Blood Destiny   Wednesday, September 11, 2013







My son Chris is an avid rough country hiker and camper. The photos this week were taken by him except for the two that picture him (the first and last) which were taken by his hiking companion. Most of the remaining  pics were taken in Carlsbad Cavern. The few others he took on the trail, most likely in the Guadalupe Mountains on the Texas-New Mexico border. I've used his train photos before, but I don't think I've featured these.







The anthology I've turned to this week is The Unswept Path - Contemporary American Haiku, published in 2005 by White Pines Press. Of the 14 poets presented in the book, I only had  space here for two.










     
As has become my habit, I will continue to  cull my old poems for pieces that might be good enough to show.


  



And the new stuff, as usual, whatever comes down the poem-a-day pipe.







Here's all our who-zit for this week.

Me
so much sorrow; so little joy

John Brandi
five Haiku

Me
best damn chili in Texas

Gwendolyn Brooks
Notes from the Childhood and the Girlhood

Me
saved by the blond with long legs and large breasts

Margaret Chula
five Haiku

Me
flashing

Ada Limon
The Same Thing

Me
the little sin of it

Diane DePrima
five Haiku

Me
blink

Bobbie Byrd
February Poems about Art
On the Transmigration of Souls in El Paso #3

Me
blood

Sonia Sanchez
five Haiku

Me
a glad poem

William D. Barney
Lori Swinging 
Cowtails and Crabgrass

Me
passage 

Me
blood destiny
  








Here's my first  new poem of the week.

It's about television and the times which allow us access to the worst and best of us, to take us front row center right into moments of sorrow and of joy. So much more sorrow though, and so little joy.






so much sorrow; so little joy

I was there
when the footsteps of man
first stirred the moon's
powdered dust
and Cronkite wept
with joy

I was there
to hear Frost mumble his poem
in the light snow
of Jack's inauguration

and I was there to watch
the funeral march
and the martyr's son's
salute and the riderless horse,
when Cronkite
wept
in sorrow

I was there,
watching Bobbie die
under the vicious bright
of television lights,
cold concrete his death bed

and the death of another hero
just days before, shot by an assassin
as he stood on a hotel balcony, so many
weeping for the loss
of hope

I was there
when a president first echoed
the call of the marchers,
"We shall overcome," he said
and the crowd cheered
and wept
and I too with them

I was there
when soldiers sloshed
fearfully
through perfidious jungles
and when the Wisconsin's long guns
fired the opening salvo
of the first gulf war (I had walked
the polished teak deck of that great ship
just months before)

I was there when the first bomb
fell on Baghdad

I  was there to watch the despot
beaten
and killed
by those he once ruled
with the fierce hand of homicidal
grandiosity

I was there when the little girl
was pulled from the hole
that was meant to be her  grave

I was there when Sadat
was killed, machine-gunned
by his own guards,
along with many who sat with him
to watch the big parade
and I was there with the man,
arm blown off by the machine-gun fire,
lying amid the blood, his own
and the blood of others,
crying for help that seemed
to never come

I was there when the towers fell,
the fires lost in the gray clouds of dust
and half-burned paper
that swept through the streets
like a scene
from a science fiction movie
(though the movies
never show the dust, so gray and thick,
that envelops the action)
and I was there
with them as they ran
that day, and other days in other places,
refugees from around the world
hiking over mountains and high deserts to reach
questionable safety

and I was there when the
shuttles exploded...

oh how would this poem
ever end,
with so much seen,
so much shock,  first in black and white
now  in color...

I have started
an endless poem, I fear,
image  upon image
of a world turned upside down
daily
with such a deficit of joy,
so little joy in the passing
of it, so much sorrow -
how do we live with such constant sorrow,
how much happier
the days of our blissful
ignorance

---

Eden, a  paradise of not-knowing,
the beasts unnoticed, waiting beyond the gates
of our garden, how we must regret our  exile









The first series of haiku from this week's anthology are by poet and painter John Brandi. Born in 1943, Brandi is author of more than thirty six books of poetry, essays and haiku. After years of traveling around the world, he finally settled in New Mexico in 1971.







A raindrop.
Inside it another
has fallen

---

daybreak
pollen rising
from the unswept path

---

around the bell
blue sky
ringing

---

so broke
size up the porch
for firewood

---

after the storm
a dragonfly
pinned to the cactus







  

  Here's my first old poem for the week. Written in 2007, which doesn't seem all that long ago,  about the time I quit sending my work out. Instead, I saved  everything for this, "Here and Now" and sometimes a book.







best damn chili in Texas

Frontier
Something  or Other
was the name of the place

best damn chili
in Texas,
the devil's own
hangover preventative

pork and beef
and three kinds of
pepper
hot enough to defoliate
your nose hairs
and grease enough
to coat  your guts
from inflow to
gotta-go

a bowl
before you hit the bars
and a bowl after
and you're so damn
stone
cold
sober
at reveille your eyebrows
stand and salute
when old General Pushcart
comes by on the back of his jeep

I used to know a lot
about  this sort of
thing











         

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in 1917 and died in 2000. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950. She was appointed Poet Laureate for Illinois in 1968 and Poet Laureate of the United States  in 1986.







from Notes from the Childhood and the Girlhood

the parents: people like our marriage - Maxie and Andrew

Clogged and soft and sloppeyes
Have lost the light that bites or terrifies.

There are no swans and swallows anymore.
The people settled  for chicken and shut the door.

But one by one
They got things done:
Watch for porches as you pass
And prim low  fencing pinching in the grass

Pleasant custards sit behind
The white Venetian blind.


Sunday Chicken

Chicken, she chided early, should not wait
Under the cranberries in after-sermon state.
Who had been beaking abut the yard of late.

Elite among reh speckle-grey, wild white
On blundering mosaic in the night.
Or lovely baffle-brown. It  was not right.

You could not hate the cannibal they wrote
Of, with the nostril bone-thrust, who could dote
On boiled or roasted fellow  thigh and throat

Nor hate the  handsome tiger, call him devil
To man-feast, manifesting Sunday evil.


old relative

After the baths and bowel-work, he was dead.
Pillows no longer mattered, and getting fed
And anything that anybody said.

Whatever was his he never more strictly had,
Lying in long hesitation. Good or bad,
Hypothesis, traditional and fad.

She went  in there to muse on being rid
Of relative  beneath the coffin lid.
No one was by. She  stuck her tongue out; slid.

Since for a wee she mut not play "Charmaine"
Or "Honey Bunch" or "Singing in the Rain."










Here's another new poem from last week. It's kind  of a mess, but that's the way it works out sometime.









saved by the blond with long legs and large breasts

breakfast this morning
amid a cohort
of  old men, their little convention badges
hanging from their shirt pockets

an old coot's  convention
at one of the nearby hotels,
I suppose

a convention chair, I imagine,
calling the convocation to order, loudly,
the hearing in the audience leaning over
to pass the message on to those
whose  aged ears
can only hear sounds in two or three
frequencies that only dogs
can hear, certainly not
the human voice, no matter how loudly
announced...

two by two they come into
the  restaurant, wives (usually younger)
in tow, sitting with their fellow
conventioneer, tables of old men
leaning across the table to hear,
 conversations  of whats? and whats? and
say that again...

makes me think of years ago
when I was the keynote speaker
at a gathering of deaf people
(yes, I know, what does a hearing
speaker have to say to a room of deaf
and how often does he have  to say it)
and I remember seeing
all the people crowding  the hotel
restaurant, signing to friends
at their table and across the room,
the whole room a tidal wave
of waving hands and figures and fingers, naturally
leaving me wondering what
they were saying
about me

but that's another story...

meanwhile just  as I was about
to  succumb to the  contagion of crankiness certain
when too many old people
mingle together
in to small a space,
a young woman  enters the restaurant,
tall, leggy and blond, with large breasts like the prow
of a golden ship pushing softly
and proudly through
the creaky curtain that enveloped the  room,
the age haze made it hard for me,
a cranky old man, myself, to
breath, the thick air that exposed
all my ego driven lies and evasions, the ones
we tell ourselves and pretend to believe/
the crowd of old men
like mirrors that tell truths I cannot tell myself,
that, like it or not,
shows you exactly as you are,
all those secrets that make the me
no one else can see
saved this day
by the lovely proud breasts and long legs
and blond hair like sunlight in
the dark, allowing back in the room
the magic  of  this old  man's
gift of self-deception









The next series of haiku from the anthology are by Margaret Chula. She lived in Kyoto, Japan for twelve years, teaching English and creative writing and studying woodblock printing and ikibana. She is the author of a number of volumes of poetry.







end of summer
the rust on my scissors
smells of chrysanthemums

---

cushion, incense bowl
so much preparation
to do nothing

---

late into the night
we talk of revelations
moon through the pines

---

waking this morning
from troubled dreams
foxprints on new snow

---

remembering those gone
thankful to be here -
pond of purple iris











It's the little things that often go overlooked. This, another from 2007.








flashing

watch her walk

with each step
the rear of her foot rises
as weight shifts  from her heel to her toes
while her shoe lags behind
and between the shoe
and the bottom of her foot
the soft pale flesh
of her instep flashes
like a lover's wink
across a crowded room,
this most beautiful, unseen place,
inviting a caress,
a kiss,
flashing like a  secret
across a crowded room








From my library, I have a poem by Ada Limon, from her book, Sharks in the Rivers, published  in 2010 by Milkweed Editions.

Limon, born in Sonoma, California in 1976 is a graduate pf New York  University and author of three books of poetry.





The Same Thing

There's an awful story in  the news.
For days you cannot  sleep; it's too hot , it's too cold

It's just a story in the news.

Not another human, not a whole country,
not another animal, just a piece of paper.

Then you feel a little better.
Yo go to the train and wear your headphones,
you listen to a sad song that sounds familiar.

You pass a store window and there's someone
you don't  know walking where you're walking: heels,
a summer dress, hair tied up too fancy for the week.

The television says tomorrow night they will
shed some light on hell.

How far do we need to search for some bad thing?
Hell is not beneath us, not a bargaining chip with your children.

You come home on the train and you have
bought gifts and tried to be decent.

This is how  your life will go, you know that. Day after  day.

Awful acceptance: the  soft life of your footprints.

You start to think of the alternative,
you sake our real shirt off in the hallway.

Would it be the same if ou were born in Mexico? Life
                    Cuba? Ireland? 1974?

You miss everyone. Even the people you read about today
you didn't know their faces as if on paper.

You sit on the balcony,
which is really a fire escape, but you call it
the balcony to make it sound better.
You wear the slip your grandmother gave you

fifteen years ago, the weather is nice, California nice

You sing a little, call our family, you think,  things aren't  so bad.

You say you love the world, so love the world.

Maybe you don't even say it for yourself,
maybe you move your mouth like everyone
movers their mouth,. Maybe your mouth is the same
mouth as everyone's, all trying to say the same thing.










Another new poem-a-day poem. I'm diabetic and sometimes break the rules,  but only a little bit. Unless it's about a package of Oreos. Then I break the rules big time.







the little sin of  it

for breakfast this morning
I'm having an apple-cinnamon-granola
pancake
with actual syrup
instead of that approximation of syrup
people like me are supposed
to stick to

not a breakfast that would be recommended
by my doctor or my
wife...

but it's a small pancake,
not the huge flapper thing that hangs
over the side of your plate
that's the specialty here, but
a small version on a small
plate
made especially for me...

 it's a small  sin,
in line with my theory of small sins
which is that small sins
are not sins

at all,
but a method for retaining
our humanity

like what kind of human could we claim to be
 without our store
of small sins,  beginning  at the moment
of our beginning,
I mean
even saints have their repertoire
of small sins -
it's how we, constant sinners,
relate to  them...

we do not revere
the little plastic saints
we buy at the churchly-goods store,
but that which they
represent,
the blood and flesh human
being, a better version of us
we admit, but still a human companion
like us in all the large and small
ways

even Jesus was a man,
and being a man
shared with us the little sins
of us (this sharing - it's why he came,
according to the texts)

so,
though I claim to be neither a saint
nor a god come to earth as a human,
I am of their blood,
and, being of their blood kind,
I share their
little sins
and am certain that
they all, Jesus, the disciples, and all the saints
of all beliefs and churches,
all of them,
would be quite happy
to sit  with me
on occasion to share all around a
apple-cinnamon-granola
pancake,
reveling all in the
little sin
of it









Next with a series of Haiku is Diane DePrima, one of the last  of the major poets of the Beat generation. She is a student of zen and Tibetan, Buddhism, Sanskrit, and alchemy. She  has published over 35 books, including her autobiographic memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman.






Death Poems in April

1

even the Buddha lay down
to breathe his last.
why an I struggling?

2

easy to disappear
into this fog

3

pour this water and this ash
on the roots
of some old tree


Dream Poem of the California Indians
(after reading Kroeber)

song cycles
lost in the woods:
the last throat pierced



Independence Day 2002

bald eagle
making a come-back
so am I










 On a week when I'm featuring the latest  masters of short form poetry, here are a few of my own. Again, 2007.







blink

listen
to the wind
it whispers
but it does not tell

**

gather
sand
castles
in repose

**

the sea
roars
at shell-white
beaches
takes tiny
bites
and spits them
back
with every wave

**

moonlight
on green meadows
seeps
to roots
below

**

the hawk
flies
but not for
pleasure
despite the grace
of its ascent

**

without
the sun
there would  be
no shadows
to tell us
there is a sun-bright
day








From my library, I have two poems by Bobby Byrd. The poem is from his book On the Transmigration of Souls in El Paso, published by Cinco Puntos Press in 1992.

A poet, essayist and publisher, Byrd grew up in Memphis and lived there until 1963, when he moved to Tuscon to attend the University of Arizona. In 1978, he and his family moved to El Paso. He was recipient of  a grant from the NEA, a D. H. Lawrence fellowship and an international fellowship to study in Mexico.





February Poem About Art

                                           I first recognized art
                    as wilderness and it seemed right...
                                                 - Frank O'Hara -

The birds (mostly house finches)
with all their singing
in the beautiful warm bright day
are trying to  trick me into believing
that spring is really here.
I believed them last year
and the year before that and
the the year before that
and so on.

           Never again!

I'm getting too old and wise for the.

         Things change all the time
          but they really stay the same.

So I just wait and watch
listening sometimes to the news in the morning

     where
         yesterday
             a fourteen year old girl

was shot in the head

                      by her brother-in-law
                  who was cleaning his gun.
              She was
sitting at the kitchen table
talking to her mother about her boyfriend.

    "Oh, Momma, he's so nice.
    "You'll like him, Momma.
    "I know your will.

BANG!


On the Transmigration of Souls in El Paso, #3

On the corner of Kansas and Rio Grande
is the sacred-blue  Aragon Apartments,
so old they have become shrines to another

time. It was there quick-witted Monty used to
live before his story started to take off
elsewhere. His friend the newspaperman who

invited him to come down to this old west Texas
town in the first place went back to Chicago.
Monty though did some standup comic routines

at parties and  dated a photographer named
Victoria who  lives in the wonderful two story
house in Kern Place where all the rich people

also live only to move away from when they
get richer, thank God. But Monty,afraid
that his story was getting too long, gave up

comedy and Victoria to become a TV weatherman
on Channel 4 Saturday Nights making it all
possible for him to meet the Indian woman

who with the red chakra on her forehead
led him into paradise which was translated
into Corpus Christi (the body of Christ),

Texas. Monty the Weatherman is gone into
that wilderness. Reference the story of John
the Baptist. Anyway, I was downtown tonight

when a prostitute  tried to pick me up.
The John Sansone, a poet I used to know, came by
and we talked about literature on the corner of

Oregon and Missouri Streets while the prostitute,
a beautiful young girl the age of my very own
daughter, drove away in a Ford station wagon.

John Sansone said  he likes fiction more than poetry.
The funny thing is that John Sansone lives
in the sacred-blue Apartments of Aragon. Reference

here the tales of Christians against Moors.
I wished him a beautiful wife in Corpus Christi.
The End.








 

I don't like to do these issue poems, but what looks to likely be our failure of will and moral responsibility greatly discourages me.








blood

it is
the burden of
power

blood
on our hands
no matter what we do
or don't

but best blood
today
is blood
that might hold back the blood-tide
tomorrow

it is not deep
or complicated, this
philosophy
of  least bad option
and surely not so hard
to understand








        
Sonia Sanchez is a poet, activist, and scholar. She is the author of many collections  of poetry. Her approach to the haiku is more down to earth than many, reminding me of the ancient masters, skywalkers always firmly anchored to the ground of real life and real living.








1
Come windless invader
I am a carnival of
Stars a poem of blood.


2
I have caught fire from
Your mouth now you want me to
Swallow the ocean.

3
When we say good-bye
I want yo tongue inside my
Mouth dancing hello.

4
Mixed with day and sun
I crouched in the earth carry
You like a dark river.

7
This is not a fire
Sale but I am in heat
Each time I see ya.












I've badly need a glad poem, feeling little to be glad about for  the  past several weeks.






a glad poem

tired
of sad poems
of mad poems
looking for a
glad
poem
about a sunny day
when spirits are low
or a glad poem
about a rainy day
when gardens thirst
about a big orange moon
when lovers
flourish
or a moonless night
keeping werewolves
at bay
or trees in the desert
where Bedouins rest
in mid-day shade
or sand in a  box
so a child can play
and dream
and  dream

I want a
glad poem
for all like me
who need relief
and  a friendly spirit
a glad poem
so we can all be
overcome
by sad
or mad
no
more








Last from my library, here are  two poems by William D. Barney. The  poems  are from his book A Cowtown Chronicle, published by Browder Springs Books in 1999.

Barney, a retired post office worker, was a former president of the Poetry Society of Texas. Recipient of many awards and honors, including appointment as Poet Laureate of Texas, he published eight collections of poetry and appears often in a variety of anthologies.

Born in 1916, Barney died in 2001. I wanted to include a picture of him but all I could find was a choice between his headstone or the cover of the book.





Lori Swinging

Under the elm next door
Lori swings as she sings;
holding the ropes  with her hands,
her head thrown back so far
her beautiful, long red hair
drags in the dust as she swings.



Cowtails and Crabgrass

Back  when he worked at the Swift's plant
(in the refrigerator section)
coming out on a  hot July evening
he couldn't keep his eyes steady.
He was afraid to go downtown -
the cops would likely pick him up
for another drunk. It made him wonder
whether the job had giddied his mind.

It was a famous place for squeezing
the last full measure out of everything.
Even the ants leave bones,
but here bones went into fertilizer.
He knew men in the packing house
who collected cow brushes (ends of tails) -
they used them to fill mattresses.
But then (maybe the heat made him think
of it) he knew  other people
who did the same with crabgrass.

He got to studying. You can see
why someone would find a use
for all that hair - nobody likes loose ends-
but it took genius to discover
a function for crabgrass. It must
have been a gardener, like him,
who didn't know whether to curse or pray
when the first pale leaves began to slit
brown soil  the last of April.
Whoever, he must have had a mission,
a passion or utility in life,
to think of hoeing up the pest
and stuffing it in a mattress.
A kind of vengeance,being able
to-sleep on the dry bodies of a weed,
getting to hear it groan a little
ever you turn to a fonder  dream?








   
Writing my poem of the day last week, I had  two ideas. Couldn't  decide which to write so I tried to mash them together. Probably not a good idea.









passage

I like having breakfast
in the dark,
watching the day wake,
night passing,
dark handing off the baton
in an endless relay, a circling cycle of
universal goings-on
forever before and forever after
dark
becoming light
until it becomes dark again

the mystery of early mornings,
movement in the dim light,
wind  stirring trees,
cats passing from shadow
to shadow

but not this morning...

as the passing is made
from dark-time
to light-time
there is no wind
stirring the trees, not cats
meandering,
instead there is absolute
stillness
the
still
before the storm
that I know  will not come

 nothing moves...

but in the trees
as the orange disc
pushes past the day-night line
at the edge of the world
birds, hundreds,
birds of every kind,
call,
sing bright morning songs
of every kind
and I've not heard this
like this
before, all these birds together
singing
and I wonder why
I have not heard this before,
have I not been listening,
in all the dark to dawn moments
why have  I not heard this before

or is this gathering of singing birds
a new thing, a special  gathering, all together
for me, telling me something
about
the day just breaking across the horizon?

such noisy babble;
such sweet
cacophony on this still
morning

who are they all here for?

are they here for me?

what are they saying?

perhaps
I should question not
the is of the moment, perhaps
I should just
listen








My last poem this week, driven by events of the week, which, I suspect will not end as I would like.  This poem and the earlier "blood" piece above present a chronological tracking of my thinking as the week progressed. In the first piece I was feeling moderately confident that we would do what needs to be done. This last piece reflects my doubt that the action required will not be taken, but mere smoke and mirrors instead, a fig leaf to disguise our lack of resolve. Leaving open the question, now that it is demonstrated that there is no downside to use of those previously banned chemical weapons, who will be next to set them loose? Lots of candidates.







blood destiny

blood
says
blood requires blood

death requires
death

blood
says
murderers
cannot walk free,
permitted to murder again,
encouraged to murder
as they will by lack of consequence
for murders past

blood
requires blood
to even the scales,
to make clear to those still innocent
that blood requires
consequence

vengeance
has not a pretty face ,
but it is our blood destiny,
the force that keeps the animal caged

blood
justice...

maker of peace
one
bloody
day
at a time









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Places and Spaces





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BlazeVOX
Eclectica
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
zafusy
The Blogging Poet
Poetsarus.Com
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Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
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Arlene Ang
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Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
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Beau Blue
Downside up
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David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet