Happy Ho Ho   Monday, December 31, 2012

 
 
Early Morning, New Year's Day
1-1-08
 
 
 
 
Merry Christmas past;  Happy New Year future.
 
Lots of me this time, not chosen through any merit-based standard,  but because weather here  has been dark and miserable and, being caused  lazy by it, it was much easier to use my own  immediately available stuff than to go to the effort of digging around my bookcase to find other alternatives.
 
So, welcome to me and to the last "Here and Now" of 2012.
 
 
 
Me
a resolution for the new year
 
Me
just can't find a smile
 
Helena Mesa
Stasis at Fifteen
A Pebble Held Under Tongues
To Drive Along  a  Road of  Deer
 
Me
along the way
 
Gary Margolis
For the Woman At the Fast Food  Fish Place That Called Me a Pig
 
Harryette Mullen
Momma Sayings
 
Me
goodbye
 
Me
APO New  York
 
Me
about lost balloons
 
Bruce Weigl
Meeting Mr.Death
 
Me
my botanas are at risk
botanas (a  bonus poem)
 
e.e. cummings
from Etcetera, #9 and #10
 
Me
night games
caravan
 
Leslie  Ullman
Night Trade
 
Me
well, it's Christmas after all
 
Me
ghosts like you
 
Me
continental drift
 
Sudeep Sem
Feathers of Snow
South African Woodcut
 
Me
what else do I need to know
 
Michael Ondaatje
Elimination Dance (an intermission)
 
Me
how brown  now  cow
 
Deborah  A. Miranda
While You Were in San Quentin
 
Me
hung over
 
Me
gray lady
 
 
 
 
 
 




To  accompany the New Year's Day photo above,  this New Year's poem, also from 2008, years from the 9-11 butchery, years ahead for the continuing butchery started in response.

The days are not as dark  as when I wrote this  poem, but the resolution I propose would be as good  for us now as  it would have been in  those days.



a resolution for the new year

it was a painful
terrible day,
but not the only
day of pain
and terror  in our 
past
or likely in our
future

it is a day
that  will long
be marked
in our history
and it is time,
now,  seven years
after the fact,
to account for it
in ways beyond
bemoaning
the murder of innocents
and proud real estate
brought down

time to consider the
consequences
of that day
we have
allowed

time to go  past
the often repeated
litany
of 9/11 horrors
politicians use
to frighten us

time to think  of the
reality
of  the years since
that day

and the  reality
is -

two wars
killing thousands
of Americans, with
hundreds of thousands
of  other dead,  guilty
and innocent buried
alike under
the rage of war

billions of dollars
borrowed from out
grandchildren
sent to burn
in the desert

our good reputation
destroyed,
bringing shame
to our  friends
and comfort
to our enemies

paranoia
induced in the name
of "homeland  security"

policies
that threaten  out
freedoms more
than the worst
that could be done
by bearded radicals
hiding
in dry mountains
and dark caves
far away

our military
weakened, true protectors
of our lives and fortunes
brought to near collapse
by armchair warriors
and ideologues
ready to  fight to the
last
someone else

all  this leaving us
weaker at home
and across the world
than we have ever been
during my lifetime

making it time to say
what most  do not
want to hear

the cure
has been  worse
than the disease;
our response to  evil
of that day
more harmful to us
than the evil  itself

it's time
we grow up
as a people
and recognize
we will always have
enemies
and the best defense
against them
is not  making more
enemies
but  making more
friends;
that the best answer
to  irrational hate
is rational love
of freedom and
justice
that is all inclusive
and not limited just
to  those who seem
most like us

I propose  a new year's
resolution
that this year  will be the
end of our obsession
with 9/11,
an obsession
that has  twisted us
and made us victims
not of a foreign
madness,
but of our own

that  this year
we set aside  fear
of those who would
frighten us
for their own benefit

that this year
we declare
we  will not  trade
liberty
for security

it is not our way








Written  when  still too close to  the slaughter.



just can't find a smile

false dawn
the gray light
of the city reflected
on low skulking clouds

the real deal
still
an hour and a half away...

the
new day sun,
raw and belligerent,
will shine on this world today,
three days from its end
in the Mayan apocalypse,
mountains falling into the sea, etc.,
you know, you've
seen the movie...

I am a man
of little belief in things not apparent
to my intellect
and at least one of
my
senses

gods,devils, horsemen four,
ancient astronauts,
secret aliens hidden away
in the  remote New  Mexico
desert, ghosts, Mayan calendars,
it's all the same hokum
to me, but I try to be polite anyway
to those so devoid
of  their own human spirit
that they have to invent spirits
and phantasms of other kinds
to inhabit their otherwise  barren
world

...but wait,that's not a polite thing  to  say,
but then honesty rarely is...

and if you read this honest posturing
and are offended
or otherwise distraught, I apologize, I meant  no harm,
on responding  occasionally in this life to that undeniable urge to set aside
polite conversation,  speak truth
as it is revealed to me
through diligent application of the gray oatmeal
that occupies the space between
my ears...

fanatics
self-satisfied
inheritors of universal truths,
not the spirit-builders I sometimes mock,
but the anti-spirits like  me,
dueling with shadows
only other people see,
such pains-in-the-ass we are, unacceptable burrs
in the human quilt
of companionable all-togetherness

and
of course,
I  don't mean  any of it anyway,
don't mean what  I so meanly say
about nice people, confused, to my mind,
but otherwise  lovely people,
instead,
it's  just a rant
in a week  when insanity has followed
cruel insanity
and the people responsible
are roused only to wash their hands
and do nothing
all this
seeping
this morning into this,
started as  a  light paean to another sunrise,
one of many  in my past,
one of decreasing few on the pages
of my own dusty calendar...

there
I go again - just can't find a smile
on this still-dark
today









Here are three short poems by Helena Mesa, whose book, Horse Dance Underwater, I bought yesterday at a used book store. It was published in 2009 by Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

The poet was born and raised in Pittsburgh to Cuban parents. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the University of  Houston. She is an assistant  professor  of English at Albion College.



Stasis  at Fifteen

Mid-August, a steady heat hemlocks.
Boats float on water too deep  for crabbing
and when you dive, ripples broaden
but the boats remain still. In the distance a radio
cites today's news, same as yesterday -
another hijacked tourist, another heat record.
What's changed? At eight,  the want to flee?
At ten, the restlessness for something else?

Dusk, row to the canal's mouth where
stillness ends in a darkness too large
for hands to steer. There,  salt laps the air,
a gauze rag that scratches cheeks and gags
the buoys' clangs. Stop. Tie down each oar.
What you want will come, swallow you whole.


A Pebble Held Under Tongues

Street's wild,  drumming
not unlike birds caught
inside a cupola.Gars  end

the turn,  each one
your name, each sight lost
before loss ever understood.

A woman mopeds past,
sing, her voice the helm
of what's known,

trinket of time no one wants
to wear, and yet, we do.
The bike's light bobs

and the road seems to shake,
a nervous hand, as it writes
again and again, please.


To Drive Along a Road of Deer   

    una candida sopro l'eba...
    - Petrarch

Tractors strip  fields of wheat, the hazing dusk
like flies in flames. I should watch for them,
a mother and her two, three, but this moon won't
allow, a porcelain bowl so full the mind falters;
its light cracks fields, same light that hunts
darkness through mazes of wheat before wheat
bows to blades. Deer cross to streams, and there
in the current, they return to what  they were:

deer, crazed by light, pawing huffing at a man
anchored on the bank. Anything else pales -
ghostly, chewing-on-cheeks and longing for what
is not. This thing is not a she fleeing
into thick woods, this thing is  illusion -
mud-slipping-feet-, splashed-water-, bruised-knee-
illusion. Let the white moon taunt and taunt
for what cannot be caught, for what cannot be.







Back in 2003 I decided that I would try to rewrite in my own style and language some sections of the Tao te Ching that I particularly liked. What I found - no surprise - was that the closer I stuck to the original, without trying to be original myself, the better it was.



along the way
 
 
i.
 
listen to the silence
and know a true mystery
 
whose answer is seen only
in darkness complete
 
ii.
 
beauty is not known
in the stars
 
and water not found
in the seas
 
wet is a thing
of deserts searing and dry
 
and beauty
a diamond in the mud
 
iii.
 
with this mark
i rend the universe
 
with this voice
i cry the apocalypse
 
together
we will defy eternity
 
iv.
 
from birth comes death
our birthright to die
 
leaving the unborn to live
forever, stay forever, be forever
 
while we pass in and out
of the eternal wake
 
v.
 
sing  softly
and let the song
become your voice
 
be at one
with the one
that encircles all
 
become the center
by letting the center
find the one that is you
 
vi.
 
look at me
and see a construct
of belief
 
form i am not
until  we agree
i am
 
vii.
 
find the value
of that which is not
 
the hole
that makes it a bowl
 
the cut in the wall
that opens a door
 
the empty corner of a heart
that awaits the embrace
of a love other-than-self
 
that which is not
is the nurture
for that
which may someday be
 
viii.
 
the gifts of old
can only be seen
by those with a gift
for seeing anew
 
familiarity
blinds us
 
eyes tight shut
restore our deeper vision
 
ix.
 
water flows
as it will go
 
bringing life
with the indifference
of a pure force true
only to its own measure
 
we can ride its tides
but never change them
 
x.
 
listen
 
if i say nothing
you will hear the truth
of all i know
 
if you hear me speak
you hear a lie
for the truth cannot be told
 
 
 






I picked up another interesting book at the used book store yesterday. The book, I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, pairs poems by men and women.

The book, published in 1999 by Aladdin Paperbacks, was put together by Naomi Shihab Nye (my favorite San Antonio  poet) and Paul B. Janeczko.



The first of the paired poets I picked for this week is Gary Margolis.


For the Woman at  the Fast-Food Fish Place Who Called Me Pig

In this place  God leaves His morsels unguarded -
crumbs on the breadboard, an extra french fry
let on the cashier's counter, and now the colorful
and extravagant unlocked salad bar I not-so-

innocently graze, waiting for my take-out fish to cook.
Out of the corner of your eye, more than mother-like,
you notice my grazing - I think I am at home -
and turn your fork into a gravel, your raincoat into

a judge's robe. When I feel hungry or guilty, guess
which one wins? My hand floats over the carrot sticks
and bacon bits to the innocent croutons. I know
this franchise boasts nationally its charcoal-broiled

techniques, but the flames I feel are dragon flames,
spewing over me from your unslain booth. Beyond the rhyme,
I'm conscious my snitching is uncouth, my hand  so
unsanitary you wish the plastic sneeze guard would crash

like a guillotine. The last broccoli speak I take
is the straw that calls your army out, in full chain mail,
visors down, shields up. You march to the teenage
assistant manager and report my deeds  by amount

and appetizing category. Handing over my fish and fries,
he looks to me for some assurance that her eyes
will not find a sin of his condemnation, Seeing
he does not choose or is too young to reprimand

my public cheating, she turns to me and, in a whisper
louder than one god found in His big way to turn
Adam out, she brands me Pig, and sits back down,
with all her  ruling knives and forks intact.


The second of my paired poets is Harrytette Mullen.


Momma Sayings

Momma had words for us:
We were "crumb crusheres,"
"eating machines,"
"bottomless pits."
Still, she made us charter members
of the bonepickers club,
saying, "Just don't let your eyes
get bigger than you stomach."
Saying, "Take all you want,
but eat all you take."
Saying, "I'm not made of money, you know,
and the man at the Safeway
don't give away groceries for free."

She trained us not to leave  lights on
"all over the house,"
because "electricity costs money -
so please turn the light off  when you leave the room
and take the white man's hand out of you pocket."

When we were  small
she called  us "ant mashers,"
but when we'd outgrow our shoes,
our feet became "platforms."
She told  us we must be growing big feet
to support some big heavyset woman
(like our grandma Tiddly).

When she had to buy us new underwear
to replace the old ones full  of holes,
she'd  swear we were rowing razor blades in our behinds,
"you tear these drawers up so fast."

Momma had words for us alright:
She called us "the wrecking crew."
She said our untidy bedroom
looked like a "cyclone struck it."

Our dirty fingernails she called  "victory gardens."
And when we'd come in from playing outside
she'd tell us,  "You smell  like ironrust."
She'd say, "Go take a bath
and get  some of  the funk off you."
But when the water ran too long in the tub
she'd yell, "That's enough water to wash an elephant."

And after the bath she'd say,
"Be sure to grease those ashy legs."
She'd lemon-cream our elbows
and pull the hot comb
through "these tough kinks on your heads."

Momma had a lot of words for us,
her never quite perfect daughters,
the two brown pennies
she wanted to polish
so we'd shine like dimes.










This was my December 21st Mayan Apocalypse poem.



goodbye
 
the night
was  an ominous dark;
the day
now started a deep
foreboding
blue
 
the clouds
pearly white
and puffy
drift slowly across the
blue
foreboding
sky
hiding their seditious
secrets
behind the  bright
and smiling
sun
 
obviously
the signs are all around us...
 
the end of the world
is
nigh...
 
goodbye...
 









This is another old poem, in fact, one of my oldest.

In 1968, in the military, I was stationed on the edge of the city of Peshawar in the West Pakistan's Northwest Frontier. The airport at Peshawar had been the last fueling spot for the U-2 flights over the Soviet Union. Later, after one of the U-2s was shot down, mostly by accident (the planes supposedly flew too high for the Soviet's air defenses to reach), the mission of the secret Air Force base (secret only to the American taxpayers who paid  for it) in Peshawar was to monitor Soviet missile tests and space shots, as well as the activities of the Soviet air force. We monitored activities in that part of the Soviet Union that later broke off into independent republics after the Soviet Union crashed of it's own bureaucratic weight, as well as the Khyber Pass air gate in Afghanistan in order to follow the comings and goings of the high mucky-mucks of the top Soviet political and military brass.

The was not, at the time, much going on. At one  point, I remember spending most of a day recording and translating the radio communications of crop dusters around Dushanbe, just to have something to do. Your tax dollars at work!

I think I wrote this while I was there, but I'm not sure. I many have written in 1969, a year later, when I was out of the military and back in college, finishing my degree on the GI Bill, or, as I thought of it then, the beans and cornbread five days a week bill.

This base on the frontier was a lonely place, made worse by the fact that the country's long-time quasi-dictator was being overthrown, with demonstrations downtown that often turned into riots, That, in turn, meant we were restricted to our small  base for most of the time I was there. There being only so much one can drink during the 16 hours not working, most of us, geopolitical considerations to the side, were pulling for the anti-government faction, know that they first action when they took over would be to throw us out of the country.

Which they did.



APO New  York

So,  I'm sitting here,
at the absolute and eternal center
of all that is lost and lonely,
cataloging my sins, thinking,
which one was it, oh Lord,
that caused you to  leave me here
when there is so much goodness and beauty
still to be tasted in my life...

I'm thinking of mountains,
maybe the Sandias or Manzanas,
and the way they look from the desert floor in early winter,
with snow  clouds slowly spilling over the crest,
like a dime's worth of ice cream in a five-cent cone.
Or, waking on a mountain top,
making coffee with water come from snow
melted in a pot over a juniper fire,
smelling the air, fresh-made for the morning,
never breathed  before, never close to anything
that wasn't  clean and bright and wholesome.
Or, the back roads and fields
and lakes and thick wooded hills
of south central Missouri,
the golden October shimmer of an aspen grove
amid a stand of deep green pine,
the cool and ageless presence
of Anasazi ghosts in the canyons of Mesa Verde,
the boulevards of Paris glistening in early April rain,
the splash and rumble of South Padre surf at midnight.
Or,  the essences of home,
the slam of the back door
with it's too tight spring,
the creak in the kitchen floor,
the bite of cold cactus jelly on hot cornbread,
the luminous green of the lightning-split mesquite
shading the back yard in early spring.
And the best things,
the peace and love and heart-full joy
of you in my life,
the taste of your lips,
the satin softness of your skin,
your warm breath on my chest
as you curl against me sleeping,
the sweet smell of your hair
falling across your shoulders,
framing your face,
the sound of your morning laughter,
your secret whispers in the still of winter night.

These are my comforts tonight, my love,
as I try to sleep in this place
so far from my life's essentials.

You are the sum and substance of my dreams,
my love,
my breath, my life, my evermore,
and I am missing you tonight.









This is an old poem from 2000.



about lost balloons

what happens,
do you suppose
to balloons that get away?

you see them in the sky
on clear, sunny days,
sometimes just a single balloon
soaring on wings of summer breeze,
slipped from the hands of a little girl
at the zoo, or maybe several tied together,
a multicolored cluster of balloons
flow  free from some backyard birthday party.

but when you see them,
they're always going up, going away.
you never see them coming back.

I think of a book  I had
when I was  a child,
a  Little Golden Book about a toy boat
set  loose in a small stream by a little boy,
the boat getting away from the boy, glorying,
at first, in the excitement of freedom, then growing
frightened as the water grew deeper and wider,
turned into a fast moving creek, then a mighty flowing river
that led to a harbor with giant ships and then the ocean,
the vast and lonely ocean...a metaphor for life, this story
a parable with a happy ending as the little boat is rescued
at the very last minute and returned to the safety of home,
family, the waiting child, the familiar little stream
where adventures always end at dinner time.

but what about balloons?

once gone, they don't come back.

they aren't rescued by some kindly stranger and sent back
from some far exotic place like Australia or China, or
Leola, South Dakota,  they're never folded and stuffed
into an envelope with a stamp and a postmark and a note
in a stranger's hand, "for the little girl from the zoo."

so where do they go instead, these fugitive balloons?

is there a balloon graveyard,  like with elephants, but high
in the stratosphere, somewhere between the vacuum of space
and the pressures of confining earth? or, past that,
perhaps there's a saloon on an alien planet
like in Star  Wars, with balloon music and balloon beer,
where rogue balloons of many planets come together
to celebrate freedom and brag of the exploits
in the heavier-than-air-worlds they left behind,
or, maybe there's a rest home for runaway balloons
where they can sit on rockers on a long open porch,
watching a red-orange sun rise over rolling surf
as the last of their air slowly slips away
with a gentle sigh, dreaming
of faraway times and a little girl and a day at the zoo.











The next poem is by Bruce Weigl, and it's taken from his book The Unraveling Strangeness, published in 2002 by Grove Press.

Weigl is a Vietnam vet, receiving a bronze star for his service, 1967-68. He's  published thirteen books of poetry, edited three collections of criticism, and translated or co-translated three books of poetry from the Vietnamese and one from the Romanian. He is widely published and has won many awards and honors.



Meeting Mr. Death

You could say I
kept my cool
when I met Mr.Death.
I even  made him
laugh
by offering  my
hand to shake
in the bullet-torn
morning  hours,
and then I said,
Are you looking for me?
and he got the joke. Death
gets the joke
or else
our whole  lives
are a lie and a waste.
He didn't take  my hand,
but he laughed at my jokes
and he made me feel
welcome inside the grace
he still wore,
shawl of the ghostly
angel he had been
but could not  remember.

Mr. Death,
he was hanging around some
pals of mine, some
boys of the unspeakable
rapture of war. He
could have had me that morning
too, when I looked away
t  the monsoon-heavy
river
where the bodies
had comet to  rest
in the last eddies,
but he changed his  mind.








I wrote the  first  poem as my poem of the day on the Blueline - House of 30 forum.

This,  of course sent my  housemates off to  their Spanish-English dictionary to look up "botanas" and, having  found the meaning, trying to figure out how the meaning fit with  the poem, deciding, often,  that botanas, as I used  it, was slang for something else, in context with the  poem, something else that might  be at  risk on such a cold morning.

I  wrote the second poem the next day, having had  my fun, a bonus poem.



my botanas are at risk

the cold wind
cuts through like a hot
knife

squirrels
huddle between the limbs
of trees blown leafless

the cat mews

the dog hears
and goes to huddle with her
against the
wind

I have woolly gloves
to protect my hands
from the chill
as  we walk  the circuit,
short-
circuited soon
because I'm freezing
my botanas

dog, warm
in her  long, blond  fur, could  care  less
about my botanas

exuberant
in the frosty morning

wants to  run

I just want to turn around
and go home

as does the cat,
walking  with us, rumbling
in feline
disapproval...

South Texas  weather -

yesterday
I sunned bare in my backyard

today
my botanas are at risk


"botanas" - a bonus poem
 
"botanas"
is one of those words in Spanish
which
if read with the proper frame of mind,
sounds like
it might be dirty
 
it is  a work
i like,
especially
if pronounced not with a proper
Spanish accent,
but in deep South  Texas
redneck
 
booootanas
 
when i have a word
i like,
i like to use it,
whether  it  makes sense
in context
or  not,
especially
when it leads  people into
meaningless
astray-
ful-
ness
 
sorry,
but it's
just one of my more irritating poetic
toooooostadas
 








Now, two poems by e.e. cummings, from the collection, Etcetera, the Unpublished Poems.  The book, was published by Liveright Publishing in 1983, 21 years after the poet's death.



9.

God,Thine the hand that doth extend
          the booby prize of failure,and
The victor's chaplet in the end.
          God,Thine the hand.

God,mine the pooer to die or  live,
           To  find the earth-fruit sweet or  sour,
To take and keep,overtake and give,
            God,mine the power.

God,keep me trying to win the prize;
            Pamper me not,though I be crying.
Though snickering worlds wink owlish eyes,
             God,keep me  trying.


10.

My Prayer

     God make  me the poet of simplicity,
     Force and, clearness.     Help me to live
Ever up to ever higher standards.     Teach me to lay
     A strong,simple,big-rocked wall
     Firmly,the thirst  of all,
And to fill the fissures with the finer  stones and clay
      Of alliteration,simile,metaphor.     Give
      Power  to  point out error in sorrow and in felicity.
Make me a truthful poet,ever true to the voice of my
                                   Call,
      Groping about in  the blackest  night
      For ever clearer,dearer light,
Sturdily standing firm and undismayed on a Pillar  of
                                     Right,
      Working  with heart,and soul,and a willing might,
Writing my  highest Ideal large in whatsoever I write,
      Truthfully,loftily,chivalrously,and cheerfully ever,
                                      Fearfully,never.











Two more old poems from my time on the Northwest Frontier.

The first short one was written, I know, in 1968 while I was still there.

Like I  said earlier there wasn't much to do there but work and drink. Everybody drank, most too much, many developing an alcohol addiction that they would take with them when they went home.

The poem, short as it is, had  a title, but I don't remember it, can't find it, quote it here from memory.


night games

ker-platt ker-platt ker-platt
tennis ball sounds
bright-lit court
drunker than i thought
 
 
 
 
Though boredom was a hazard, there were diversions.
 
This diversion was one I remembered and wrote about after I returned. This was also one of my first published poems.
 
 
 
 
caravan
 
I awoke one morning and there was a
 
camel
          camel
                    camel
                              camel
                                        camel
                                                   camel
                                                             camel
                                                                        camel
                                                                                  camel
                                                                                            camel
                                                                                                       camel
                                                                                                                 camel
                                                                                                                           camel
                                                                                                                                     camel
 
caravan
marching single-file
across my back yard
 
they were
 
 
brown
           and
                  ugly
                          brown
                                     and
                                           ugly
                                                  brown
                                                            and
                                                                   ugly
                                                                           brown
                                                                                      and
                                                                                             brown
                                                                                                       and
                                                                                                              ugly
                                                                                                                      brown
                                                                                                                                 and
                                                                                                                                       ugly
 

and all the goods
piled on their backs
made the clatter-clang-clatter
that had awaken me
 
 
clang
         clang
                 clang
                          clang
                                   clang
                                            clang
                                                     clang
                                                              clang
                                                                       clang
                                                                                clang
                                                                                         clang
                                                                                                  clang
                                                                                                           clang
                                                                                                                    clang
                                                                                                                             clang
 
they went their way
and I went back to sleep
 
 

 
 
 









The next poem is  by Leslie Ullman. It is  from her  book,  Slow Work through Sand, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, published by University of Iowa  Press  in 1998.



Night Trade

This is the way coyote sleeps:
leaving his skin
behind him,  all plumage
and stilled breath.
Taking his skinny self
elsewhere,  to dart after rabbits
and dream at  the moon. Pealing
howls under the moon, shrill gold coins
tossed to other coyotes and gotten back
doubled.  Then he lowers his nose
and curls his tail about his paws, smug
as a house cat, as the coins  roll
gleaming into the night to scare  chickens
and toss ranchers in their bunks.
All night he licks his lips
over the meal of noise,
this gab-feast cousins posted
like radar stations  in the dark.
By day, they disappear, all
thousands of them, leaving the desert
to sunlight and trucks. They go back
to  their  sleeping hides;  one  tanned
carefully by a boy with his first gun,
one eaten by moths
in a Dakota trading  post,
one tagged with a high price
on Rodeo Drive, and this one
stretched across the foot
of my bed at the watered edge
of desert, where I wake some nights
shivering in gold light and ghost money.








Here's my bah humbug poem for this year.

Having no grandchildren, no children  under 30, and not particular belief in the "reason for the season," Christmas is more or less something I put up  with.



well, it's Christmas after  all
 
McDonald's,
the only place open with Wifi
 
the rest of the possibly Christian world
shut down to celebrate
a pagan holiday expropriated
by The Church
as an instrument of control
should heretical  thoughts begin to seep
into the minds  of believers - Look, the church
could say to the convertible  heathen, it's the same
feast day when you used to dance naked around
venerable trees,  we just changed it a little bit,
took our the naked dancing part,  added a baby
we call The Savior who  feels your pain
and who certainly beats out venerable trees
when it come to things you might want to think about
at  night...
 
so get  back to hauling those  stones, building
the cathedral so you can come back  in 500 years  when it's  finished
and get  a free ticket to the celebration...
 
but,
again,
I am not polite
 
it's not polite, or kind,  to  mock
the special  holidays of  others, those days
they hold dear and profound
 
I understand because I know how  I feel
when LBJ's birthday rolls around and nobody takes the day off
but me...
 
disrespected,  that's how  I feel,
and we know no one should ever feel  disrespected,
no matter how  loony one might be, especially true
when the loony one is possibly armed (nothing killing the holiday spirt
quicker than armed
loonies
except, maybe disarmed
zombies...)
 
and, anyway,
except for having to drink McDonald's coffee,
it's no all bad...
 
I got a pair of  socks from Santa, after all,
and a book of poetry,which I will enjoy reading, sitting
by the fire, naked except for my new
socks - naked,  you know, being  essential
to  fine poetry reading...
 
get  one  of my books
and try it
why don't  you, I  promise, great  depth
and dimension
will be added to each and every
poem...
 
that's been my experience
anyway









Here's another new poem from last week.



ghosts like you

the crazy guy,
shouting  on the corner,
an acquaintance
in the days when he was sane

you pass
without looking,
knowing any encounter,
any meeting of the eyes, any response
to his lunacy, will not end this day
on this street corner,
knowing 
that once your are drawn into
this  man's  delusions
he will  not let you go
but will  become a regular part
of what passes in your own mind,
contagious
insanity,
not  that you will become  insane
yourself, but that his
insanity,
this intelligent and personable man
you knew, driven
to drooling rants, will haunt you  the same,
but in a different way,
as it haunts him...

so
the crazy man
on the Internet who has  drawn me
into his delusions,
even if only to  counter them -
why do I  respond in this digital
world when I  would pass,
refusing to notice,
if it  was  from a street   corner
he spouted his
foolishness?

might  it  be
that the digital world is insanity
in itself,that we  all  become in sand
when  we enter - what  but insanity can it be
that I speak to you this morning, never having  seen you,
knowing or  not your name, not knowing, in the real  world
where you are or in what direction I turn
to  speak to you and be heard...

do you believe  in ghosts?

I think I might be beginning to
as I troll this ghost world,
speaking to unseen spirits and ghosts
like you









Here's a poem I wrote in 2001. Not too bad.
 
 
 
continental drift
 
for christsake
I said
 
continents drift
not the passion of true lovers
 
so, if you're going to leave me
leave me for something better
 
run away and join the circus
 
train elephants
to do fancy tricks on little footstools
 
follow your guru to a mountain top -
learn the truths of the universe
through meditation and a salt-free diet
 
go to New York
and make a killing
in the municipal bond market
 
go to Hollywood and become a star
 
make movies
about all the little people
who made it possible
 
do something
 
anything
 
but don't just drift away
because staying in love
seems more trouble than  it's
worth
 
 







The next several poems are by Sudeep Sen. They are taken from his book, Postmarked  India, New and Selected Poems, published by HarperCollins in 1997.



Feathers of Snow

A newly gathered flock of sacred ibises
    sits patiently, long-legged, styled on bare branches
of a lone, half-submerged tree caught amongst weeds.But

from a distance, they look like a frozen image:
    Scattered feathers  of snow, generously dusted
on dry bark,resuscitating its skeleton.

(BotanticalGarden,Durban)


South African Woodcut

Live township theatre smeared in blood and soil has
    carved more in this delicate pn

what's played out in innumerable scripts, repeated
    for years. The hollows of these  eyes stare, animated

and frigid. Through its chiseled pupils appears
    a sight, a vision that  condenses years and years

of unequal struggle. Thick lips,now  to mute to
    protest once again, giving in this time, to

trade. But this mask, masks  much more the  glaze
    of  the rural  varnish and the herb-paint's

primal colours preserves the ritual, anointing the
    face, charting  history's altered course. On the

new stage, this face  has more  poer in its passivity,
    more emotion in its muted,  saintly serenity.












From the  day after  Christmas, happy to be back in  real life.



what else did I need  to  know

like most things
for children, Christmas
is best for them when not force-fed
by adults, when they are left to  wander
through the mysteries, discovering
for themselves the marvels of a time
when time and all the world is 
wrapped in its clockless embrace
and it is their creation

but
that's not how we do it

frightened by the geniuses our babies are
when babies, little learning-machines absorbing the world
through their own tender skin...

we want to control those early days,
insure they do not learn
the wrong  things, protect them from learning
about the things that frighten us,
fashion a world for them where they can safely learn
all they need to know
to cross the universe-divide
between them and us
as they leave baby-time behind,
corrupting  them with life on the grown-up side, teaching
them  the abc's instead of taking them
at night to look at the stars, baby-time is such a waste of time
we think, without proper  planning and parental direction...

I was lucky,
my parents to busy to screw-up  my life,
reading to me at bedtime,
then leaving the rest  to me,  the  pleasures
of the sun though  green shifting leaves, mud,
wonderful, instructive mud, the whole world tuning
dark and gooey, our first lesson in change, the mud-puddle
used to be  dry, not  it's wet, the world sometimes
this; sometimes that, like the ants that make their tiny-footed
trails,  tiny lines in the dirt, hard-packed by their army, repetitively trudging
across, to their eye, boulevards across flat deserts, tight paths
through jungles, and to me, too, as I studied them closely, the world,
I learn, one thing  to some;  another thing to  others, like  chickens rooting
for  their  dinners in the yard, sometimes flopping headless before  mine, the world
I  learned, some eat; some are  eaten, summer rain,  winter chill, change,
the world, sometimes one thing;  sometimes another..

all these things
I was left alone to  learn,
thank god, left alone, learning,
my baby-genius absorbing the world, taught
by the greatest teacher of all,
the world itself...

and what did I know about Christmas,
bright lights, toys in colored boxes,
hints of reindeer,  fat men in funny suits,
people singing, people smiling, people
being nicer to each other
than  usual...

what more did I need to know than that...











My next poem is by Canadian poet, Michael Ondaatje, taken from his book The Ci9nnamon Peeler. The book was published by Vintage International in 1997.

Ondaatje is a well known poet and novelist (his best known, The English Patient.

These are fun.



Elimination Dance
(an intermission)

    "Nothing I'd read prepared me for  a body this unfair"
        John Newlove

    "Till we be roten, kan we not be rypen"
        Geoffrey Chaucer

Those who are allergic to the sea

###

Those who have resisted depravity

###

Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take
photographs

###

American rock stars who wear  Toronto Maple Leaf hockey
sweaters

###

Those who (while visiting a foreign country) have lost the end
of a Q tip in their ear and have been unable to explain their
problem

###

Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked
woman's stomach after lunch and later, after  slowing down
the sound considerably,  have sold these noises on the open
market as whale songs

###

All actors who spit into the first row while they
perform

###

Men who fear to use an electric lawn-mower feeling they could
dose off and be dragged by it into a swimming pool

###

Any dinner  guest who has consumed the host's contact
lens along with the desert

###

Any person who has had the following dream. You are in a
subway station of a major city. At the far end you see a coffee
machine. You put in two coins. The Holy Grail drops down.
Then blood pours into the chalice

###

Any person who has lost a urine sample in the mail

###

All those belle-lettists who feel that should have been
an urine sample

###

Anyone who has  had to step into an  elevator with all of the
Irish Rovers

###

Those who have filled in a bilingual and confidential pig survey
from Statistics, Canada. (une enquete sur les porcs,
strictement  confidentielle)

###

Those who have written to the age old brotherhood of
Rosicrucians for a free copy of their book "The Mastery of
Life" in order to release the inner consciousness and to
experience (in the privacy of their own home) momentary flights of
the soul

###

Those who have accidentaly stapled themselves

###

Those who have been penetrated by a mountie

###

Any university  professor who has danced with a life-sized
cardboard  cut-out of Jean Genet

###

Those who have unintentionally locked themselves within a
sleeping bag at a camping goods store

###

Any woman whose i.u.d. has  set off an alarm system
at the airport

###

Those who, after a swim, find the sensation of water dribbling
out of their ears erotic

###

Men who have never touched a whippet

###

Women who gave up the accordion because of pinched breasts

###

Those who have pissed out of the back of a moving truck

###

Those who have woken to find the wet footprint of a peacock
across their kitchen floor

###

Anyone whose knees have been ruined as  a result of performing
sexual acts in elevators

###

Those  who have so much as contemplated the possibility of
creeping up on one's enemy with two Bic lighters, pressing
simultaneously the butane switches - one into each nostril -
and so gassing him to death

###

Literary critics who have swum the Hellespont

###

Anyone who has been hired as a "professional beater" and
frightened grouse in the direction of the Queen Mother

###

Any lover who has gone into a flower shop on Valentine's Day
and asked for clitoris when he meant clematis

###

Those who have come across their own telephone numbers
underneath terse insults or  compliments in the washroom of
the Bay Street Bus Terminal

###

Those who have used the following techniques of seduction:
    - small  talk at a falconry convention
    - entering a spa town disguised as Ford Maddox Ford
    - making erotic rotations of the pelvis, backstage, during
       the storm scene of King Lear
    - underlining suggestive phrases in the prefaces of Joseph
        Conrad

###

Anyone who has testified as a character witness for a dog in a
court of law

###

Any writer who has been photographed for the jacket of a book
in one of the following poses: sitting in the back of a 1956 Dodge
with two roosters; in a tuxedo with the Sydney Opera House
in  the distance; studying the vanishing point on  a jar of Dutch
Cleanser; against a gravestone with dramatic back lighting;
with a false nose on; in the vicinity of Macchu Pichu; or sitting
in a study and looking intensely at one's own book

###

The person who borrowed my Martin Beck thriller, read it in
a sauna, which melted the glue off the spine so the pages drifted
to the floor, stapled them together and returned the book,
thinking I wouldn't notice

###

Any person who has burst into tears at the Liquor Control
Board

###

Anyone with pain

###











Here's another old poem, but a little less old then the ones before. I wrote this one in 2004. I think it might be  in my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.



how brown now cow
 
fire burns
the turning worm
and God helps those
who drop the folding money
Sunday morning
but time passes
and never moves
so it's always
now
now is the time
for all good men
to get the best deal
they can on their pound
of flesh
give it up for the
dollar
but no sense
to it now
tomorrow
and tomorrow
but always
now
I see time passing
in the graying
of your
smile
you're on candy
camera
like the one I had
when I was a kid
back then
yesterday
now again
I see time passing
but it's always now
and that's a real motherfucker
cause you left me
yesterday
and tomorrow now
will be lonely
too










Deborah A. Miranda is another poet new to me. She is of European and Esselen-Chumash descent and a member of the Esselen Nation. She has had a varied career as a student, teacher of severely handicapped children, and a house cleaner. She has been widely published in journals and in anthologies. At the time of publication, she lived in Tacoma, Washington and was working on an M.A. at the University of Washington.

Her poem this week is from her book Indian Cartography, published in Greenfield Review books in 1999.



While You Were in San Quentin

     Eight Years for my father

1

I became a stepdaughter.
We moved to Washington State
in a year of drought.
I didn't have a brother and sister anymore.
I lost my front teeth.

2

One teacher said I was too dark,
too quiet, too slow.
Another teacher cherished me.
I learned to read.
We moved again.

3

Hannah became my best friend.
My mother had an affair.
This man molested me.
This same man molested my best friend.
She told.
Our mothers believed  us;
the sheriff didn't.
We moved again.

4

You sent three cards.
In each one you called me
Darling Daughter
I never wrote back.
Kittens were born under my bed.
We moved again.

5orized tavern phone numbers:
Mecca, Ad Lib,  Sugar Shack.
I grew my hair long.
My step-father left;
then, he tried to sell the trailer we lived in.
We bought  macaroni, hot dogs, and ice cream
with foot stamps.

6

My mother studied all night at the kitchen table.
She had a new boyfriend named Joe.
He was kind to us. I hated him,
his Oklahoma accent, the way
he wanted me to trust him.
In the summer we picked berries.
I told people my real father was Indian.
I told people I had six sisters,
named them.

7

A man walked on the moon again.
I failed the multiplication tables test over
and over.
I grew breasts, hips and go my period in the fifth grade.
My grandmother bought me the ugly clothes
for fat girls.
I forgot what little Spanish I knew.

8

I took up drums instead of typing.
I waited for a new best friend.
I tried cigarettes.
I kept a journal of my dreams.
I began to wonder who I looked like.
I wondered if I looked
like you.






Being alive this time of year,  between Christmas and New Years is closest you can come to  being dead while still  breathing.



hung over

I have the kind
of  hangover that comes
from sleeping too  well and waking
before you're done

and the day
outside,
dark and deadened,
reflects my mood and mental condition

winter

mornings slightly above or below  freezing
for the past couple of days -

but the kind of winter
we have in these parts
which give no clue from the inside
that it's  freezing-cold outside

I've lived places
where you look  out your window
in late December
and see the snow and see the icicles
hanging on your eaves
and know,
damn,
it's  cold out there

hell,
ain't no way I'm going out in that,
you say to your dog
itching
for a walking

instead,
I'm outside in the normal-looking morning
walking my dog
at 5  a.m.

north wind
bitter  cold on my face
making  my eyes burn and my nose run;
fingers like  Popsicle sticks
in inadequate gloves
wanting to  walk,walk,walk and go home
while the dog wants to stop, stop, stop and sniff
at every bush, every tree, every crack in the sidewalk,
all the very same places she's  stopped and sniffed
every morning for the past two weeks...

but she is a good dog and I am
a good master
so  I just pretend there's drifts of snow all around
and I knew what I was getting into
when I stepped out the door
this morning...

at least, I'm hoping,
the cold will cure my sleep-leadened
hangover
and I can face the day, anew,
as the human I know
deep  down
I am








And  here's my final Here and Now poem of the year.




 
gray lady
 
gray lady,
round-face drifting
lightly veiled
by wispy clouds
passing
 
her
cold-shadow
light
like frost
in the
air...
 
gray lady
beaks
the dawn
like cracking
a pale
egg
 
and then it's
morning
and still she hangs,
gray lady,
over another
gray
day
 





 


 12-31-12


That's it for  this year.

It all belongs to who done it.

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