My anthology this week is Poetry for the Earth
Published by Ballantine Books in 1991, the book describes itself as "A collection of poems from around the world that celebrates nature."
I said last week that it was hard to use material from my last poetry book, Places and Spaces
because it consists almost entirely of five long poems each chronicling
a different road trip. It makes it difficult to select from all that
material the exact extracts that work on their own.
But I'm going to try.
(And, by the way, the fellow in the picture, my son, who likes to hike and camp in hard places, the picture taken by one of his friends.)
Here's the who's and what's this week.
from The Rose
from The Cusp of Confederate Winter
the scrawny, pint-sized drunk guy
Songs from Far Away
Having Climbed to the Topmost Peak of the Incense-burner Mountain
from To the Rockies
Whale at Twilight
from Sleeping with Andy Devine
that's how good they were
from Silver City and Beyond
the Mr. and Mrs.
from Songs of Myself
from Sleeping with Andy Devine
Advice for a Stegosaurus
the night I got chased out of Mexico
My first new poem this week is another in the series of "cabbie days" poems I started last week. I only drove a taxi for three or four months, as I explained last week, working two in the afternoon until two in the morning, making a 33 percent commission on fares and what tips I could gather. Not much money, no matter how you add it up. I remember one night, the end of a 12-hour shift when I went home with $3.00, my total earnings for the day. Luckily, living at home with my parents, home from Peace Corps training and about to get drafted, working 2 to 2, there wasn't much time to spend the money I didn't have.
Strolling through my mind, I though of the experience and some of the stories that came from it. I think I have a few more left, beginning with this, the story of a very nice man I knew from that time. Also from about that time, my picture on the left.
was one of the nicest fellas
I've ever known
a precise looking man,.
freshly ironed, razor-creased
khakis and short-sleeve shirts,
brown loafers, shined,
a short ride from bald, such hair as he had,
carefully oiled and parted,
long thin fingers
and nails well-attended,
flicking his ashes into an ashtray
with a careful tap
of his index
a gay guy except
in 1965 homosexuals
hadn't gone gay yet, not
in South Texas, at least,
so what he was
in South Texas
in 1965 was a queer,
in the common vernacular
that he, being not one to promote discord,
he was a dentist
from someplace back east,
with a family,
he tole me one night
on a 2 to 2 shift,
before the bars closed
and dead-end drunks fell out on the sidewalks
waiting for a ride
and it was still quiet
he had a prosperous practice
and a picture perfect family
until caught out
(the exact circumstances of that
never asked, never told)
and as a result, lost
and his family and, on the road,
ended up in deep South Texas, just a few miles
from the Rio Grande and the border
he didn't know how he ended up where he was
he told me,
but like it and had stayed going on
ten years at the time we were talking
as I said a really terrific guy
and I was pleased to call him a friend,
even if for just the short time
I worked with him
about ten years later I ran into him
the taxi company went out of business
when the owner died
and he was a veteran (Korea) and as was my job,
I was trying to help him find another job
and for some reason, I don't remember what,
I needed to visit him at his house...
we were both ten years older,
me, not so green as I was, and he, a little balder
and a little grayer with what hair he had
he was living with a young Mexican guy,
skinny as a stick,
and bony chicken chest,
long greasy hair hanging over his eyes
a fella on the prowl who had found himself
a bird's nest on the ground,
living there with my long unseen friend,
sharp razor eyes behind his hair watching me with barely concealed
hate, afraid of competition, a threat to the easy life
he had gathered for himself there
with the older man, and the truth is my first instinct
was to gather him up and kick him out on the street
for being such a sleaze
and for taking advantage of one of the nicest men
I had ever known, but what can you do
when shadows conceal
and the choice to live as one wants
is so repressed
and so captive to hate and fear
that one has to live with his need
as best he can...
I was truly happy to see my friend
and would have enjoyed a chance to sit and talk with him
but couldn't with the barely-literate companion
of this so-literate man
thinking already of the revenge he would take
as soon as I left...
so I left, feeling very sad for my friend
and all others who lived in such circumstances of denial,
never for them the life they wanted,
those who could never find the fulfilling life
that is our natural birth-right, finding happiness
only in the shadows
I gave him a referral to a job
at a convenience
and I would see him every once in a while
when I stopped in to buy cigarettes,
this oh so sad man
First this week from the anthology, Poetry for the Earth
, I have an excerpt from a longer poem by Theodore Roethke
Roethke was born in 1908 and died in 1963. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1954 and two-time winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, the last time posthumous in 1965, he was widely considered the most important and influential poet of his time. In 2012 he was featured on a United States postal stamp as one of ten great American poets of the 20th century.
from The Rose
As when a ship sails with a light wind -
The waves less than the ripples made by rising fish,
The lace like wrinkles of the wake widening,, thinning out,
Sliding away from the traveler's eye,
The prow pitching easily up and down,
The whole ship rolling slightly sideways,
The stern high, dipping like a child's boat in a pond -
Our motion continues.
But this rose, the rose in the sea-wind.
Stays in its true place,
Flowering out of the dark,
Widening at high noon, face upward,
A single wild rose, struggling out of the white embrace of the morning-
Out of the briary hedge, the tangle of matted underbrush,
Beyond the clover, the ragged hay,
Beyond the sea pine, the oak, the wind-tipped madrona,
Moving with the waves, the undulating driftwood,
Where the slow creek winds down to the black sand of the shore
With a thick grassy scum and crabs scuttling back into their
And I think of roses, roses,
White and red, in the wide six-hundred-foot greenhouse,
And my father standing astride the cement benches,
Lifting me high over the four-foot stems, the Mrs Russells, and his
And how those flower heads seemed to flow toward me, to beckon me,
only a child, out of myself.
What need for heaven, then
With that man, and those roses?
My first selection this week from my book of travel poems, Places and Spaces
, is about a trip through the south, then through West Virginia to Ohio where I picked my wife up in Columbus, then, together, to Virgina, down the Blue Ridge Parkway and home to San Antonio.
This piece is from early in the journey, two days out (the first day of getting anywhere from San Antonio is limited getting out of Texas).
from On the Cusp of Confederate Winter
I wanted to write about
the colors, gold and yellow,
and the red-brown color the Crayola people
used to call
Indian red or Indian brown
or something like that
and in the middle
of all that gold and yellow
and red-brown Indian whatever,
some low bush that's flaming bright red
scattered among the trees
like little fires
burning in the woods
and I wanted to write about
the flock of ducks that flew over
in perfect V formation,
near enough to the ground
that I could hear the flapping
of their wings
and the mutter-quacks among the ranks
and I wanted to write
the hills, reminding me
of the hill country of home,
but soft hills, none of the hard face
of caliche and cactus and mesquite,
forest-hills, trunks climbing close
I wanted to write about the sun
and how it lit the colors of the trees
and covered the sky
from mid-afternoon, bringing
and darker colors of night
I wanted to write
for two days
through two states
I have been unable to find
a national newspaper
again and again and again
I talk to someone,
ask a question of my server
at a restaurant
or the cashier at a gas station
or the desk clerk at a hotel
and again and again and again
the response I get is
The first two poems from my library this week are by Philip Larkin
. They're from his chapbook, High Windows
, published by Faber & Faber in 1974.
Larkin, an English poet and novelist, was born in 1922 and died in 1985. A prolific writer and recipient of many honors, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and an offer, which he declined, to be named Poet Laureate of England.
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.
Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a win-picked sky.
There's something laughable about this.
The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-colored light sharpening the roofs below)
High and preposterous and separate -
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No.
One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young: that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.
Suspended lion face
Spilling at the center
Of an unfurnished sky
How still you stand,
and how unaided
Single stalkless flower
You pour unrecompensed.
The eye sees you
Simplified by distance
Into an origin,
Your petaled head of flame
Heat is the echo of your
Coined there among
You exist openly.
Our needs hourly
Climb and return like angels.
Unclosing like a hand,
You give for ever.
Next, another new poem from the cabbie days. The bars all closed at 2 a.m. - just at the end of the late shift when the cab company shut down for the day. It was a time all the drivers hated since there was no way to know what you were going to have to pick up before you could go home.
This poem is about a night that could have turned out much worse than it did.
the scrawny, pint-sized drunk guy
the time when the bars sweep out all the barflies
before they close
this particular barfly
was a scrawny,
and very drunk
often associated with each of those conditions
by the concurrent
of the others
I could tell
even before he got into the back
of my cab he was
flagship at high mast
he mumbled something
I couldn't understand as he got it
and I turned around
to ask him to say it again
and noticed he had a
a switch-blade eight - nine inches long
with the blade out
this dickhead is trying to rob me,
and I'd have given him everything
in the cash box,
but in the box was not just the cab company's
but my 33 percent commission as well,
$6.38 of my hard earned reward
at the end of a twelve-hour shift
I kept track of y cut as the day progressed
and there was no way that scrawny,
was going to get any of it...
heroics not required
as the guy, very, very drunk, like I said
he dropped his knife
in the space between the front and back seat
and in the process of trying to get it
back, wedged himself between the seats
I heard him say
as I opened the back door
and tossed him out on the street
then drove back to the
my sift over
for that very long day...
but I kept the knife,
sold it the next day for $2.00
to a large, happy-faced guy who I was assured
would do no evil with it
good news for me, increased my take
for the long day before
in those days for a pack of cigarettes
and a beer
which I could nurse
thinking of all the stories I was going to get
out of my god-awful
The next poem from the anthology is by Pat Lowther
. Born in 1935 in Vancouver, she grew up in the neighboring city, North Vancouver. She published her first book in 1965 and it was shortly after submitting her third book for publication in 1975 that she was murdered by her husband of twelve years, her body left in a wooded area by a creek.
Just north of town
the mountains start to talk
of high stubbled meadows
moss gravel and clouds
They're not snobs, these mountains,
they don't speak Rosicrucian,
they sputter with
billy goat-bearded cheeks
bum sliding down
to splat in the sea
they talk with the casual
tongues of water
rising in trees
They're so humble they'll let you
blast highways through them
baring their iron and granite
broken for miles
And nights when
clouds foam on a beach
of clear night sky,
those high slopes creak
in companionable sleep
Mover through gray green
aurora of rain
to the bare fact:
The land is bare.
Even the curly opaque Pacific
forest, chilling you full awake
with wet branch-slaps,
is somehow bare
stainless as sunlight:
The land is what's left
after the failure
of every kind of metaphor.
The plainness of first things
naive root atom
of philosophy's first molecule
The mountains reject nothing
but can crack
open your mind
just by being intractably there
Atom: that which can not
You can gut them
the shapes they've made in the sky
cannot be reduced
The next piece from my travel book, Places and Spaces
, is about a trip I took, just me and my dog, to Ruidoso, New Mexico, a place I had no particular reason to go to except that I had never been and long ago knew a fellow who grew up there. Curiosity, good enough for me.
This piece comes from early in the poem when I'm still in Texas. For fairness sake, I should mention that on a subsequent trip I passed through Pecos on a better route that was not so bleak as the one I took on this trip.
poor little Pecos, sinking
beneath the weight of the
that has no place
for dirty little towns stuck, alone
on the dry West Texas plains
dried up as it is,
it is still the largest thing around
and it has a federal courthouse,
so hope is undeterred, and across the street,
Sally's North Side Cafe & Bail Bonds - Sally
coming and going...
an hour north
a congregation of buzzards,
gathered in the middle of the highway
in the Sunday-best black, our scavenger
cousins, dependent, like us
on meat killed by others
15 to 20 structures
along the highway,
all abandoned and in ruin
no sign of life in Olna
but a single tarantula making
its creepy crawly way
across the highway, a cheering
sight, this fuzzy, black
extinct now where I grew up,
along with the horned toad and the
red-winged blackbird,a survivor
where little else finds a home
across the line
into New Mexico and the road
Next from my library, I have two poets from Fall/Winter 2004 issue of Borderlands - Texas Poetry Review
My first poet from the journal is Audrey Gritsman
, a poet and essayist.
Born and raised in Russia, he lived in the New York area at the time of publication.
Sounds make a song,
there is no one to sing.
It does not matter where your belong
as long as your lungs
are filled with free air.
All you know is that you've been born
alive, you are airborne
and bear the vestiges of your early life
with grace: umbilical hernia,
nearsightedness, two traceable scars
on the scapula
left from the wings.
The second poet is Kelle Groom
At the time of publication she was director of grants administration for the coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and author of two collections of poetry.
Songs from Far Away
When I arrived after so many years,
I was afraid he would be angry or disappointed,
Find me at fault, but he said, You're here!
With more joy than I have ever heard
In my life.It was as if the force field that separates
The living from the dead, lifted long enough
For me to hear his voice,so that I could know
He loved me & knew me, his mother. I've never
Heard the dead before or since. But I wonder
If they are always talking behind the glass,
Full of joy for us, if they are in the trees, swinging,
Smiling, saying live, live,live, & on this side
We hear birds,
Songs from far away.
Another new poem about another cab-character - from 1965, deep South Texas, borderlands on the Gulf of Mexico.
he was a large man,
middle-aged and gray,
as those for whom
the deck is never
are likely to be,
large, hard-used hands,
and calloused, fingers stiff
from bad weather,
his face cracked and broken
from sun and salt spray
he would spend
weeks on his little boat,
fishing, then return to harbor for a week-long binge,
sleeping at his mother's house
when he slept
(he hated her, he said,
whore, bitch, a whoring bitch, he said,
waiting for her to die so he could have her house to himself
he was loud, boastful, contentious,
prone to getting into bar
and mostly losing
from what I could see
when I picked him up late at night
during weeks he was ashore,
his face a swollen mess of blood and bruise
pints clanking in his coat pockets,
something to keep him going
with the bars closing, something
that could keep him drinking,
sleeping, under a tree
in a park until the bars opened again
in the morning, pickled pig feet and a hard-boiled egg
from glass jars on the bar, breakfast, often lunch, sometimes
dinner, no matter as long
as he could keep the whiskey flowing
usually too drunk to know
when he was being rolled, he was always
broke when I picked him up
at the end of his week ashore, money spent, lost, stolen,
everything he had but his boat gone,
the earnings of a week of hard, dangerous toil
gone, his refuge again, the boat
and the rolling waters
of the Gulf of Mexico,
and his catch,
enough in time for another lost week...
he was not a happy man,
not a good man, and never a man to make a friend,
his own self-destructing victim
out to erase himself or at least some part
a man hard to feel sorry for, but
for a while I did,
before I realized he was a man freed
by his own misery
to wallow in the life he chose...
one of the lost boys
of the sea
grown old and
deserted by Peter
in a never-ever land
of nightmares he created
to belay memories
of better days
that never-ever happened
Next from Poetry for the Earth
, a poem by Po Chu-i
Po is known as the most prolific of the Tang poets. He was a member of the Han-Lin Academy and mayor of Lo-yang, the eastern capital of China at the time. Like Tu Fu was deeply concerned with the social problems of his time, with poetry characterized by humor and clarity.
According to tradition, he tested his poems by reading them to an old country woman. Any that she did not understand, he rejected, the resulting simplicity and clarity a factor in his continuing popularity in modern China.
Having Climbed to the Topmost Peak of the Incense-burner Mountain
Up and up, the Incense-burner Peak!
In my heart is stored what my eyes and ears perceived.
All the year -detained by official business;
Today at last I got a chance to go.
Grasping the creepers, I clung to dangerous rocks;
My hands and feet - weary with groping for a hold.
There came with me three or four friends,
But two friends dared not go further.
At last we reached the topmost crest of the Peak;
My eyes were blinded, my soul rocked and reeled.
The chasm beneath me - ten thousand feet;
The ground I stood on,only a foot wide.
If you have not exhausted the scope of seeing and hearing,
How can you realize the wideness of the world?
The waters of the River looked narrow as a ribbon,
P'en Castle smaller than a man's fist.
How it clings, the dust of the world's halter!
It chokes my limbs; I cannot shake it away.
Thinking of retirement, I heaved an envious sigh;
Then, with lowered head, came back to the Ants' Nest.
Translated by Arthur Waley
And here's another selection from Places and Spaces
. The piece is from a poem that covers a trip to Denver and back.
I like to drive and don't like to fly and Dee doesn't like to drive, so, on our trips together we compromise. I drive wherever we're going and she flies to meet me there. So it was my dog and I going and the three of us coming back. Except in this case, she had to fly both too and from.
This little piece of the longer poem is as I was crossing into Colorado, a very bad storm behind me finally catching up just as I arrived in Denver that evening. There was better than a foot and a half of snow on the ground by the time Dee flew in the next morning.
from To the Rockies
....as I pass through Las Vegas,
New Mexico version,
I see the snow-topped mountains
marking the bowl that holds
Santa Fe to the west
as we cross into Colorado,
the winter grass is almost white,
the almost white
of sand on gulf beaches,
broken here and there
by red barns
like red umbrellas
on a vast white beach that has no sea
just past Pueblo,
I turn on the radio
and hear the first news
of the severe winter storm
that's on its way
as I approach
I see black storm clouds
pouring over the mountain crests
I enter the front of the storm
as I leave
rain, sleet, snow and fog
all at once
and in alternating bursts
and I fall in line...
Next from my library, this poem by Pat Mora
Mora, a native of El Paso, won the Southwest Book Award for this book, Borders
, as well as her first book, Chants
, of desert incantations. Borders
was published in 1986 by Arte Publico Press of Houston, with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission for the Arts.
We laughed double that night,
a desert rain bursting down on us
after "Ghost Busters" lightning
flashier than the show inside.
You pulled my hand gently
jumping puddles, tugging
"You can make it. Jump."
My eleven-year-old mothering me.
I saw a flash
ghost of my future in slow
motion, shaky and gray leaning
on my red-haired daughter firm
of hand, squeezing to keep me
Busy in the present
tickled by the rain
and my shaky steps in high heels,
you missed my sneak preview, my spook.
When did your hand grow so?
Yesterday I hid it safe
in mine, squeezed and squeezed
when the wind gobbled my words.
Another new poem, another new taxi poem (Yellow Cab, by the way, don't think I mentioned it before by name).
than the rest
and the only white guy,
the other drivers
never had much to say to me,
an older man
who had been driving
his yellow cab for the company
for twenty years or more,
long enough to remember
when a man could make a reasonable living
now it was just a place to go,
doing it so long...doing it so long
it was like he was tethered
to the bumper of his cab,
couldn't imagine what he would do
if he didn't do this
those of us like me who, six months later
participating in military service
after receiving our own
form the Uncle who knew us so well,
had name for those who continued to serve
after then no longer had to,
"lifers" is what we called them,
and my driver friend
was a lifer in the taxi driving business,
know the drill better
than anyone else,
late in his life,
to being the one all over again
From the anthology, this poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Born in 1893, Coatsworth died in 1986. A writer of fiction and poetry for children and adults, she was honored for her children's book. The Cat Who Went to Heaven
, in 1931 with a Newbery Award from The American Library Association and, in 1968, was a "highly commended finalist" for the international Hans Christian Anderson award for children's literature.
Whale at Twilight
The sea is enormous, but calm with evening
rearranging its islands for the night,
changing its own blues,
smoothing itself against the rocks, without
playfulness, without thought.
No stars are out, only sea birds flying to
No vessels intrude, no lobstermen haul their
Only somewhere out toward the horizon a thin
column of water appears
and disappears again, and then rises once more,
tranquil as a fountain in a garden where no
Next from Places and Spaces
I have a piece of my poem about a trip to Lake Tahoe and back. As usual for us, the dog (Reba the Wonder Dog) and I drove alone for several days from San Antonio to Reno where we picked Dee up at the airport, then rode together to Lake Tahoe and, after several days home again, going west at first (which seemed strange to me) to catch I-10 in California.
In this section of the poem I was passing through Nevada. My first time driving through the state, I no idea before how wide it is until I was halfway across it.
from Sleeping With Andy Devine
over mountain peaks
on both sides of me
over hot cornbread
dusts desert stones
with points of silvery
the snow falls
and soon they all
under the white sea
a herd of horses,
twenty or thirty of the
chase and play
in a field of snow
my route begins
to take me into new mountains
I'm high above
what seems to be
a very large lake
but heavy snow obscures
the last of this latest string
and laid out before me
a vast valley,
a basin surrounded
like a fresh tablecloth
at a New York
with ice on the road
until three miles from my destination,
like a skating rink,
three, four, five cars
one after another
and so I end
nearly 600 miles of driving today
east to west
and heavily falling snow...
The next poet, Stan Crawford
, is one of five in the book Five Inprint Poets
Inprint is a non-profit organization founded in Houston in 1983 to support the literary arts. The five poets in the group first met in writing workshops provided by the organization. This collection of the work of the five was published by Mutabilis Press in Houston in 2003.
At the time of publication, Crawford was an attorney practicing civil trial law in Houston. He had a B.A. from Brown University where he studied poetry and a J.D. from the University of Texas. He began writing poetry in 1998.
October already - a very long distance
from spring. Knives sharp for the harvest.
Autumnal processions and daughters to see
and I went, holding he wheel with one hand
along roads that twisted, broke and rose,
unfurling ahead like concrete sails
running before the wind. Nothing to assail
for a while. Stars salted the cobalt distance.
My daughters, a/d/a Snow White and Rose
Red, chose their gowns for the harvest.
Melons, pumpkins and late corn at hand.
This year's ad hoc royals to see.
My orbit taught new ways to see,
to tack into the wind, to sail
crosswise. The temperature stung my hands
too near the nest. A needful distance
away, roadside stands held the harvest.
A woman with a tumor red as a rose
near her eye stacked fruit n serried rows,
composing her still life. Her son could see
her designs as he counted cash from the harvest.
a king with his chest puffed out like a sail
started off the parade. Signs in the distance
said Vote for Jesus - His Kingdom at Hand.
Then a band, and the waving hands
of young women in formal green, white, rose.
A catfish moon low in the distance,
as boys with bad haircuts stained to see
their sisters pass. The tomato sun sailed
west, simmering over the harvest.
The road was fringed with cuts from the harvest,
uncollected by any restraining hand.
The tired king followed his sagging sail
of a belly to bed. The pale moon rose
over the swaying cane. I could see
waves like Evangeline's hair in the distance.
A rose in hand fuzzes with dust. My girls,
see them glide, whispering rumors of sails.
Not so long a distance to harvest time.
How many great bands have there been that had their day of grace and glory, then disappeared, often remembered by a few, but never heard again? Thousands upon thousands would be my guess.
that's how good they were
their regular Wednesday
drunks from the bar
and the septuagenarian bartender,
to the silken beat,
and the burly, sharp-faced bouncer
all out on the floor dancing
with the black-clad
that's how good they were
on the last 2 a.m. pick-ups
to get to the bar early
to hear the last song or two
they were that good
Next from the anthology, two short poems, the first by Inuit Shaman Uvavnuk
, a mid-19th century Netsiliki Eskimo woman.
The legend is that Uvavnuk, out one winter night, was hit by a fireball that lit up her internal organs. In pain and delirium, she stumbled back to her village and fell down singing. Her songs cleansed her and all those around her with joy.
The great sea stirs me.
The great sea sets me adrift,
it sways me like the weed
on a river-stone.
The sky's height stirs me.
The strong wind blows through my mind.
It carries me with it,
so I shake with joy.
Translated by Tom Lowenstein
The second short piece if by Basho
, the Edo-period Japanese Haiku master.
of this floating world, swept
(no translator credited)
Next I have an excerpt from the last of the five long poems that make up my eBook, Places and Spaces.
I had planned this trip to be relatively short, just me and my dog Reba, to Silver City, New Mexico, just like my short trip a couple of years earlier to Ruidoso. I had even less reason to go to Silver City than to Ruidoso. I had seen the cut-off from I-10 many time as we passed and then later heard that it was a little arts city, so I decided to take several days to check it out.
Before anyone else makes a spur of the moment visit to Silver City, I should warn you I wasn't much impressed. Except for a very good coffeehouse on a very short main street, I didn't find much.
But I didn't want turn around after a night and a day and go back home, so I decided to take a roundabout trip to Albuquerque (one of my favorite cities in years past) and then back around home to San Antonio, maybe seeing along the way a few things I had never seen before.
In the end I had a nice night in Albuquerque and a very interesting, and sometimes worrisome, drive across a mountain, finding, on the far side of the mountain, a little restaurant and my first experience with flat enchiladas, most definitely not TexMex.
Below, from the beginning of the poem.
from Silver City and Beyond
and one time zone
to El Paso
a long day's drive
in the country
to long-stretched fingers
of pink Chihuahua Desert
blue sky, blue on blue
on deep ocean blue sky,
to jagged clouds
dark and sharply racing
and little towns along
Segovia Senora Saragosa
and Van Horn
the miles and hours
and skies and hills
and all the little towns
on the ridge
a line of dead trees
oak blight killing scrub oak
reminding me of a picture
I saw once
of a lone tree,
bare and burned,
among the ruins at
these trees like that,
reaching up, grasping
at the sky
in the pasture below
a mare and her foal eat grass
generous and green
blasted through stony hills
in the rock walls on either side
of geologic time...
near the top,
a woman and a man passed,
and down here by my feet
from the sea...
Here are two poems from my library this week are from the Spring/Summer 1999 issue of Spillway
, a literary magazine of poetry, reviews, and articles published semiannually by Tebot Beach since 1993.
The first poem, which serves as an introduction to the book, is by John Gardiner
, at the time of publication, a teacher of English as a Second Language and an actor and director with the touring troupe, Simply Shakespeare.
She wore her poems
like a pair of old boots
that won't wear out,
with a life of their own
beyond her feet -
wandering poems with
beaten soles & footprints
real as tattoos;
poems of a hunter
with a shaman's bow,
poems as easy
as a hand,
poems stoked in the heart
& pulled out
And having nothing else to wear,
she wore her poems
My second poem from Spillways
is by John Elsberg
, at the time of publication, a publisher and editor.
for Ted Hughes
This is where the night grows
into the origins of childhood
monsters.This is when the curtains flap,
compressing air. so tight,
that even metaphor asks forgiveness.
What thinks you now? Not much, and too much.
But such litanies can slow the anguish
of what begins as sleep, before
the bed rides high, like the hand
above a cat, upturned, that plays beneath
a blanket - a play of feints, a play of claws,
until it's time to say it's over.
You don't have to drive a taxi, especially late at night, to see a lot of things that you'll spend a lifetime trying to figure out.
But you probably won't, because, when you get right down to it, people are just too damn strange.
the Mr. and Mrs.
what they did
in the rest of their
but on Thursdays
they went dancing
I'd pick them up at 8
at their hillside split-level
on the north side
and take them downtown,
always to the Glass Hat,
a posh place
with patio dancing
on top of the Crystal Building
at Tyler and 1st
and then pick them up
at 1:30, them being too classy
to hang around
until they got thrown out
on the sidewalk
and I'd take them
both always drunk
traces of blood
on the side of their mouth, a
multicolored kaleidoscopic array
of new and old bruises and
all the way home
to their house on the north side
they'd either be making-out
near to the point of fully-dressed fucking
or they would be hitting
each other, first her
then him, then her, then
and I'd sneak a peek
in my rear view
to make sure they weren't
doing any serious damage, but
never interfered cause
they tipped better
than anyone else I ever
carried, and, besides,
I caught them looking back at me
when I was checking on them
in the mirror
and got a strong sense
they were getting
an extra kick out of my
a weird kind of club
they had for themselves,it seemed,
some kind of very strange
kiss-kiss, slap-slap arrangement
but I was a cab driver, accustomed,
even in just a short time,
to all kinds of unusual arrangements
between all kinds of people,
stuff I could spend the rest of my life
trying to understand
but never will
to give them a ride,
however they wanted to
This is my last piece for this week from the anthology Poetry for the Earth
And what poetic celebration of the earth could ever be complete with out the inventor of American poetry - Walt Whitman
I cannot get enough of Whitman. Each line leads me to the next line, and the next and the next and the next.
from Song of Myself
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the
egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all
And the cow munching with depress'd head surpasses abt
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of
I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits ,
grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.
In vain the spending of shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean setting in hollows and the great monsters
In vain the buzzard houses itself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the
It turns out I have room for one more selection from Places and Spaces
, so I return to the fourth poem, Sleeping with Andy Devine
. This section from that poem comes after we've arrived in Lake Tahoe.
I don't ski and I don't gamble so I had no reason to be in Lake Tahoe except that I wanted to try to get some good pictures from the mountains and from around the lake. But the weather turned against us the first morning we were so I ended up doing what I do most days. I found a coffeehouse and watched people and wrote poems. I did get out a little, walking my dog, Reba
...yellow school buses
snow chains clanking
Reba and I go for a walk
in a park I found yesterday
we are not the first
to break the snow, little
duck tracks, triangles
divided by a line
from point to base,
and tracks of some bird
of a larger sort, tridents
in the snow
a white sailboat sits
half hidden in the snow
and the pelicans
My last poem from my library this week is by Jessica Goodheart
, and it's taken from The Best American Poetry, 2005,
published by Scribner Poetry.
The poem first appeared in Antioch Review
Advice for a Stegosaurus
Never mind the asteroid,
the hot throat of the volcano,
a sun the daily drops into the void.
Comb the drying riverbed for drink.
Strut your bird-hipped body.
Practice a lizard grin. Don't think.
Stretch out your tail. Walk, as you must,
in a slow deliberate gait.
Don't look back,dinosaur. Dust is dust.
You'll leave your bones, your fossil feet
and armored eye-lids.
Put your chin to the wind. Eat what you eat.
My last new poem for the week is not exactly new, though I did do some rewriting on it. Originally written in 2009, it fits in with this weeks new poem taxi driving motif. Like the rest, it is a true story, with, like the rest, the truth nudged here and there for dramatic purposes (the absolute truth being so often so absolutely boring).
the night I got chased out of Mexico
is a story
about the night
I got chased out of
by a posse
of Mexican taxi cabs
I was a younger guy
just old enough at 21
to get a taxi license
and I was driving
on the Texas side
of the border
I picked up a fare
one of the hotels
to go to Mexico
and I said
because it was about
and at 35 cents
for the first mile
and 10 cents a mile
it was a pretty good
of which I'd get
which never was
a helluva a lot
but better for a
so we headed out
and across the bridge
from where I knew
how to go two places
about which we
sill speak no more
and the Central Plaza
which was close
to the Mercado
and lots of good
and floor shows
and that's where
the fella I was
wanted to go
so we went there
him off at the plaza
and while he paid me
I notice all
the Mexican cabbies
giving me the eye
and I noticed
when I left
some of those
and then I noticed
I had ten to fifteen
riding my back
and I said to myself
I fucked up
and the way
they were following
close and honking
it looked pretty clear
that they were
it was I did
so I took off
for the bridge
as fast as I could
trying to remember
as I flew
which of the many
one way streets
were going my way
and which ere going
to either get me lost
or back to the plaza
where more trouble
was sure to be
and I reached
I tossed my 8 cents
to the Mexican
when I got back
told me the rules -
cabs don't cross
fares are dropped
at the bridge
when they can
and get a local
I really felt dumb
and never did that
though one time
I did pick up a guy
at the bridge
who had been in
for three days
and was beat
all to shit
and bleeding and
so I took him to a
but that's another
As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my
stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and
I haven't mentioned it lately, but I'm allen itz owner and producer of
this blog, and diligent seller of books, specifically these and
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Copia, Garner's, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, eBookPie, and Kobo (and, through Kobo,retail booksellers all across America and abroad)
Places and Spaces
Always to the Light
Goes Around Comes Around
Pushing Clouds Against the Wind
And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select
coffeehouses in San Antonio
Seven Beats a Second
Sonyador - The Dreamer