My pictures this week were taken by my son, Christopher, except for two, taken by his friend and fellow traveler, Andre Lamar, in which he is the subject of the photo, including the one above (which I used as cover photo for my book, Places and Spaces) and another that appears further on in the post.
Chris is an avid hiker and primitive camper. Sometimes he goes alone,
sometimes with friends. These picture were taken mostly on his treks
in the Guadalupe Mountains on the Texas/New Mexico border.
As well as being a good photographer, Chris is a fine musician,
creating, with several of his friends, a CD of improvisational jazz electronica, laced with bass guitar, trumpet, trombone and grand piano, that I included as part of a package with my first book, Seven Beats a Second.
Also I have a new anthology this week, Modern Catalan Poetry: An Anthology, published by New Rivers press in 1979. The poems in the book were selected and translated by David H. Rosenthal. I have to admit that "Catalan" was one of those things I knew, but didn't know, knowing that it was a region in Spain and not much else. Having lived with my ignorance for many years, I finally googled it today. For you who, like me, exist in permanent semi-ignorance, Catalan is a Romance language and a cultural group originating in the region of Catalonia, located mostly in the northern region of Spain.
Okay, I feel better about the whole thing now.
And of course, poems from my library, new poems of mine and excerpts from my most recent book, Sonyador, the Dreamer. I'm a little uncertain how I'm going to that. Sonyador, is a book of 31 very short stories, none more than two pages, a couple less than a half a page.Together, the poems form a narrative. Writing this before I do anything else, I'm not sure how I'm going to post excerpts from the stories without busting the narrative.
(That's an earlier Chris is the tree, by the way)
Maybe it'll work, maybe not.
I start this week with one of my new poems from last week.
As most who are familiar with "Here and Now" probably know, I post a new poem every day on "The House of 30" - a poetry forum where the object is not critique, but a place where poets are encouraged to become better poets by writing on a disciplined daily basis. Housemates are expected to write a poem a day in 30 increments. Some poets do there 30, leave for a while then come back for another 30. Some of us don't stop. I, for example, have written a poem a day through 83 increments of 30 (and I' not the most prolific in the house). That's nearly 2,500 days of poetry with, as far as I can remember, no more than 10 days of break.
Lots of days I write crap, but my assumption is that you have to write through the crap to get to the good stuff. At least I hope it works that way.
Anyway, the point is, I took a break last week - felt bad, slept all day, and didn't write a poem.
This is the poem I wrote the next day when I came back.
took a furlough
yesterday, didn't feel well
and couldn't find a reason to fight
the feeling, slept all day,
allowed no poetry
to pass my finger tips,
thinking, perhaps, I might give the well
of poetic postulations
a chance to
also to ease my uneasy stomach,
my aching back, knees, hips, etc.
(what's a nice guy like me
in a bunch of second-rate joints
got up this morning,
went outside in the dark
to test the air, check on what the moon
might promise for the day - poor slender little thread
of a moon, closing down shop, oh, moon of little promise
shining not bright for me, but there was a cool breeze
that shuffled the trees,
a hustlers' deck, making promises
I knew they would not
but here I am back
anyway, a believer, a sucker
for a card shark's
betting on a deuce-high
as always, believing
the well will flow again,
only a little deeper dig
to find the flow
beneath the dusty
a margin call
on the future, so far
the sun has risen, bright and shining, as the gambler
so I am encouraged, but the door key
in my pocket, insurance
in case I decide it's time
to fold my cards and
leave the game
Here's my first poem for the week from the anthology, Modern Catalan Poetry
The poem is by Joan Salvat-Papasseit
, who was born in 1894 and died in 1924. He was one of the few Catalan poets with a working class background. His father, a stoker on the steamship Montevideo, died in 1901 and Salvat spent most of his childhood in a charity home. Emerging as a writer in a time of anarchist strikes and manifestos, burgeoning Catalan nationalism, and intense receptivity to every kind of new political and artistic theory, he was very much a man and a poet of his times.
He published the first of his six volumes of poetry in 1919. A year later he found that he had tuberculosis, and the remainder of his poetic career was overshadowed by his impending death.
to J. Caronnell i Gener
around the table
near the whistling gaslight
Some artificial flowers
which bring me pain
because they never feel the winter
the eyes of my beloved
gleam like a cat's
or like fish-scales
The room's windowpane shake
resound with the jolting of trams
The wooden mannequin
seems like a specter
Just now I knocked over the inkwell with my arm
The dark spot spread
and as superstition makes its entrance
WE'VE GROWN PALE
I have a new book of poetry due out later this month or early next month. In the meantime, my most recent book is Sonyador, the Dreamer
, a book of 31 very short stories that follow a young boy by the name of Sonyador (my title is redundant, sonyador is a Spanish word for dreamer) as he grows through his youthful years and into adulthood (and beyond).
It is my intention in this post to pull excerpts from some of the stories while, hopefully, not giving away too much of the larger narrative.
I start with some lines from the first story in the book,
from The Price of Freedom
Little Sonyador knew what freedom was.
He knew it was his bike, his striped-down jalopy of a bike, a hand-me-down from his older brother, repainted bright red to be new, to be his.
The tires not like the skinny tires on the new bikes his friends rode,but fat and wide, balloon tires, not so fancy as those of his friends, but better for the dirt roads where he usually rode.
That was part of the freedom, too, the dusty roads, the grassy banks on either side of the canals where he learned to swim, the paths around the settling basin, where thick green water was brought in from the river, held until needed then sent by the big pumps (bolts and nuts as big as hubcaps), pushed down canals throughout the irrigation district. And freedom also, the high levees along the arroyo, diversion channels from the river for when hurricanes came and brought floods, and the freedom of trees and birds and ponds and frogs and water snakes, the turtles, the freedom of the monster garfish breaking the surface of the water in the settling basin...
And now, first from my library, I have two poems by Jane Hirshfield
. The poems are from her book, Given Sugar, Given Salt
, published in 2001 by HarperCollins.
Bobcats, Beetles, Owls
We stood in the dark outside a door
and talked in the scent of jasmine.
Three women standing at the foot of - what?
One mountain of three lifetimes' lucks and losses,
the other actual breathing, above us in the dark.
The year's new leaves and grasses were resting all around us.
Somewhere above us, deer were sleeping.
Bobcats, beetles, owls were sleeping.
We spoke of neither mountain.
We breathed in the scent of jasmine between words
whose meaning didn't' matter.
Only the murmur mattered, going on.
It was night. Deer slept, and bobcats.
Our lives paused with us in the doorway, waiting.
A man tips back his chair, all evening.
Years later, the ladder of small indentions
still marks the floor. Walking across it, then stopping.
Rarely are what is spoken and what is meant the same.
Mostly the mouth says one thing, the thighs and knees
say another, the floor hears a third.
Yet within us,
objects and longings are not different.
They twist on the stem of the heart, like ripening grapes.
I'm good for it.
a day well begun
like a fat man
at a Jenny Craig
convention, someone's before picture
from the glossy pages
of a woman's magazine,
all the skinny folk with with my jiggly little belly
and the satisfied smile
of a man who just had a ten thousand calorie
breakfast, which I just did, French breakfast
at an Italian restaurant, coddled
eggs and French toast covered with
strawberries and bananas
and warm, slow-drip syrup, all washed down
with French-press coffee so bold and thick I'll be picking
it from between my teeth for hours
and all the skinny boys and girls
and formerly fat old ladies
me, so plump and satisfied,
run for the exits,
run for home, for that secret stash of
chocolate bon bons
hidden behind the arugula in the back
of the fridge,
while Jenny herself,
seeing her business model crash around her
robs a bank on the way
where many fat folk still abide,
to be evangelized,
brought to the faith of the skin-
crackers and carrots
I pat my jiggly belly
and congratulate myself
on a morning well
and a day well begun
Next from the anthology, I have this poem by Pere Quart
, pen name for Joan Oliver
The poet was born in 1899 to a wealthy mercantile and banking family and, at the time the anthology was published, was still living.
Beginning in the 1920s, he was an active leftist. During the Republic, he was director of publications for the Generalitat,Catalonia's autonomous government. He published regularly in numerous Catalan periodicals, until the end of the war when he fled, first to France, then to Chile. He returned to Catalonia in 1948 under a government amnesty, but for many years was denied a passport and could not legally leave Spain.
Songs of Exile
One night when the moon was full
we crossed that hill,
slowly, not saying a word...
so was our grief
My beloved is beside me
of dark skin and serious air
(like a Virgin Mary
found in the mountains)
the day of my departure,
I left half my life slumbering;
The other half came with me
so as not to leave me lifeless.
Today in French territory,
and perhaps still further tomorrow,
I won't die of longing
but longing will make me live.
In my country of Valles
three hills make a mountain range,
four pines a thick wood,
five towns too big a world.
"There is no place like Valles
Let the pines ring the inlet,
the hermitage on the hill;
and on the beach a cloth to cover fish
beating like a wing.
A hope undone,
an infinite regret.
And a homeland so small
that I dream of it whole.
The next piece is from Sonyador's third story.
from Playing War
Little Sonyador reads all the "Leatherneck" comics of his Korean War era, stories of squarer-jawed American soldiers firing machine guns and throwing grenades against yellow, slant-eyed Chinese invaders, their fanatic hatred of everything good and American screaming rage from their squinty eyes as they counter-attack.
And Little Sonyador has nightmares about going to war, not by the killing and dying of war, frightened, even as a young boy, not by that, but by the extinguishing of self, the giving up of his self to Generals and Sergeants and the military machineries of war.
He is often a lonely boy,comfortable with going his own way in his head. He addresses the expectations of 1950s boyhood when it pleases him or when he must, reading Boy's Life, getting all his Cub Scout merit badges but shunning the smothering blanket of Boy Scout campfire camaraderie when he is old enough to transition as is expected of him. He hates the joining that is expected of him, the idea of being lost in a group. He has come to expect his aloneness, to prefer it, even, for the world outside his head does not always welcome him on his own, not always clearly understood, terms.
He is a peculiar boy, Little Sonyador, not always attuned to the cadences of most around him.
"Go find someone to play with," his father says. But Little Sonyador would rather play his own games...
Next from my library, I have a poem by Robinson Jeffers
from his book, Selected Poems
, published by Vintage Books in 1965.
This was about the time I was considering Jeffers the greatest poet every, after reading his epic poem Tamar
, a poetic rendering, if I remember right, of the story of Tamar in the Bible. Beautiful poem, but he is dense and hard to read. He has long been displaced as my favorite poet, to the point that I hadn't thought of him in years before running across this little book in one of my used book stores.
The World's Wonders
Being now three or four years more than sixty,
I have seen strange things in my time. I have seen a
merman standing waist-deep in the ocean off my
Unmistakably human and unmistakably a sea-beast: he
submerged and never came up again,
While we stood watching. I don not know what he was,
and I have no theory: but this was the least of
I have seen the United States grow up the strongest and
wealthiest of nations, and swim in the wind over
I have seen Europe, for twenty-five hundred years the
crown of the world, become a beggar and a cripple.
I have seen my people, fooled by ambitious men and a
froth of sentiment, waste themselves on three wars.
None was required, all futile, all grandly victorious. A
fourth is forming.
I have seen the invention of human flight; a chief desire
of man's dreaming heart for ten thousand years;
And men have made it the chief of the means of mas
I have seen the far stars weighed and their distance
measured, and the powers that make the atom put
into service -
For what? - To kill. To kill half a million flies - men I
should say - at one slap.
I have also seen doom. You can stand up and struggle
or lie down and sleep - your are doomed as Oedipus.
A man and a civilization grow old, grow fatally - as we
say - ill: courage and the will are bystanders.
It is easy to know the beauty of inhuman things, sea,
storm and mountain; it is their soul and their
Humanity has its lesser beauty, impure and painful; we
have to harden our hearts to bear it.
I have hardened my heart only a little: I have learned
that happiness is important, but pain gives
The use of tragedy: Lear becomes as all as the storm he
crawls in; and a tortured Jew becomes God.
Our old dog Reba, who was with us nearly twenty years, finally got so old and arthritic she could no longer go on walks, eventually coming into such pain that we, with great sorrow, had to put her down as a mercy.
Our old dog, Reba, who was with us nearly twenty years, finally got so old and arthritic she could no longer go on walks, not even very short ones. Eventually, her arthritics grew so painful that, as a mercy and with great sorrow, we had to put her down.
Meanwhile, our new dog, Bella, a healthy, active three-year-old, loves to walk, leaving me, after just a few months of walking her three or four times a day, fifteen pounds lighter than the day she joined us.
Contrary to Reba and as in this poem, she loves to stick her into and investigate every dark place she can find.
sticking my nose in it
has her nose
stuck in deep grass,
like she's found a really great story there
I'm like that sometimes,
sticking my nose far into the bushes
looking for a poem,
finding one every once in a while,
a juicy little tidbit
of a poem
buried deep in the shade and shadow
cool of a fragrant flowering shrub
and I drink deeply
all is well poet-man, your
destiny for today
but skunks and snakes and angry cats
like those cool shadowed
and I've found at least my share
of them -
like my dog, nose deep in the foliage,
then jumping back
as if stung,
finding a less pleasing story
than the one she expected,
that are known, sometimes,
for biting back
Next from the anthology, I have two poems by Bartomeu Rossello-Porcel
Born in 1913 and considered one of the most promising of young Catalan poets, he died in his mid-twenties of tuberculosis (we forget in this modern age what a scourge TB was). The first of the two poems, written in 1937, shortly before his death in a sanitarium, has come to be considered almost the island's national anthem.
For Majorca, During the Civil War
These fields still turn green,
those groves remain,
and my mountains are etched
above the same azure.
The stones always invoke
the difficult rain, the blue rain
that comes from you, bright ridge,
my mountains, pleasure, brightness!
I'm greedy for the light,lingering in my eyes
that makes me tremble when I remember you!
Now the gardens are like music;
they trouble and tire me like some slow tedium.
Autumn's heart already fades
fixed with delicate smoke-clouds.
And the grass turns brown on hunting party
hills, among September dreams
and dusk-tinted fogs.
All my life is bound to you,
like flames at night to the darkness.
Bridge at Twilight
Les feux rouges des ponts...
The lofty night and I
embrace - all alone in the streets.
The lanterns of little squares
The burnt houses, black,
and in font of bordellos, with blouses
of June wind, adventure
Madame Clara and Madame Barbara.
In the doorways, bandits
fearful of me, who don't venture out.
The sun on the rooftops
with a stunningly beautiful girl.
Here's my next piece from Sonyador's story.
from Home for New Years
It's New Year's Eve, December 31, 1952, and Little Sonyador and his mom and dad are at church, leaving behind the old year with prayers for a new one.
He would like to stand up and tell the whole church that his big brother, Tug, is coming back from Korea tomorrow so there's no question that 1953 is going to be a great year and they ought to quit worrying about it.
But he won't, because his mom and dad don't like to draw attention to themselves, even when they have great news like this.
Little Sonyador used to get excited about New Years, back when he was a little kid. But even in the few years since then, he's noticed that the first new year day isn't so different that he can see from the last day of the old year. Dad still goes to work, but gets no more money for it. Mom still works at the school cafeteria at lunch and he still walks the couple of blocks home for lunch so no one sees him seeing her there, and it's still a dirt road outside their house, rough as the back of a mule when it's dry and muddy as a frog pond when it rains, and his friend Horacio, is still gone to pick beets and won't be back for months, and Dad's car still rattles and shakes and doesn't run for doodle, just like all his other cars always did and the boy just doesn't see nothing happening that's worth all the fuss.
But this year it's going to be great, a real new year, with his brother walking down the road toward home sometimes tomorrow, home from the war, whistling just like he always used to do when he was walking home from school...
My poet friend, Dan Cuddy
, has just published a new book of poetry. The book, Handprint on the Window
, was published by Three Conditions Press, a subsidiary of the Maryland State Poetry & Literary Society.
Dan, a graduate of Loyola College of Baltimore, served as contributing editor of the Maryland Poetry Review and assistant editor of Lite: Baltimore's Literary Newspaper
. He has had numerous poems published in a number of small magazines.
This is his first book of poetry, which I expect you can get by contacting Three Conditions Press or it's sponsor, the Maryland State Poetry & Literary Society.
I chose two poem from the book to use here.
The first poem is the best explanation ever for why I don't do open-mike readings. The second poem bring about one of my favorite Sunday afternoon habitats.
the endless bandstands
of local poetry trumpeting again
this Sunday afternoon
by a wild man street poet
if not teased
the man with the hair
walks dramatically to the podium
as if under the influence
of either genius
he totters a bit
what is in his inner ear?
how does he balance his act?
he inhales from the stub
of a cigarette
assumes a measure of sobriety
reads his madness
the room is a cavern
of abandoned tables
with chairs hanging on
in silent circles
The Used Bookstore
the beautiful, the handsome people are somewhere
either looking into each other's eyes
in outdoor cafes
buying some haberdashery
but not here
where dust, cat hair, leftist magazines
this menagerie of stories, ideas, history
how many hours
of solitude, of inspiration, of drudgery
are squeezed together on the shelves
are piled knee-high on the floor
and once in a while
catch the eye
in somebody's mind
of the punk hairdo
is listening to Phillip Glass
the repetition, the slight variation
the repetition, the slightest of variations
and the browsers hear
in one ear and out the other
a worker here
in olive drab jacket
with purple dye discoloring her hair
sits with fist under chin
or gritting her teeth
a white Manx cat slinks
through the aisles of literature
to its saucer of water
its afternoon contemplation
on the nature off being
Some poets write deep and meaningful poetry. Mostly I just respond to the day around me. The bad part of that the news today is tomorrow's old news.
In this case, I hope the next game in a couple of days will keep it interesting, at least until this is posted.
take Game One
on Miami's home court,
in front of Miami's fans
to see a coronation,
with two great teams,
the game's great masters,
poets of the game,
like the ancient Chinese masters,
of each stroke of their
it will take the full seven series I think
this year's preeminent
of the the arts
Born in 1941, Marta Pessarrodona
, is one of the more contemporary poets from the Castalan anthology.
Educated in Castilian, Pessarrodona had to teach herself before she could writ Catalan. She published her first book in 1968, and her most recent book, Private Life
, had, at the time of publication, almost sold out of its original edition - 1,200. (1,200 copies, I can't tell you how much better that makes me feel.) At the time of publication, she was writing for newspapers and magazines and producing her plays on Spanish television.
Landscape with Obese Figure
Lost, that written faith,
slaves of the casual lump of earth,
the obese priests
of cult and ritual
of useful friendships,
hand down the laws
of obedience or death:
this familiar ending:
a gaping hole, silence.
And it's useless to hide,
to avoid the daily papers,
to dine with very few people,
to write with disappearing ink,
to recite verse in a low voice.
They've given the final
sentence: to banish us
from their putrid, telephonic,
Next, this is from the 12th story in the book
...It's true he likes to read, and reads a lot and reads very fast, but the kind of books he likes to read are not the kind of books everyone says his potential should be reading.
And instead of paying attention in math class, he'd much rather be sitting behind the bus barn smoking Parliament cigarettes with old, slow-talking Charlie Barkley. Charlie never had much potential, and if he did it got dropped along the wayside a long time ago. He cleans up the school buses every day, sweeps out the insides and washes the outside, squirting, mostly, no scrubbing except sometimes on Fridays. That's what Charlie does; that's all Charlie does. And he doesn't get paid hardly anything, but as long as he has a warm place to sit in the sun on warm spring days, it's all okay with him.
Charlie's got no potential, and if he did, well, he says, "If I thought I could do better I'd be unhappy with what I do."
"That's no way to live," he says, and asks for another cigarette...
Here's another poem from my library. The poem is by Dennis Tourbin
, and it's from his book, In Hitler's Window
. The book w as published by The Tellem Press of Ottawa in 1991.
Kind of strange, but I could find no image of the cover, including the places like Amazon and the original publisher that sell the book.
In the dark night
the glow of pink neon
the flash of a car's
headlights. In the
distance - the vast
Huge ships, like
cities inch along
the horizon; the
slow passage of
light and time.
The cold North Atlantic...
young men, soldiers,
landing on this
beach years ago.
I imagined their
bodies washing ashore,
whispering as the water hit
I imagined those
last few moments:
the bitter cold
of the water
and the sand
and the sharp snap
of bullets through
the dense flesh.
A slow movement
into an eternity
the waves washing
away all evidence
with each deep
breath of the ocean
The blood just a
a certain remembrance
of some forgotten dream.
The flash of chrome
sparkling in the
The main street,
a new discovery:
the blur of
color in the
from every window.
In time I will
the palm of
for the distance
This is another new poem from last week.
the Buddha would approve, unless...
a banana peel
on the ground
just in case a fat man
on a day
when the world was
and in need of a
even the Buddha
would approve and say
bringer of joy and
he was the fat man
Returning to an earlier generation of Cantalan poetry, J.V. Foix
, born in 1894 and at eighty four when the anthology was published and still considered the master of avaunt-garde Catalan poetry. Since 1917, he has been considered to be in his nation's artistic vanguard, working with many internationally known painters, including Salvador Dali, who he presented in his first Barcelona show.
In addition to his artistic and cultural activities, Foix, at the time of publication, was the prosperous owner of two fine pastry shops, his customers sometime asking if he is the father of that poet who writes far-out poems with very long titles.
Here's one of those.
At the Entrance to an Underground Station, Bound Hand and Foot
by Bearded Customs Officials, I Saw How Marta Set Off in a Train
for the Frontier. I Wanted to Smile at Her but a Policelike Militiaman
Carried Me Off with His Own Family, and Set Fire to the Woods
Stairs of glass on the solar platform
Where trains of light leave for open beaches
Among transparent walls and branching corals
And bright-eyed birds in branches buzzing.
Is it you, white in the white of this insular dawn,
- Liquid of gaze, hearing inner music -
do you write wet goodbyes on the forest of windowpanes,
With seed of night for an open dream?
You go beyond joy towards enchanted shores
With gigantic drunks in the thorny cove
And dissected falcons on rocks marked with crosses,
To a see where gods walk in night's furtive onset.
I can't teach you, sleeping, blind to the light and in mind,
Dressed like a child, without voice or supplies,
Guarded among hoes by double-formed innkeepers;
The passports are old and bloody the hearts.
You take mountains and rivers and stellar lakes
And fountains in cool shadows in deep mailsacks;
A shadowy watch from the flaming peak
Calls to me with strange names and says no with his hands.
In the open they wave torn flats.
Another of Sonyador's stories, this one, number thirteen.
Older, Sonyador has mostly shed his first name, being known now to most people as "Sonny."
...It was a double feature (it was always a double feature at this little theater in Sonny's little town),
and the first movie went great. It was not a good movie, but Sonny was so caught up in sitting so close in the dark with a girl, especially a pretty girl like Delfina, that it could have been 65 minutes of ducks quacking and he would have thought it was great
The second movie was about a giant monster octopus that slithers up out of the ocean and starts
squeezing people with its long arms until they looked like a pile of mashed potatoes, sucks them up with a kind of long nozzle thing. It may have been an alien giant monster octopus or maybe a regular octopus that had been caught in an undersea radiation storm from nuclear testing, which seemed more reasonable, but Sonny didn't know and that was why he was looking forward to seeing the movie since he had heard about the previews and been wondering every since about what kind of monster octopus it was going to turn out to be.
But during the intermission between the two movies, Belmont showed up, and when the monster octopus movie finally got started it turned out Belmont was sitting next to Delfina and Sonny was sitting next to Belmont.
The octopus movie was ruined because Sonny was concentrating on what the other two were doing - because the first time the giant monster octopus leaped from the sea Delfina grabbed Belmont's arm and, so far as Sonny could tell, never let go and then toward the end of the movie it looked like Delfina had her head resting on Belmont's shoulder.
And Sonny completely missed the part of the movie when the alien monster octopus/irradiated monster octopus question was answered so he ended up not knowing anymore about it than he did before the movie started.
And then, after the movie, as they were walking home.....
Next from my library I have several short poems by Wendell Berry
, from his collection, Collected Poems, 1957-1982
. The book was published by North Point Press, my copy from the book's seventeenth printing.
Berry was born in Kentucky, then wrote and taught in California and New York, eventually returning to the Kentucky River region where he lived for two decades, writing and farming seventy-five acres in Henry County. Reading his poems, his love of place so clear, it's not hard to see why he moved back to Kentucky.
I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though i am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.
Hunting hem, a man must sweat, bear
the whine of a mosquito in his ear,
grow thirsty, tired, despair perhaps
of ever finding them, walk a long way.
He must give himself over to chance,
for they live beyond prediction.,
He must give himself over to patience,
for they live beyond will. He must be led
along the hill as by a prayer.
If he finds them anywhere, he will find
a few, paired on their stalks,
as ease in the air as souls in bliss.
I found them here at first without hunting,
by grace, as all beauties are found.
I have hunted and not found them here.
Found, unfound, they breathe their light
into the mind, year after year.
Life is your privilege, not your belonging.
It is the loss of it, now, that you will be singing.
In a dream I meet
my dead friend.He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet, I, the changed one,
ask "How have you been?"
He grins and looks at me,
"I been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees."
Through thee weeks of deep snow
we walked above the ground
on fallen sky, as though we did
not come of root and leaf, as though
we had only air and weather
for our difficult home.
as March warms, and the rivulets
run like birdsong on the slopes,
and the branches of light sing in the hills,
slowly we return to earth.
Flying at night, above the clouds, all earthmarks spurned,
lost in Heaven, where peaceful entry must be earned,
I have no pleasure here, nothing to desire.
And then I see one light below there like a star.
Some nostalgia to dampen the day.
back then, when
to Peter, Paul, and Mary
when we knew
that all was possible,
could be vanquished
by our hand
was on our side
how I wish
it could be back then
This the fifteenth story from my book, Sonyador, the Dreamer
. Halfway, almost, through the books 31 very short stories.
Onward Christian Soldier
...Sonny found Jesus at the Baptist mid-summer tent revival, then lost him just about as fast when it turned out that the Jesus he found was very closely associated with the revival preacher, Billy Wayne Claxon, short and a tad tubby, with a $500 platinum-blond pompadour, and who concluded his mid-summer soul-saving by running off with the First Methodist preacher's wife. When the tent folded and left town, it went east. Billy Wayne and the preacher's wife Mildred Fitzhooley went west, taking all the lover offerings with them (about $2,000 worth of soul-saving, as it turned out).
Sonny had gone to the revival with a friend, Eddie Rassmuson,who got saved at every revival, then lost the faith a couple of weeks later, until it was revived again at the next tent show. He testified hard and often, but it never seemed to stick...
Here's the last poem for this week from Modern Catalan Poetry: an Anthology
The poet is Augusti Bartra
Born in 1908, Bartra (who was still living at the time the anthology was published), came of age during the Spanish Civil War in which he served as a Republican soldier. For those who are hazy on their Spanish Civil War history, the Republicans were the good guys, the anti-Fascist, the ones who Hemingway and other American volunteers drove ambulances, the ones who, after much blood was spilled and atrocities endured, lost the war.
During the final losing days of the war, Bartra fled to France where he was interned in several concentration camps. He remained in exile, mostly in Mexico, until 1970. During this period of exile, he became one of the most internationally famous Catalan poets, while remaining a half-forgotten figure in his own land.
It is only in recent years, after his return to Barcelona and publication of the first volume of his Complete Poetic Works
that he began to receive the recognition due him in Catalonia.
of those many who rose up
won't come back.
died blown to bits
and others,slowly, like tall
and crack from the axe-steel's
facing the stars
others facing the mud.
They went into battle
not to make their own lives more beautiful,
but those of the unborn,
of those who rose up
left mouths and sexes
who will call them.
They knew nothing
of sciences, arts and letters;
they regarded books
as a luminous enigma
shining on the other bank
and though they didn't believe in the invention of God
many of them signed their names with crosses.
They'll never again
slice bread at a table,
or keep a bird in a cage,
or get a tan at the beach,
or whistle from sidewalks.
No one will notice
their absence from the herded
crush of subways and streetcars,
or the clamor of playing fields,
or demonstrations of thousands and thousands.
But they will push forward on the paths they opened
and in our collective awareness
The same pick and shovels
that opened trenches
have opened their graves,
have dug the black earth,
the virgin earth,
that was a dream of plowing,
of impossible fertilities.
And when they hid them
forever from the sunlight
the clouds filed by with syncopated
funeral march rhythms,
the ravens widened
their uneasy circles
and the wind brought weeping
from dried up fountains.
Many of those many who rose...
wrapped in shrouds
of their own lost blood
awaiting new ardent days.
Now they feel the roar of tractors,
the rip of plowing,
the golden wave of wheat stalks
and the scythe's impatience.
And by the power of the unknown
their clenched fists open
into hands that help the fervent offering
of igneous flowers to climb towards the light.
They haven't come back, nor will they
many of those many who rose up.
Sonyador's 22nd story.
Drinking at the Blue Glass Moon
Until he lost his job, Sonyador's dad stopped at the Blue glass Moon every day for a beer before going home for dinner - just one beer, never more - and sometimes Sonyador met him there. He would sit at the bar with his dad and the other men, drink a Coke or a Seven-Up or a Dr. Pepper, put salt in it just like the men so he could watch it foam up to the brim, just like the salt did in a glass of beer.
He listened to the men talk, usually about sports, baseball, football, whatever the season was, about their last fishing trip, stories about what they did back when - tall tales, according to his Dad ("Never believe anything you hear at a bar," he said. "Man or woman telling, it's probably a lie. A man is never as tough as he says he is in his stories, and a woman is never as young.")
"That's the best advice I've got, boy." he said. "Remember it."...
The next poem is by Rita Dove
, and it is from her book, On the Bus with Rosa Parks
. The book was published in 1999 by W.W. Norton. It is the last poem this week from my library.
Black on a Saturday Night
There is no place for lilac
or somebody on a trip
to themselves. Hips
are an asset here, and color
calculated to flash
lemon bronze cerise
in the course of a dip and turn.
Beauty's been caught lying
here, you get your remorse
as a constitutional right.
It's always what we don't
fear that happens, always
not now and why are
you people acting this way
(meaning we put in petunias
instead of hydrangeas and reject
ecru as a fashion statement).
But we can't do it - naw, because
the wages of living are sin
and the wages of sing are love
and the wages of love are pain
and the wages of pain are philosophy
and that leads definitely to an attitude
and an attitude will get you
nowhere fast so you might as well
keep dancing dancing till
tomorrow gives up with a shout,
'cause there is only
Saturday night and we are in it -
black as black can,
black as black does,
not a concept
nor a percentage
but a natural law.
Moving far ahead in time, to the next to last story in Sonyador's book. A teaser, I hope, and not too much of a reveal.
from All Dreams Must Someday End
...Sonyador is confused, a woman who said she was his wife came today, but he did not know her, did not know her name, did not know he had a wife.
He has no wife in his dreams, all those years past, alive again in his sleep. His father long dead, victim of outrageous fortune, his mother, happily mindless in her nursing home until one night, when the truth of all things befell her, Tug the brother he loved and idolized, gone so long now, if not dead yet, very very old, Conch, his younger brother, lost in a faraway jungle in 1969, never found,assumed dead, Uncle Otto, another wrong death, Sasha, the mystery of his life, and all the other people who walked upon the stage of his life, his teachers, and the boy who tried to push him around and Mr. and Mrs. Pretts, all back again, alive again, but only as long as he can dream...
A little bit of whimsy to close the week.
trying to find my better place
picture of me
behind a picture of me
behind a picture
seemed at the time
like a very smart
since, who, looking
for a picture of me, would think
of looking for a picture
of me hidden behind
a picture of me
it didn't work
because in the picture
of me I was trying to hide
behind a picture of me
behind a picture
I was wearing a red hat
and in the picture
i was hiding behind
I was wearing a green shirt
and in the picture in front of me
wearing green shirt
I was wearing yellow suspenders
the picture of me
wearing a red hat that I hid
behind the picture of me
wearing a green shirt
behind the picture of me wearing
stood out like a big red, sore
I will try to hid
the picture of me I hid
behind a picture of me behind
a picture of me
in a better place tomorrow
a better place
that's where I want to be
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Places and Spaces
Always to the Light
Goes Around Comes Around
Pushing Clouds Against the Wind
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coffeehouses in San Antonio
Seven Beats a Second
Sonyador - The Dreamer