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."  



Me
perhaps it is the poet

 Diana Chang
The Horizon is Definitely Speaking
Second Nature

Me
the  haircut

Glenna Luschei
Morning Song

Me
it is a pity is what it is

Fay Chiang
Snow

Me
peace on you, brother

Frances Trevino 
Graytown, Texas

Me
"Lucille Ball,  Naked on the Web"

George Uba
Old Photo, 1942

Me
soul train

Anonymous 
Three poems from Dream Song

Me
a walk downtown - 1968

Arthur Sze
Moenkopi

Me
what I’m  supposed to be doing

Osip Mandelstam
from Stone - poems and prose poems

Me
what a strange home I have

Stephen Shu Ning Liu
I Lie on the Chilled Stone of The Great Wall

Nikki Giovanni
And Another Thing
We

Me
I sing for the body

 Yuri Kageyama
A Day in a Long Hot Summer

Me
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,
blue-eyed,
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
father-knows-best/mom-makes-the-best-darn-
pancakes-ever-to-come-out-of-a-box
beauty…

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
aged past
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
jowls…

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
myself -
even as they appear to live it
as real…

making the poet
reconsider what he has seen,
perhaps there are
depths,
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
away…










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?

Geese overhead
           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


Second Nature

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
In everyone.

We are in the air.

I shuttle passportless within myself.
My eyes slant around both hemispheres,
Gaze through walls

And long still to be
Accustomed,
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.



the haircut

got a haircut
today -

do it a couple
times a year

whether i need it
or not,

even
shaved for the occasion -

there are persons
of a status among the finer folk

who
suggest

i do it more often
both the shave and the haircut

even offering to gather up
among themselves

the six bits
required

but
i say, why,

i bathe every day,
scrub

behind my ears
and between my toes

and, even at my ordorifish worst,
don't stand our from the rest of the herd -

more presentable
they say i should be

and i say
well present this, Sherlock -

i look at myself every day
in the mirror

and have never
once

said to my self
tsk, tsk,

how unpresentable
i am today

in fact
i kinda like the view -

alive and
kicking is what i see,

and that’s good enough
for me
 








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.



Morning Song

In the morning
I  think I hear he mourning dove
but it's  only the soft
coo
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
anyone back.

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
cooing

In this circle of drakes
my neighbors hose down
the swallow nest
Stop!
Don't you know that  every home
is blessed
and I am in mourning?

Those nests
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
this morning

(doesn’t everyone?)

and the bad news
was clear and present -
my bald spot has spread
like a raging Kansas
prairie fire,
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
and squirrels
running through it,
and can even be seen now
by those not taller
than me
laying waste to my previous strategy
of avoiding people taller than me,
hell, even tiny little shrimp-sized
fully-haired migitoids
know my secret
now…

I’ve been growing my hair
back long again,
in memory of the good old
days
of drugsex&rocknroll
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
in Mexico…

but now that the stay-away-from-tall-people
strategy
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
end,
as the I-meant-to-do-that
strategy…

it’s a pity is what
it is - but
a blad-headed man’s gotta do
what a bald-headed man’s
gotta
do








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

snow falls in a hush under night lights, lampposts
doing waltzes.

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
this flu.

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,
in motion.

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.



peace on you  brother
Sunday morning
and the faithful gather,
the Christians,
pumped by their weekly sermon,
fat
and fed full of
conviction
of their own moral
superiority
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
pyramids,
and artists and intellectuals
who might try to think their way
out of this mess we’re in
instead
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
and sodomites
who threaten the security of our Christian-nation
by seeking to serve in its
defense,
and the horse I rode in on

- even old Nelly ain’t safe
from this
crowd -

but
I forgive them
for their arrogance
and evil thoughts, for they are
oppressed,
they say,
and must be as un-Christian
as those who oppress
them

peace on you,
brother,
I say,
and a happy Sunday
tuya









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.


Graytown, Texas

     - 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"

OMG!!!

she was as regular
to my family’s weekday evening
as meatloaf and mashed
potatoes
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
guessed
it
 








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.



soul train
about the soul,
what can be said -
so hard
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,
claiming
exclusive possession
of something that is neither
to be possessed
nor exclusively ours

for many,
the soul, body part or not,
is an
artifact
of religion,
an endowment
of a creator -

for me
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
me,
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,
making us,
with our own soul
part of everything, never lonely or alone
in the midst of All, intermingling
in the All
with
all

comfort,
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
than himself









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.



a walk downtown - 1968

the sleeping
camel
nods
its great brown head

~~~

the street
to the main road
unpaved
orange-tinted clay
with gravel

~~~

the baker
sells
his nan from a wooden
push cart,
soft and chewy bread
when fresh and warm,
roofing tiles when cooled

~~~

a line of small children
uniformed
for school, meet us,
then pass,
going the other way

~~~

a ramshackled book store,
books piled in the storefront
window like
refugees,
read, then thrown aside…

two books to take home,
Mao’s Little Red Book, red plastic cover,
original version
freshly shipped through the mountains
from the cultural revolution
raging
next door,
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

~~~

drinks
atop the Spirizan Hotel,
an international gaggle of foreigners
looking for a place something
like home,
alcohol
chilled in a glass

~~~

pass the Soviet Embassy
in an open stretch of desert,
red brick, like very large prison
waiting,
inmates pending…

we stop and go in,
knock and are
admitted,
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
coming

~~~

a pleasant walk
in the high, mountain air,
the city’s rough houses
climbing the bare mountainside
all around this green
valley -
impossible to imagine
the blood
and savagery to come

~~~

all quiet at the USAID
house,
looking out my window
at deep-shaded courtyard
and the smaller house
next door,
a cat on the roof
dozing,
it’s silver belly
rising and falling
in deep cat
sleep
 








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.



Moenkopi

Your father had gangrene and
had his right leg amputated, and now has diabetes
and lives in a house overlooking the
uranium mines.
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

by poeticating
on cue
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
of pocket
billiards

- pocket pool
i would have said, but that
is often construed

to denote
another game
entirely -

or
vicy-versey,
which complicates things

since i’m not sure
if i should start writing now
or amble

over to Fat Annie's
for a pick-up game of
eight-ball,

which reminds me
of several
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
anyway,
but if Fat Annie’s is open

this early
i might just resolve the question
by connoting that’s what i’m supposed

to be doing...

~~~

meanwhile
there is the moon
hanging pale

like a sliver of shaved soap
in the dark night-tide
sky

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.



26. Seashell

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


27.

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


31.

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



45.

...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.

.....1913















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
died,
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…

their father,
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,
anti-slavery, pro-union,
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
grazed…

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
lat

a circle he replied is
a sunbeam that saw
itself and fell
in love

niggers would be
later for their own
damned funerals

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
get together
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
them first

you not even listening to me

you're not listening to me

they looked at each other
for a moment

and another thing
she began

           [18 feb 72]


We

we  stood there waiting
     on the corners
     in the bars
     on the stoops
     in the pews
     by the cadillacs
     for buses
     wanting for love
     watching to see if hope would come by
we stood there hearing
     the sound of police sirens
     and fire engines
     the explosions
     and babies crying
     the gas escaping
     and the roaches breeding
     the garbage cans  falling
     and the stairways creaking
we listened
     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.



I sing for the body

priest
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
reside

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
hair
long red and long black
blowing in the breeze
we lie
naked
among dandelions
popping sweet and golden
shooting roots
into
blood-red
alabamian soil;
we chew on
hot  fried okra
and
smile
and smile
and
smile.

                                                                           last night
                                                                           a VISTA worker
                                                                           was beaten up bloody
                                                                           for
                                                                           helping fix a roof
                                                                           on the wrong side of town

                                                                           you wanted to
                                                                           march in
                                                                           Tennessee for
                                                                           Doctor Martin Luther King
                                                                           and
                                                                           people laughed

                                                                           Terry and Jim
                                                                           stopping for gas
                                                                           were welcomed by a
                                                                           a man with a shotgun,
                                                                           "nigger lover!"
                                                                           an Easy Rider nightmare

you whisper:
a man
bleeding by the road
sore-covered body
no arms
no legs
yet
in a glimpse
he turned
a silver kite
soaring
upwards
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,
only
that they will be important
because I will do them

many
will not recognize the importance
of these things I will do
today.
either before or after
I do them

it’s a vision
thing,
the knack I have for recognizing
the importance of things I, in my well-documented
importance ,
choose
to do

you’ll
just have to take my word
for it…

~~~

meanwhile, at booth across the room,
sits the chipmunk looking fellow
that I hated on sight
when he sat
with his snarkle snarkle
laugh
in the booth in front of mine
six months
ago

today
I discover
distance does not make the heart
grow fonder

I can hear his snarkle snarkle
from here - what a
snake,
even with his snarkle
snarkle
chipmunk face

~~~

two guys sit together
in the booth
ahead,
on the other side of the table,
a big-bosomed girl
in a gray sweater and blue jeans

neither fella
wants to be sitting
where they’re sitting, both
greatly preferring
to sit next to the pretty girl,
very close to the
pretty girl,
hands in undisclosed locations

but
what can you do?

it’s 8 a.m. and it’s a business meeting
and she’s the boss

material
for a whole new cache
of questionable imagining,
firing offenses
each and
all

~~~

the fellow
over there blows his nose
like he’s afraid
it’s going to fall off

I’ve had days like that…

a delicate picker
just like
him

~~~

a
reassurance -

none of the above
is the important stuff
I’m going to do
today

too bad that
you won’t read about it
in the paper
tomorrow, since it’s all
Sub-Rosa
like
me and Rosa
in the backseat
of my ’49 Plymouth…

you’ll just have to take me word
for
it











Everything here belongs to the people who made it. The stuff that I made is available for any use as long as proper credit for me and for "Here and Now" is cited.

And "me" would be allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, poet and. very recently, short story writer.


Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore, most all of the Apple machines, plus
Kobo, Copia, Gardner's, Baker & Taylor, and eBookPie.  



  
Places and Spaces




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PLUS -
COMING SOON
Sonyador
(The Dreamer)



                                                               



                                                                     

                                                                    


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