
by a confederate gang’s
raid on them as they camped
in a South Texas pecan grove
the first night out from home, safe
passage promised, the promise broken
as they made their way to Mexico
where, from Matamoros, they were
to board a ship bound round the southern
route, to a port north where they were
to join up with Union forces…
sons of a German immigrants,
the brothers and all their companions,
those not killed in the raid,
taken back to their home town
in the hills where they were hanged
Great-Grandfather Karl, wounded,
slipping away through the South Texas
brush to return home, hiding in the hills
for the remainder of the war, fathering
his first two sons from his hilltop
hide-out, all the brothers,
except Grandfather August, who became
a dry-goods merchant,
taking ranches, raising cattle and sheep
in small stony pastures between the hills,
their homes, their fences all built
with pieces of granite and limestone
dug from the fields where their livestock
and sometimes, as I walk these
hills, I think of this picture,
taken on one of those
ranches 114 years ago, the six
brothers, with their horses,
in an uneven hillside row,
one pistol among them to kill
rattlesnakes awakened from their
shadowed niches or lazing on a flat rock
in the sun, and I think of August and my five
great-uncles, and of the first Karl, hiding
in these hills, knowing that, from all this,
came my father, Raymond, only son of August,
and from my father, came me, second of
three sons, and I can feel these threads
that tie me to this place, I can feel
those threads weaving like a spider’s silk
through all the years, and I wonder
how it is my DNA got so entwined
with these hills and these
rocky canyons, how the blood and sand
of my people and those times
became such a part of me, even as I lived
most of my life elsewhere…
what a strange home I have, this place
I almost never lived
My next poet from this week's anthology is Stephen Shu Nig Liu.
Born in Fu Ling, China in 1930. After serving in the military during WWII, he attended Nanking University. Finding his studies boring, he moved without his parent's consent to Taiwan where he taught Chinese for a year before sailing to San Francisco in 1952.
He first supported himself with a variety of menial jobs while studying in America, until, as a result of his years of struggle, he has now published more than 200 poems in English, earned several academic degrees, including Ph.D. in English from the University of North Dakota. After more than 30 years conveying his love of literature to students, he retired and moved to British Columbia, where he lives with his wife. He has spent the last decade completing his autobiography, Entering the Valley of Peach Blossoms.
I Lie on the Chilled Stones of the Great Wall
A north wind dies half way to the Gobi Desert,
as I lie on the chilled stones of the Wall:
watch towers sway above like steel helmets,
sunlight of the Chin Dynasty fades into lamb beans
at farm windows, unknown seasons fall in ashes,
white-headed mothers lament over the snow;
Emperor Chin must have one hundred mountains removed.
My naked arms glue to the ancient fort,
my ears listen to the far-off bugles.
I see Su Wu moving with his heard, by the North Sea,
19-year captivity, tears freezing in his old face.
"Nay, you may not return," the savage Chief says;
"unless your male sheep have become pregnant..."
I see Zao Cheun's sedan in a blizzard, her beauty
once shining through Ch'ang Ann streets, her heart
forever longing for a home, per Pi Pa and her song
saddening the air at the foreign court; and before
the skies of West Han turning dark, over the ridges
more barbarian arrows come down like locusts,
but the Mid-Kingdom's banners sand; riders march on:
lances clashing, shields colliding. Kill, kill, kill!
Invaders wince and scamper about like frightening mice,
battle cries of Li Ling's braves shake up the earth,
their bright swords have smashed a thousand warriors
of Fu, and the clouds over my head amass in wild beasts.
I find myself staggering among the fallen chariot,
bumping into the manes and breath of dying horses;
in the struggle I've been wrestling with something
grizzly, whose eyes are glinting like flames, whose icy
paws sinking deep into my flesh. I endure the pain, and
with my scimitar I cut his swinish mouth open. The taste
of blood nauseates me. I wake to the chattering tourists:
the 1975 midsummer sun shines on me like an illusion,
two thousand years swirling through my bones at once.
Here are two poems by Nikki Giovanni, from her book My House. The book was published by Quill in 1983.
Giovanni, born in 1943, is a writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She is a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech.
And Another Thing
i'm leaving at five
she said why
are niggers always
a circle he replied is
a sunbeam that saw
itself and fell
niggers would be
later for their own
it's the early bird
he whispered to her
ear that catches the worm
but no one every said why
the worm gets up
how we gonna get this
country moving when we can't
on such simple shit
sometimes he said brushing
her afro back with his rough hands
you scrub clothes to remove
a spot and sometimes you soak
you not even listening to me
you're not listening to me
they looked at each other
for a moment
and another thing
[18 feb 72]
we stood there waiting
on the corners
in the bars
on the stoops
in the pews
by the cadillacs
wanting for love
watching to see if hope would come by
we stood there hearing
the sound of police sirens
and fire engines
and babies crying
the gas escaping
and the roaches breeding
the garbage cans falling
and the stairways creaking
to the books opening
the hearts shuttering
the hands rubbing
the bodies sweating
we were seeing the revolution screeeeeeeeching
to a halt
trying to find a clever way
to be empty
[2 feb 70]
I tried to channel Walt Whitman in one of my daily poems last week.
Whitman, the greatest of all American poets - another instance of me reaching beyond my grasp.
and holy men
of many religions recommend it,
but I’m not convinced
it’s not denial of the act itself
that bothers me, but the idea of a life
devoid of the sight and feel
of a human body as, over the millennia,
it was created
it doesn’t matter the sex
or the size or the shape, there is
divinity in the human body -
the curve of a woman’s ass;
the heavy gravity
of male genitalia hanging or the moontide’s pull
on a woman’s breast, softly swaying
with every turn or step;
the sleepy-faint rise and fall
of a soft belly under a dawn’s early light;
an man's tall-standing erection, proud and defiant,
like a tiger raising his head at a whiff of prey; the
woman's sweet split plum of her femininity
from whence all men come,
to which all men seek always to return; the hair
on the nape of a woman’s neck; and shoulders
and arms and legs - carriers, load bearers -
so beautiful in their function
and design; and, around it all, skin,
the touch of skin, the feel of skin, the mystery
of skin warm on skin, and the miracle of sweat,
passion’s lubricant, the friction of human parts
on human parts…
all this is celibacy’s loss, the separation of
human from human, the cloaking of all
that makes us human,
the idea that we can become more human
by denying the essences of our
humanity, the beautiful flesh
wherein our true selves
the delusion of spirituality, the delusion
of celibacy, as if we could light a candle
without a wick to carry the flame
I sing for the body, yours
and even mine,
such as it
is, my single chance
at the divine
Next from the "Breaking Silence" anthology, I have a poem by Yuri Kageyama.
Born in Aichi-ken, Japan in 1953, she grew up in Tokyo, Maryland and Alabama. A magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University, she also holds a Master's degree in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. A performer as well as a poet, she has worked with musicians, actors and a dancer in presenting her work.
A Day in a Long Hot Summer
summer of sixty-eight
long red and long black
blowing in the breeze
popping sweet and golden
we chew on
hot fried okra
a VISTA worker
was beaten up bloody
helping fix a roof
on the wrong side of town
you wanted to
Doctor Martin Luther King
Terry and Jim
stopping for gas
were welcomed by a
a man with a shotgun,
an Easy Rider nightmare
bleeding by the road
in a glimpse
a silver kite
into the sky
Good thing for me, there are always people around when I run out of inspiration otherwise.
you’ll just have to take my word for it
I will do
important things today
I do not know
what they will be,
that they will be important
because I will do them
will not recognize the importance
of these things I will do
either before or after
I do them
it’s a vision
the knack I have for recognizing
the importance of things I, in my well-documented
just have to take my word
meanwhile, at booth across the room,
sits the chipmunk looking fellow
that I hated on sight
when he sat
with his snarkle snarkle
in the booth in front of mine
distance does not make the heart
I can hear his snarkle snarkle
from here - what a
even with his snarkle
two guys sit together
in the booth
on the other side of the table,
a big-bosomed girl
in a gray sweater and blue jeans
wants to be sitting
where they’re sitting, both
to sit next to the pretty girl,
very close to the
hands in undisclosed locations
what can you do?
it’s 8 a.m. and it’s a business meeting
and she’s the boss
for a whole new cache
of questionable imagining,
over there blows his nose
like he’s afraid
it’s going to fall off
I’ve had days like that…
a delicate picker
none of the above
is the important stuff
I’m going to do
too bad that
you won’t read about it
in the paper
tomorrow, since it’s all
me and Rosa
in the backseat
of my ’49 Plymouth…
you’ll just have to take me word
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And "me" would be allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, poet and. very recently, short story writer.
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Places and Spaces
Always to the Light
Goes Around, Comes Around
Pushing Clouds Against the Wind
And, for those print-bent, available
and several coffeehouses in San Antonio
Seven Beats a Second