Ain't It Grand?   Wednesday, July 10, 2013









Before I move on to regular business, I would like to note the passing of Laurel Lamperd, one of my poet friends from Western Australia. Laurel was a prolific poet and short story writer. Her poems appeared often in literary journals in Australia and New Zealand, and in Here and Now. I extend my condolences to her family and friends and to  all others who will miss the poems and stories she will no longer write.










My anthology this week is Till I End My Song - A Gathering of Last Poems published in 2011 by Harper Collins and edited by Harold Bloom.









    




 My old  poems this week are from my third eBook, Always to the Light.








And the rest,  as usual, poems from my library and new poems from  me.


 This Week


Me
I really must catch up

Isaac Rosenberg
A Worm Fed  on the Heart of Corinth

 Me
poesis interruptus

Rodolfo Gonzales
from Yo Soy Joaquin/I am Joaquin

Me
nothing you wouldn't want to do too

Wilfred Owen
Futility

Me
same bull, different chute

Bernice Zamora
A Que Hora Venderemos Todo
From the Vestibule

Me
the day after    

Louis MacNeice
Charon

Me
trade with North Korea

Thylias Moss
The Lynching

Me
tender, passing blossoms

James Agee
To Walker Evans

Me
long-haired girls
sunspot

Dana Gioia
Planting a Sequoia

Me
bumpersticker

Elizabeth Bishop
Sonnet

Me
and in this corner

Shirley Kaufman
By the Rivers

Me
in the old days

James Merrill
Days of 1994

Me
we have a rainy day

Thomas Crofts
Tennessee Morning

Me
dreams of wet

Me
        hat trick         









Such success as I've enjoyed in life was primarily a product of commitment, and the discipline, once committed, to work harder and longer than anyone else and to never quit until I had finished what I set out to do.

My third retirement now, and I still can't shake the habits of a lifetime.





I really must catch up

breakfast
with my very good friend

now to catch up

so many things push me,
beginning with my sense of discipline
that says that which must be done must be done
when it must be done...

still, on a morning like this,
cool and fresh, with a chill wind (in July!)
blowing from the north,
it's nice to take a moment
with my very good
friend

and push that pushy discipline
into the closet
for an hour or two

but now, I really must catch up







My first poem from this week's anthology,Till I End My Song, is Isaac Rosenberg. Born in 1890 in Bristol of Eastern European Jewish emigrants, he was killed in 1918, another promising young poet take prematurely by "The Great War."

The poem I selected is an excerpt from his much longer verse drama, Moses.




A Worm Fed on the Heart of Corinth

A Worm fed on the heart of Corinth,
Babylon and Rome:
Not Paris raped tall  Helen,
But this incestuous worm,
Who lured her vivid beauty
To his amorphous sleep.
England! famous as Helen
Is thy betrothal sung
To him at the shadowless,
More amorous than Solomon.









Here's my first old poem for the week,  from, as will  be all this week, from my eBook, Always to the Light.








poesis interruptus

I stopped off
at my friendly local
gas-grocery-beer-cigarettes
convenience store
for money
after my morning coffee
and newspaper read
at my usual table
at my usual diner
with the usual Sunday morning
dueling churchfolk
to the behind and either side of me,
including an extra place or two
at each table
filled by the twice-a-year
Christians
who, it would seem,
get all the saving they need
on Christmas and Easter,
securing all other Sunday mornings
for sleeping late  or golf

discovering,
after my third cup,
that I had no cash
but for four pennies,
three dimes, two quarters
and a Canadian coin
I've been trying to get rid of
for two weeks now
leaving me to pay
my $1.94 coffee tab
with a credit card

........................................

.....it is at  this point in the story
that the poet is interrupted
by life outside the poem -
poesis interruptus -
and the question is, 4 hours later,
as to whether
he can get it up again
to finish
what he had most  ardently
begun

at first you might think
that returning to the poem
half-finished is a process of
separating
the wheat of earlier inspiration
from the chaff
of the humdrum interim,
but that's not the case,
because with proper
poetic recognition
of reality
all could be one and
each could be the other
with no separation
necessary or
possible

integration the need instead,
finding he wheat in the 
essence
of all chaff
and the chaff that infiltrates
all wheat

like the small strip-shopping center
by the gas-grocery-beer-cigarette store
when I stopped to use the ATM
machine
anchored by a large vacant "$1 Store"
close up to the "X-treme Impact Church"
next to "Alive MMA - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu"
adjacent to the "Gathering of Grace
Church:
neighbor to "Fantasy Nails and Tan"
snuggled up tightly to "Tattoos and
Piercings"
sharing a common wall  with "Gin's
Chinese
Restaurant"

it's all
like that shopping center,
all the disparate bits and pieces,
all the wheats and chaffs
of everyday urban life,
swirled together by the mix master
of every day living,.
making...
the single and complete
here and now
of this  particular
and unique
Easter Sunday morning

another party
to which I am not invited
because I will not pay the price
of admission -
separation of sinners from the saved
rather than embracing unity of all
mankind,
some sinner
in every saint and a bit of saint
in every sinner...

wheat from chaff
I am one 
and I am both
and cannot separate my one self
from the other
or either
from
you 







My first selection from my library this week is a selection from Yo Soy Joaquin/I am Joaquin, the small, highly influential in its time, book by Rodolfo Gonzales. The book was first published in 1967 by Bantam Pathfinders. It is bilingual, including he full text in Spanish and English.

Gonzales describes his book in his introduction  as becoming "a historical essay, a social statement, a conclusion of our mestisaje, a welding of the oppressor (Spanish) and the oppressed (Indian). It is a mirror of or greatness and our weakness, a call to action..."

Gonzales was born in Denver in 1928, the  son of a migrant worker. He was a National A.A.U. boxing champion, professional boxer, packing house worker,  lumberjack,  farm worked and businessman. Long involved in the civil and human rights struggles for the Mexican American, at the time of publication he was director of Crusade for Justice, a Denver-based civil rights organization. He was also founder and president of Escuela Tiatelolco, the first all-Chicano school in America.

He died in 2005.

I begin with the books very first lines, which, to me at least, brings back the opening lines to Ginsburg's Howl, as a personal statement of despair and rebellion.



I am Joaquin,
lot in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a
                  gringo society,
confused by the rules,
scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation,
and destroyed by modern society,
My fathers
     have lost  the economic battle
and won
     the struggle of cultural survival

And now!
    I must choose
                             between
    the paradox of
victory of the spirit,
despite physical hunger
                              or
     to exist in the grasp
of American social neurosis,
sterilization of the soul
      and a full stomach

Yes,
I have come a long way to nowhere,
unwillingly dragged by that
    monstrous, technical,
    industrial giant called
                       Progress
and Anglo success...

I look at myself
  I watch my brothers.
     I shed tears of sorrow.
        I sow seeds of hate.
  I withdraw to the safety within the
circle  of life -
                                       MY OWN  PEOPLE...







Let's face it, you want to do really good at this poetry business, you have to go long if you want to go deep. With the attention span of a five-year-old, I  don't expect I'll ever make  it.






nothing you wouldn't want to do too

the
skinny fellow
in the booth all  the way
across the room from me
in a tee shirt and wide angle 1980s glasses

yes, that fellow,
the skinny, long-necked fellow,
eating his toast, his long neck bobbing,
looks like a crane  eating tiny
insects...

he's not what I  intended to write about
this morning,  but it's one of my handicaps
as a poet,  so easily distracted that  even the best
and deepest poetry that might well up from within me
is lost when something unexpected
and  interesting
passes before my eyes,
something unexpected and interesting
like a long-necked, skinny man chewing like a crane
eating insects...

and now he's gone,
driving out the parking lot
in a tiny red car,
and any chance of something poetically deep
and inspiring to well up from within me
leaves in his tiny red car
with him...

so the day for deep and inspiring, etc. etc.
is lost, but,
tell me the truth,
if you saw a skinny man in a tee shirt and 1980s glasses,
eating his toast like a long-necked crane
chewing tiny insects,
wouldn't you want to write that too?








Next from the anthology, another young poet killed in the war, the most famous of then, Wilfred Owen. Born in 1893, Owen was killed, like Rosenberg,  just as the war was ending.

Owen's poems tended to be about the day to day life and death of soldiers in the trenches, more direct and non-allegorical than Rosenberg.






Futility

Move him into the sun -
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds, -
Woke, once,  the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs,  so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved - still warm -  too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
- O what made fatuous  sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?








Here's another poem from my eBook, Always to the Light.

The book's cover photo was set up by me and  taken by my wife, Dee. My joke is that I'm like Van Gogh who painted so many self-portraits because he was the only model he could afford.






same bull, different chute

I was
just finishing up
my sausage gravy
ad biscuits
when two Leon Valley
police officers walked in,
both kind of pear-shaped
as Leon Valley,
being a small suburb of the city,
has not nearly the pay scale or
physical job requirements
of the city within which it was
subsumed

they sat at the table to the right of me,
all jingly with all the tools of their trade
hung up on their utility belt

from a table to the left of me,
a tall, granite-faced fella
with a sweat-stained cowboy hat
and a basso-profondo voice
that seemed to come from some
deep,  dark cavern beneath his shoes,
said, "Howdy, boys."

the officers said howdy back
and asked, "What's up?:
and the tall man said, in
his voice from the center of the earth,
"Same bull, different chute."

and I was thinking,  first,
how goddamn cool is that,
and, then, by god, there must be
twenty people tops
in the great state of Texas
who can say that and not sound stupid
and here I am sitting next to one of them

I started listening then
to the tall man and the two other fellas
at his table, wanting to hear more
of that great voice saying cool things,
but mostly he talked about the goddamn newspaper
and stupid reporters and how he called them
and threatened to cancel his subscription
if they didn't quit all their commie reporting
and talk such as that...

seems he only had one good line

how disappointing!

but then, later,
we stopped at the supermarket
on our way to our Sunday-morning
newspaper reading marathon
and I noticed a fat-assed man
and a fat-assed woman walking in
ahead of me, noticing the tender way
the man put his hand on the woman's butt
stroking it and patting it as they walked

and I was thinking, damn,
ain't great when people get what they
want
in life...
and appreciate it







The next two short poems from my library are by Bernice Zamora. The poems are from the book Restless Serpents, published in 1976 by Disenos Literarios of Menlo Park, California. The book is shared by two poets, but Zamora is the one whose work I prefer this week.

Born in 1938, Zamora is considered to be one of the preeminent poets to emerge from the Chicano movement of the 1960 and 70s. She received her B.A. from Southern Colorado State University and, 1968, her Ph.D. from Stanford University.




A Que Hora Venderemos Todo?

                           -For Viola

You tell me I must not bear
More children. Indeed
We agree eight are too many
For the world. You counsel
Me on the fruits of joyful mis-
Conception. You take me aside
To your corner and whisper
 A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N
As though I do not
Recognize the end.

Gracias, anyway, Ciudadano,
My conception is not diminished;
My utility is inutility.
Gracias todo el mundo,
But it is to claim
Indifference to the world.
It is I who am
Exquisite in nakedness
Against the odds
Of benevolence.


From the Vestibule

In all those years in the choir
loft I never understood
the sermons. And now,
excommunicant that I am,
they are very clear to me.

In all those years in the choir
I watched the benediction
and thought of Vesuvius and Pompeii
and magic mountains where I could
sing into crater lakes and cliffside
caves at dusk or dawn or noon.

From the vestibule
I hear a priest weep,
a child cry,
a dog howl,
and all is very clear to me now.








A new poem from last week.

Actions speak louder that  words, they say. July 4th, a day for words. July 5th, rarely a day for actions to back up the words.






the day after

the day after
Independence Day,
July fifth, the day after the seasonal peak
in sales of fireworks and plastic flag
pins, the day after sanctimonious
right-wing  politicians  profess their deep love
for the very same country
they continue to undermine
for political purpose,
the day after left-wing dingbats
join their radical-right counterparts
in finding government
conspiracies
behind everything from post office closings
to the traffic ticket they got
after they were caught on camera running a red light,
to the intrusive government ban
against copulating
naked
on main street, to the provision of polio immunizations
to the children of Taliban controlled
backwaters of Afghanistan, I mean, you name it,
from male menopause to hairy moles
on women's noses,
all  due, according to these people,
to the machinations of the fascist/socialist government and their coterie
of bureaucrats,lawyers,  sociologists, sex  advice counselors,
and Fox/MSNBC liars, commentators and scoundrels
exerting mind control over the ignorant
American
mainstream who would rather get their news from
supermarket tabloids who at least understand
the important  things like who's getting divorced
because they refuse to engage in sex play
involving diapers and feathery paddles,
and the latest of Lindsey's alien encounters
etc.
etc.
etc.

and who can blame them,
when everyone lies and nothing can believed,
why not believe the most scandalous
and interesting options
available...

let's face it,
I got my periodic rash of virulent ravings
from that right-wing, fascist fellow this morning,
the most anti-American of all the people I know
who hid behind
the American flag, the flake who takes it
upon himself
to berate me for my sanity

and I have to admit
it does shake me to know that this fellow
who used to be a pretty good poet
could descend into such determined madness

making  me want to just rant and rant
like I was a crazy
as he is








The truth is, this week's anthology, Till I End My Song, does not have very many poets that I like all that much. Their more traditional, formalistic style is not the kind of poetry that excites me.

I have found some poets that appeal to me though, often poets I never knew  before,  like this one.

Louis MacNeice was born in Belfast, Northern Island in 1907 out of a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, son of a bishop of the established church. He attended Oxford, became a teacher of classics, married and divorced, then settled into a happy second marriage and a career of writing for the BBC. He died in 1963 of pneumonia at the relatively young age of sixty-five. This poem was written a year before his unexpected death.




Charon

The conductor's hands were black with money:
Hold on to your ticket, he said, the inspector's
Mind is black with suspicion, and hold on to
That dissolving map. We moved through London,
We could see the pigeons through the glass but failed
To hear the rumors of wars, we could see
The lost dog barking but never knew
That his bark was shrill  as a cock crowing,
We just jogged on, at each request
Stop there was a crowd of aggressively vacant
Faces, we just jogged on, eternity
Gave itself airs in revolving lights
And then we came to the Thames and all
The bridges were down, the further shore
Was lost  in fog, so we asked the conductor
What  we should do. He said: Take the ferry
Faute de Mienux. We flickered the flashlight
And there was the ferryman just as Virgil
And Dante had seen him. He looked at us coldly
And his eyes were dead and his hands on the oar
Were black with obols and varicose veins
Marbled his calves and he said  to us coldly:
If you want to die, you will have to pay for it.










And who among us hasn't been here - another old poem from Always to the Light.

What a dismal poetic life I have, reduced to memorializing stuff like this.








trade with North Korea

I need
to talk to someone
at the headquarters of
my credit union,
located
I'm not sure where but I'm thinking
in North Korea...

to assist  me
in this endeavor 
I have a 3-inch stack of paper
which included,
when it was sent  to me,
the name and telephone  extension
of the person I  need to talk to

naturally,
now  that I need  to make the call
I have searched through every
one of the 3-inch stack of papers
ad found everything intact,
except for the single page
that includes the name and
telephone extension of the person
I need to talk to

it is nowhere to be found,
not in the 3-inch stack of paper,
not anywhere near the 3-inch stack of paper,
not anywhere in, on, or around my desk,
not in the den by the TV,
not in the bathroom reading rack,
not even, goddammit,
in the refrigerator, where lost things
often turn up...

this happens to me all  the time

simple things made difficult
because I can't keep track of diddly-squat,
all my diddly-squat being stacked high in closet
corners, making the simplest act of
record retrieval
and archaeological  expedition,  pith helmet
and lantern required

I  blame it on no longer having a secretary
to keep track of my diddly-squat,
but the truth is, even with a secretary,
diddly squat retrieval was most often a lost cause

no,
the truth is,
I'm a 69-year-old man
who has lived most  of my life
with the abandon of a college sophomore,
a big-picture kind of guy, leaving behind
with every step, a crush of detail I'll
vaguely remember
but never find again,
and will again
and again
pay the price of my inattention

don't sweat the small stuff -
that's been my motto

there are grander things to occupy
my mind, that was my opinion

that worked better when I was younger
and my mind less calcified -
I could remember stuff better
and could often get away with faking it

but, no more

today, again,  the diddly squat
has come home to roost
and the rest of my day will be spent
trying to call someone in North Korea
whose name and telephone extension
I do not know

and I don't speak Korean,
North or South







 Small Congregations is a book in my library with poems by Thylias Moss. The book was published in 1993 by The Ecco Press.

Moss, writer, experimental film maker, sound  artist, playwright and author of a number of volumes of poetry was  born in Ohio in 1959 and educated at Syracuse University, Oberlin and the University of New Hampshire.

I think this is my first time in this book. Great good stuff, quiet poems mostly and this, described as a Klansman's daughter witnessing a lynching.




The Lynching

They should have slept, would have
but had to fight the darkness, had
to build a fire and bath a man in
flames. No

another soap's as good when
the dirt is the skin. Black since
birth, burnt by birth. His father
is not in heaven. No parent

of atrocity is in heaven. My father chokes
in the next room. It is night, darkness
has  replaced air. We are white like
incandescence

yet lack light. The God in my father
does not glow. The only lamp
is the burning black man. Holy
burning, holy longing, remnants of

a genie after greed. My father
baptizes by fie same as Jesus will.
Becomes a holy ghost when
he dons his sheet, a clerical collar

out of control, dundee Mills percale,
fifty percent cotton, dixie, confederate
and fifty percent polyester, man-made, man-
ipulated, unnatural, mulatto fiber, warp

of miscegenation.
After the birth, the man is hung as if
just his washed shirt, the parts
of him most capable of sin removed.

Charred, his flesh is bark, his body
a  trunk.No sign of roots.I can't  leave
him. This is limbo.This is the  life after
death coming if God  is an invention as were

slaves. So I spend he night, his thin moon-begot
shadow as mattress; something  smoldering
keeps me warm. Patches of skin fall onto me
in places I didn't know  needed mending.






Plentiful rain and, except for a couple of days, unseasonably cool weather made it beautiful here through early summer, yards and pastures full covered in deep green grass and flowers of every color. It is discouraging to watch it all wilt away as our regular hot and dry summer returns.

Suggests all sorts of uncomfortable parallels.





tender, passing blossoms

early July
and the dry days begin,
late this year,
but the time has come

the wet days
of early summer,extended
spring, have passed,
but their mark remains

color
everywhere

most  every hue
you might think of
waving
in the hot summer wind
shriveling
with each new dry day

a slow and certain death
of color, a passing we mourn
as the shadows of a blander, browner
world begin to overtake us

like us all,
colorful youth
decays to return to the dirt
that made us

tender, passing blossoms
are we all,
our time to shout the colors
of our lives in days of wet,
our time to fade
when the days turn to dry...

---

but, how wonderful those bright and colorful days we remember even as the dark approaches








The next poem from the anthology is by James Agee, not among my favorite poets, but, in my opinion, one of the most unjustly under appreciated novelists of the twentieth century.

A poet, novelist, and screenwriter (African Queen and The Night of the Hunter, to name just two, Agee died in 1955 at the early age of forty-five. One of the most moving films I've ever seen was based on his book, A Death in the Family, published after his death,





To Walker Evans

Against time and the damages of the brain
Sharpen and calibrate. Not yet in full,
Yet in some arbitrated part
Order the facade of the listless summer.

Spies, moving delicately among the enemy,
The younger sons, the fools,
Set somewhat aside the dialects and the stained skins of
     feigned madness,
Ambiguously signal, baffle, the eluded sentinel.

Edgar, weeping for pity, to the shelf of the sick bluff,
Bring your blind father, and describe a little;
Behold him, part wakened, fallen among field flowers shallow
But undisclosed, withdraw.

Not yet that naked hour when armed,
Disguise flung flat, squarely we challenge the fiend.
Still, comrade, the running of beasts and the ruining heaven
Still captive the old wild king.










 Here's another old poem from Always to the Light.

I hate summer, except for this.









long-haired girls

long-haired
girls
in sandals
and sun-
dresses, 
laughing,
crimson-painted
toes
and brown shoulders
bare to the season

brief summer
reprieves


Here's another short summer poem from Always to the Light.


sunspot

thunder and lightning
all night
but little rain

this morning
the sun -
in a clear patch 
surrounded by
black clouds

is shining on me
like a spotlight at the grand ballet

the star of the show,
that's me,
it's my day to
shine










Next from my library I have this  wonderful poem by Dana Gioia from his book The Gods of Winter, published by Graywolf Press in 1991.

Born in Los Angeles in 1950, Gioia published his first book of poetry in 1986, and when this book was published he had earned his B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. He was a business executive and a translator and  anthologist of  Italian  poetry.

Since the book was published, he has served six years as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and, in 2011, became Professor of Poetry and Public culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.





Planting a Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the orchard,
Digging this hole, laying you into, careful packing the soil.
Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first  son's birth -
An olive or a fig tree - a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father's
    orchard,
A green sapling rising among he twisted apple boughs,
A promise of new  fruit in other autumns.

But today we  kneel in the cold planting you our native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a clock of hair, a piece of an infant's birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can - our labor and our soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog,  days softened by the circuit of
     bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no  more, all  of his unborn brothers  dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn down,
His mother's beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret  of your birth.








I seem to be stuck in a political/rant rut, this one from last week.

I write my daily poem first thing in the morning,usually before 7  a.m. - going where my mind takes me. This is were it's  taking me these  days, even as I'm determined to find a new rut to get stuck in.

I used to write some pretty funny poems. Would really like to do that again.





bumpersticker

I've
decided
to sit out politics
until the next election

what with Obama  almost completely
Jimmy Carterized
by the Republicans in Congress
and radicals and airheads
of all  kinds, bumperstickers
posing as people, product of some vast
NAS, CIA, KGB, Chinese/Venezuelan
stupidity machine,
like Egyptian liberals,
thinking  elections
count only
when your side wins,
all those proto-Egyptians  infesting
 the American countryside

so what's the point
of being for anything since there's nothing to
be  for that has any chance of offering
the fulfillment of completion,
awkward foreplay, constantly sliding into second base
without ever the climax of the job done...

see
this is what happens...

I'm turning into one of those bumpersticker people
who spout their ignorance
in six words or less

while

right out the window beside me
there is a beautiful
day
going on,
blind
to my eyes, numb to all my human  senses,
appreciation of a blue-sky, green-meadow
day
shrouded
like a ghost ship drifting
on an uncharted sea
by a fog of political pollution

a time for purging
due

a time
to let the locusts
descend
on them all

a time to let the pot
boil
without me






Next from Till I End My Song, Elizabeth Bishop, another poet I admit to not knowing before.

Born in Massachusetts, her father died in 1911, the year she was born and her mother permanently institutionalized five years later. Raised, in succession, her elderly grandparents of both her mother and father, she suffered from childhood wit asthma. After graduating from Vassar in 1934, she went abroad fro three years, becoming increasingly involved in literary life, publishing her first book of poems in 1946.

In 1951, Bishop began a long term relationship with Brazilian intellectual Lota de Macedo Soares, living together with her until Soares's suicide in 1967. Returning to the United States in 1970, she taught at Harvard and, in 1976, published her last volume of poetry, dying three years later in 1979.





Sonnet

Caught - the bubble
in the spirit-level,
a creature divided;
and the compass needle
wobbling and wavering,
undecided.
Freed - the broken
thermometer's mercury
running away;
and the rainbow-bird
from the narrow bevel
of the empty mirror,
flying wherever
it feels like, gay!








And here's another from the eBook.

This is one of the stories that just couldn't be made up. Instead, just as I saw it.









and in this corner

I was thinking 
of writing a "y" poem today,
y not, I thought,
it's Sunday afternoon,
nothing else
going on,
but then I pulled up behind
a man and a woman
in a blue Ford pickup
who were stopped at a red light
beating the crap
out of each other,
swinging
like windmills
in the limited space
of their truck cab
until the light turned green
and they moved into there respective
corners and drove on,
until the next red light when
they started beating the crap
out of each other again -
for three lights I watched
this slug fest unfold
until they turned and
I needed to go on straight
but nearly stayed with them anyway
just to see how it all turned out...

I was thinking the woman
was ahead on points,
whap! whap! whap!
the guy upside  the head
over and over again, while he, hampered
in his mobility by the steering wheel,
missed as often as not - not hardly
a fair fight, but then they rarely
ever are in the field of domestic
relations - especially when he's
a little bitty guy and she's
big as a house

no sympathy for the guy from me

he should have known better
than to start
anything








Next, from her book, Rivers of Salt, I have this  poem by Shirley Kaufman. The book  was published by Copper Canyon Press in 1993.

Born in 1923 of Polish immigrant parents,  Kaufman was a translator as well as a poet of her  own work. After earning a  B.A. in English Literature,  she worked for  years in  advertising. In her 40s she became interested in writing  and obtained an M.A. from San Francisco State  University. In 1973, she moved to Israel, publishing over the years numerous collections of her own poetry as well as translations of Israeli poets.






By the Rivers

That spring he was fourteen,
sun on the walls, stale air
sweet in Bergen-Belsen for the first time,
he told me he thought of the nurse
who held him  when he was small.
He found a corner
where they did not catch him:
rush of the brilliance and the heat
and no one there. He opened his clothes,
hunched over his wasted body,
and made it spill.
'
*

The poem wants to look forward, not
back, but out there as far as it can see
are ruins:  body of Abel body of god body
of smoke. And no  recognizable
child to mourn.

So it begins with longing.
Or with fear, that old dog
stinking beside it,  scabby and blind.

And all the time the future
is pushing up  uncalled for
under the cold ground, or gliding down
like the firs snow, wet syllables
that melt and soak up the darkness.

 The poem wants to get out of
where it is. But is  instructed
to remember. In shameless daylight.
By the rivers of salt.








Another new poem from another new day. Out of the rant rut, at least for a while, but still a far  ways from funny.








 in the old days

thinking
of my grandmother,
my father's mother,  a sour woman,
at least when she was old, which was the only time
I knew her, thinking of growing up
with that pinched, disapproving face always
looking over my shoulder

explains a lot...

on the other hand, my father's
father, a large white-haired old man
all that I ever knew, a gentle smile on his face
in the only picture, a gentle, kindly man
from what everyone who knew him
says, a town merchant
when all six of his brothers were out in the unforgiving hills
ranching, mostly cattle, a few sheep too, at a time
when almost everyone had a couple of sheep
in their backyard

this little Texas-German town,
built though stubborn application of a Protestant ethic
based on propriety and hard work,
surviving in this harsh land
of dry, hot summers and cold icy winter nights,
making peace with Comanche warriors
always overlooking from the hills

a small town of  second and third generation
German immigrants who kept to themselves through
two bloody wars against the country
of their ancestral roots...

we can  never be
where or when we weren't
which leaves us to wonder about past times
and places,
just as I wonder
at the relationship
of these two people who in their old age seemed so oddly matched

perhaps it was the differences
that drew them together,
but, I knew them only in their differences, old, near
the end of their lives, having never seen
any picture of them as a young man and woman,
not even knowing if such a picture exists

so, maybe it was not latter differences
but the similarities revealed by such a picture...

a picture of the sour old woman
from the day when she was a strong frontier beauty,
a small woman;
attracted to the old man
when he was a tall, fair-haired boy,
a shy, handsome man with soft merchant's hands

perhaps it's true
that sex
trumps all, carrying to the end
a love and a marriage
lasting more than 50 years

perhaps youth and sexual attraction
carries it all past the first blush of desire,
surviving until the end the remembered passion,
mysterious,
almost unimaginable to those of us
who see only the husks
left by time








I have a poem by James Merrill, the last this week from the anthology Tell I End My Song.

Born in 1926 in New York City,  son of the co-founder of Merrill Lynch, Merrill contacted AIDS and died in 1995 at the age of sixty-nine after a long and distinguished career as a poet and author.







Days of 1994

These days in my friend's house
Light seeks me underground.To wake
Below  the level of the lawn
- Half-basement and cool through the worst heat -
Is strange and sweet.
High up, three window-slots, new slants on dawn:
Through misty greens and gilts
An infant sun totters on stilts of shade
Up toward the high
Mass of interwoven boughs,
While close against the triptych panes
Rock bears witness,  Dragonfly
Shivers in place
Above tall Queen Anne's lace -
More figures from The Book of Thel by Blake
(Lilly & Worm,Cloudlet & Cold of Clay)
And none but drinks the dewy Manna in.

I shiver next, Light walking on my grave...
And  sleep, and wake.This time, peer out
From just beneath the mirror of the lake
A gently mile uphill.
Florets - the mountain laurel -float
Open mouthed, devout,
Set  swaying by the wake of the flatboat:

Barcarole whose chords of gloom
Draw forth the youngest,purest, faithfullest,
Cool-crystal-casketed
Hands crossing breast,
Pre-Raphaelite face radiant - and look,
Not dead, O never dead!
To wake, to wake
Among the flaming dowels of a tomb
Below the world, the thousand things
Have risen to if not above
Before day ends:
The spectacle, the book,
Forgetful lover and forgotten love,
Cobweb hung with trophy wings,
The fading trumpet of a car,
The knowing glance from star to star,
The laughter of old friends.







I miss my old dog Reba, the subject of this poem,  but my new dog Bella is a worthy successor.

Bella is a shy dog (we think she may have been abused in the past). She bonded immediately and exclusively with me; her interest in other people limited to watching them closely to  make sure they're not out to harm me in some way.

She is not usually a dog given to frolic and play. But I found her game this afternoon. In the back yard with her after doing some concrete work, I set out to water the flowers and she immediately tried to fight the water as it came from the hose. For about 30 minutes she chased the water as I waved  the hose around. I don't think I've ever seen her have such complete and uninhabited fun and she did not want to quit. I finally had to dry her off and put her inside the house so I could finish watering without her in the middle of it.Turns out she also likes the toweling off process just as much as did Reba.

I'm a dog guy - doesn't take much to get me talking about my dogs,  like this.





we  have a rainy day

we have a rainy day
and the dogs
are frightened by the thunder
and want to hide  under the bed
but I'm sitting out in it
getting wet as a beaver
and loving every minute of it

later
I'll dry the dogs off
with a big fluffy towel
even though I'm the wet one
not them
but they love being rubbed down
in a big fluffy towel, playing
hide and seek,
sticking their noses out
to see if we're still playing
and I'll pretend I don't  see  them
then jump on them
and roll them around inside the towel
and they will near
wet themselves
with fun,
scary thunder forgotten
until next time

(The other player in this game was "Peanut" a very stupid chihuahua about whom the less said the better)








 Last from my library this week, I have this poem by Thomas Crofts. It's from his book Omnibus Horribilis Poems (1987-2007), apparently self-published in 2007.

Crofts teaches medieval English literature at East Tennessee State University. Published frequently in various poetry journals and chapbooks, this is apparently his first full book






Tennessee Morning

corporate book shop
no substitute for a good library
corporate. search engine
cancel
this morning is all
household
smiling sickly unawares
mindful of time and toys and toiletries.
high sugar.
voices spiral upwards

your search for "bonus" produced
no results
carp
crap
corpus porcus

questioning beasts
their many requests
for information
the sun cuts through the trees
at last
making small reflective bats
taped to my computer screen
really come to life

heart reheated bacon smell
mediated turtle secrets, small
reticulated dragon

thinking for all of us now








Here's the last old poem for the week from my third eBook, Always to the Light.  It's another coffeehouse observational, the kind of thing that comes from  my constant watching and eavesdropping on people. So much more interesting I think, than the weightier stuff I often think I should, as a  serious (in my own mind) poet, be doing.








dreams of wet

the
woman
with very large feet
orders a latte,
flexes her long
red-tipped
toes
in her flip-flops
as she waits, hums

tall
with the lean, rangy body of an athlete,
blond  hair with a look of chlorine burn
hangs down her back in  pony tail

a  swimmer
is my guess, very active in her sport,
maybe professional -
the look of a fish
out of water
good swimmers get when forced
to make their way on dry land
amidst us dirt people

I can tell she is one of those

dreams
of wet whenever
dry









My last new poem for the week, easing, at  least  a little,  toward some humor.







hat trick

I wore
western boots
most of my life, in fact,
for forty or fifty years, boots
were the only kind of footwear in my closet

and I like to wear western shirts,
nice designs, with snaps for buttons,
no fringe though, a little bit too Roy Rogers
for me...

and jeans, Levis mostly, when I was a kid
and now, if you see me someplace
that's not a wedding or a funeral you can be sure
I'm wearing jeans

jeans at my age - can't imagine my father
wearing jeans - the only me my age  wearing jeans
that I can remember from when I was a kid would be
the guy down at the dairy
milking cows
in his bib overalls...

never wore any kind of jewelry
except for my wedding
ring, which I thought was kind of cowboy
of me, you know, riding the herd,
chasing  down the dogies,
rolling the ring  on my finger,
thinking of the lil' miss back home
while  sitting around the camp fire
crackling as the cows
moan and moo under the starlight...

not the gold chain around my neck, not me,
definitely not cowboy, the Italian version of Roy Rogers
fringe...

and I always wanted to  wear a western hat...

but whenever I put one on
I imagine everyone snickering,  laughing at me

easy for me to imagine that,
since I snicker and laugh myself
at the image of me in a cowboy hat

leaving me in a kind of existential despair
as the Texas cowboy
whose head won't accommodate a cowboy hat
without becoming an object
of ridicule
to the true sun-cured, leather-worn set...

finally,
I guess it's time to give up on my cowboy fixation...

a poet now
and not a cowboy,
maybe I could wear a beret

but wait,
imagining that makes me snicker and  laugh too

so might as well go with a  bowler
if  the effect of any head wear
is going to be comic

all I need
is a skinny guy
to  be my Laurel...






  
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 me.
 

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 specifically here:



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Places and Spaces





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Goes Around Comes Around





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Seven Beats a Second





Short Stories


Sonyador - The Dreamer



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