Short Stop on the Way   Wednesday, October 30, 2013





I have a very short post this week. The space time continuum has not been helpful to me the past couple of weeks, several types of minor illness, nothing serious, just time-thieves, plus other non-health related irritants that have kept me pushing constantly against looming schedules (and I'm a strong believer in schedules), always rushing to complete things at the very last minute. The short post also allows me to carve out time to finish the final edit on my next book, New Days, New Ways, currently about a year behind my original schedule for publication.

So, in short, I'll  be keeping it short for the next  several weeks so that I can catch up. Also hope to have time  to think of a little new  spice to add to "Here and Now." The only thing I've come up with so far is the addition of author photos. As I like to think of  poems as a conversation, it  seems nice to be able to see who I'm  talking to.

So, for this week at  least, I'll be putting aside anthologies  and concentrate on, in addition to  fewer  of  my own  new and old poems, poems from my library.

Also, this week, instead of looking for  old  photos that you would probably have forgotten you ever saw before, I decided to play with photos you saw just two weeks ago.

Here's the short-list for this  week's short post:

 Me
there he goes again

Li Po
Impromptu Chant
War South of the Great Wall
 Farewell to Yen Shu
Ching T'ing Mountain, Sitting Alone

Me
tra la  la (etc.)

Michael Earl Craig
Bear Photo

Me
a new moon last night

Wesley K. Mather
Train Station Blues

Me
Christmas miracles

Pamela Kircher
We Love the Moon So  It Shines

Me
family ties

Alice Walker
Exercises on Themes from Life

Me
about wahoos, wazoos, and the decline of Western Civilization

Joyce Carol Oates
Undefeated Heavyweight, 20 Years Old
How Delicately...

Me
pretty ironic
figs  








         

This is a new poem from last  week, an trying week when many thing, large and small, went askew, including my back.






 there he goes again

the start of a  beautiful morning,
bright and clear,
about fifty degrees or so
with a north wind, our morning walk
a run, as Bella says, yes,
with her long golden air blowing  in the breeze,
she's even  happier than me
to see the back end of summer
as it passes...

then a message from God
to stay home today...

(as a typical non-believing former-Christian
I only accept the God-concept
when
things get really screwed up and I need someone
to blame - some people might call it
karma, or some such, not nearly as satisfying
as imaging an old man with a long white beard
sticking his finger into my business
and making a bit mess of it)

anyway,
the one who I call God
when things get screwed up,
the white-bearded fella
who claims omniscience, who  hears
every little sparrow's call from every little tree
it must be, if it's true, as he claims,
to have his own personal hand on all  the gears
and levers of all the passages of the universe,
it  must also  be that he is personally
responsible
for causing mechanical malfunctions
on both of our cars this
bright morning








Next from my library I have several short pieces by T'ang Dynasty poet, Li Po, to  me, the most human and approachable of the Chinese masters. Born in 701, Li died in 762, his work and his life were suffused with Taoism and Zen Buddhism. Thought by many to be, with his friend Tu Fu, the two greatest poets in the Chinese canon.

These pieces are from the collection, The Selected Poems of Li Po, with especially vivid and straight-forward translation by David Hinton. It  is a New Directions book, published in 1996.





Impromptu Chant

Dinner brings the savor of county fields,
and serving wine, we pour distant waters.

Watching the river flow east inexhaustibly
here, we can see how this farewell feels.


War South of the Great Wall

Delirium, battlefields all dark and delirium,
convulsions of men swarm like armies of ants.

A red wheel is thickened air, the sun hangs
above bramble and weed blood's dyed purple,

and crows, their beaks clutching warrior guts,
struggle at flight, grief-glutted, earthbound.

Those on guard atop the Great Wall yesterday
became ghosts in its shadow today. And still,

flags bright everywhere like scattered stars,
the slaughter keeps on. War-drums throbbing:

my husband, my sons - you'll find the all
there, out where war-drums keep throbbing.


Farewell to Yin Shu

We drink deeply beneath dragon bamboo,
our lamp faint, the moon cold again.

On the sandbar, startled by drunken song,
a snowy egret lifts away past midnight


Ching-T'ing Mountain, Sitting Alone

The birds have all vanished into deep
skies. The last cloud drifts away, aimless.

In exhaustible, Ching-t'ing Mountain andI
gaze at each other, it alone remaining.








This is a little early, season-wise, but hell the stores are putting up Christmas stuff next to the Halloween stuff, so why not.

The poem was written in December, 2010, recalling in part a Christmas I spent in Germany 40-plus years earlier.





tra la la (etc)

Christmas carols
sung
with the sincerity
of a suppository commercial

chill-perked girls
wrapped in furry coats,
hair blown,
noses nipped in a frigid wind;

Christmas  elves
poised to pounce on
unsupervised children

(is that a gun in Santa's pocket
or is he just glad to see
them)

fist fights
in the parking lot,
wife
docks husband
with a right to the jaw
a kick
to the cojones...

I went Christmas caroling
once,
in Darmstadt, a smallish city
between Frankfurt and Heidelberg,
drunk
at a Christmas party,
our voices
raised
in praise to the birth
of our Lord and Savior
and a drunken hope
he will find suppositories
in Bethlehem should the Wise Men
have a need after their
ever so long
camel ride)
Irish bar singing 
not welcomed 
by our host's German  neighbors
at  3 a.m...

then
as now
tra la la la
la







 
First from my library this week, I have a poem by Michael Earl Craig, from his book, Thin Kimono. The book was  published in 2010 by Wave Books.

Craig biography,  as he presents it, says that he was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1979. He earned degrees from The University of Montana and the University of Massachusetts. Author of two previous books, he is a certified journeyman farrier and lives near Livingston, Montana, where he shoes horses for a living.




Bear Photo

Taken in Livingston,  Montana
sometime around 1900,
this bear stands up perfectly straight
on hind  legs, with his paws
together, up over his head
like maybe he's clapping
like maybe he's praying
or pretending to pray,
really hamming it up,
but I'd say probably praying
probably praying directly to God.
Yes, praying hard, direct to God.
It is a sunny day.

The photo is grainy
The bear is shuffling about in the dirt street.
Dragging his hundred pound chain.
Squinting into the sun.
Acting quite naturally.
Totally clueless as  to how a man might pray.







         


It's true it's always hard to find dark in the city, but it would be easier if my neighbor didn't like his place up like a maximum security prison.







a new moon last night

a new moon last night
round and bright on the dark  sky

oh, how I wish for a blackout
on nights like this,
when the moon and stars
would be laid out above me,
undiminished by my neighbor's fear of the dark,
lights everywhere, keeping the devil work
at bay...

they are the devils
it seems
to me,
stealing  the dark,
so fearful,
building their little sanctuaries of light, 
hiding he stars
that call me,
all the little so-far-away stars
I presume to call
my own







Here's a poem from my library by Wesley K. Mather. The poem is from his book, Into Pieces, published by i Universe Inc in 2003.

According to the author's bio, he lived in Denver at the time of publication, received his education at Metropolitan State College. Having written for a number of publications, this was his first book.

I couldn't find a picture of the poet,  so had  to settle for a picture of his  book.





Train Station Blues

They all sit on long oak benches
Waiting for their trains to come in
They all smoke too many cigarettes,
And drink from secret bottles.

One man in the corner  scratches
at spider bites allover  his legs.
He thinks, "I would explode if the itch would stop."
One man up front scratches at his chest.
He is trying to get at his heart.
He  thinks, "I would die if the itch ever stopped."

There is a man sitting a stool
with a bottle of lotion; he smells  it
when he thinks no one is looking.
He hates the smell of the lotion;
it reminds him of  his former  love; he is crazy for her.
There is a woman in the crowd
with a bottle of bleach for her hair.
She is wanting to get on the  train to us it.
She wants to start a new life. She is very much sane.

All the people in the station smoke too much.
They are all sad and lacking love.
Every one of them thinks at the same time,
"Where am I, where am I going? Stupid life."








 


Here, another Christmas poem from 2010, with actual Christmas miracles.







Christmas miracles

writing a poem
on Christmas Eve
reminds me that I was

a practicing  Christian once;
practicing and practicing
and practicing

but never getting it right,
so I cut back
and became, like many

of the Christians I know,
a non-practicing Christian,
and I non-practiced and non-

practiced and never  got that
right either
so I quit all together

leaving behind nothing I miss
but Christmas joy, which
is hard to sustain when all it's

about is picking non-religions
Christmas cards
and the most colorful wrapping

paper
and listening politely
to Christmas songs for three

months, mostly sung by over-the-hill,
sometimes dead, gents in sweaters
roasting their moldy chestnuts,etc...

I mean,
 there is something truly uplifting
about the whole Baby Jesus thing,

which is about all the non-practicing
non-Christian can say about
that.

which leads me to thinking about
my clothes...

despite the supposed peace of the season
I'm wearing
my macho-man shirt this morning,
the let's-go-out-and-shoot-Bambi
I bought at Walmart
last year,
it and another just like it except in a different color,
evidence that even I, the complete rationalist, am prone
to occasional lapses
of what-the-hell-was-I-thinking...

the bright-colored hunting motif,
dogs and guns and woodsy images,
embarrasses me;
to be seen in it makes me feel
like a fraud
since I haven't shot  anything of an
animal nature
since I was ten years old, killing
a sparrow with my BB gun,
leaving a tiny, neatly-ringed  BB-sized hole
right through the bird's head,
a bright blaze of blood
trickling from the side of the hole,
a crimson trail
brilliant in the summer sun
and in my memory...

it's just not me,
this shirt,
just not in my nature,
but it's cold outside
and it is the warmest shirt
in my closet already ironed this morning
and I  promise
that's all there is to it,
no subliminal pulse of murderous rage
barely contained
beneath this calm and pleasant countenance.
this peaceable exterior,
I promise...

the question left unanswered,
i iron my own shirts,
so how did this shirt get to be
the only ironed shirt
in my closet...

a miracle, possibly...

it's possible another miracle
has occurred,
another Christmas miracle...

maybe not up there with Baby Jesus,
but us non-practicing non-Christians
have to take what we
can get








Another from my library, Pamela Kircher holds a Bachelor's degree from Ohio University, a Master of Library Science from Kent State University, and a Master of  Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. Recipient of various awards and honors, including three Ohio Arts Council Individual  Artist Fellowships, she is a resident fellow at the MacDowell Colony.

 The poem this week is from her book Whole Sky, published in 1996 by Four Way Books.





We Love the Moon So It  Shines

There are things seen only
when the lights are off.
Like nigh shifting its ashes
through the house almost soundlessly
except for a sudden  crack then later
a soft thud for all the world
like a shovel breaking a root and a clump of dirt
dropped in a whole. Being buried alive.
How simple.She touches the floor
with one foot, the edge of the bed
with one hand. There she is
in the mirror, hardly a woman at all:
crooked at the waits, one arm long,
one bent. She picks up her dress
from the floor and lays it over the man
in the bed. Let him wake
in the hours that  come and fine
what his lies have done. The body
of the blue dress is empty
as the lover she has become.
All the rest of her ugly and dumb
as the moon's far face waiting night
after night to turn to the earth
and shine.









As everyone knows who's ever read Here and Now, I  post  a poem every day on a "poem a day poetry forum." At this point I'm over 2.600 consecutive days of poetry (with a couple of days off due to illness). The forum is designed to provide incentive for writers to do every day what writers  are supposed to do - write. The incentive is the encouragement one gets from one's fellow poem-a-day poets. One of the extra benefits of posting is that  every day one has an opportunity to read others' work and possibly get inspired on those  days when one's  on muse is running on empty.

A case in point, this next poem.




family ties

a poet today
reminds me of the  proto-me
I  visit often to find  my way in this life,
so much more complicated than his, simple questions
that face him as every day begins,
do I eat today, or does my belly tighten
further around the emptiness of a failed hunt,
do I  fight today, or do I run,
do I die today, my short life ended
even sooner than its normal course allows,
do I speak to  a god  today,
to gods of  rocks and rivers and mountains
and the sky,  gods of my kind
who walks the same dust as I, gods
who will help  me if they want,
or not, all I am or can  be
subject to their whim or whimsy,
gods  not to worship,
for what use worship to the earth
and trees and mountains and sky, gods
to beseech, gods to entangle
in all your  wordly
strategies,
gods to direct you to where
the fresh waters run and the bison graze,
gods to  direct your spear
so that you and yours
may eat,
gods to keep the fires burning at  night
so that you may sleep
in peace, to prepare yourself  for the next day's
race for survival...

we talk,  this proto-me
and me, in languages neither  of us have
in the realities off our lives,
he understands from me all the reasons he must
live his full span, procreate, and maybe, before the span ends,
learn to make  sharper more durable spear  points,
or learn to  sing, learn to draw pictures on rock,
to scratch the stories your life on walls
that will last as long  as rock
might lasts, stories
that one of my kind will find
in your unimaginable future,and tell your
anew, for me to see, for  me to know
you, my cousin, as I have never known you
before, family ties we have, my
rough and dirty proto-me, connections
through thousands upon thousands
of time, eternities to  you and me, as well,
but still,  through all those years
we talk  and celebrate
our family
ties








          

Next, I have a really wonderful series of short poems by Alice Walker, from her book Her Blue Body Everything We Know - Earthling Poems 1965-1990  Complete. A terrific book, it  was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,  Publishers in 1991.






Exercises on Themes from Life

i

Speaking of death
and decay
hardly matters
Which
Since both are on the
way, maybe -
to being daffodils.

ii

it is not about that
as a poet I knew used
to say
speaking with haunted eyes
of liking and disliking -
Now I think
uncannily
of life.

iii

my nausea has nothing
to do
With the fact that
you love me
It is probably just
something I ate
at your mother's.

iv

To keep up
passionate courtship
with a tree
one must be
completely mad
In the forest
in the dark one night
I lost my way.

v

If I were a patriot
I would kiss the flag
As it is,
Let us just go.

vi

 My father  liked very much
the hymns
in church in the amen corner,
on rainy days
he would wake
himself up
to hear them.

vii

I like to see you try
to worm yourself
away from me
first you  plead
your age
as if my young heart
felt and of the tiredness
of your bones...

viii

Making our bodies touch
across your breezy bed
how warm you are...
cannot we save our little
quarrel
until tomorrow?

ix

My fear of burial
is all tied up  with
how used I am
to the spring...!








 

 I've abused Christmas enough this week, so here's a poem from 2010 that abuses just about everything else.







about wahoos & wazoos and the decline of Western Civilization

it's a damp
foggy morning
which reminds  me of
stupid sleepy people

- and how,you ask,
does a damp
foggy
morning
remind me of stupid
sleepy people, and I would  answer
I don't know, it's just an example
of the curious paths
a brain
might journey
down
in the early morn, and if we knew
how that kind of thing works
we could fix brains so that there
would be many fewer
stupid
sleepy people in the world -

but the point is not
an investigation of the vagaries
of the human
noggin,
but the fact that
at my age
I'm tired of being polite
to stupid sleepy people, want
to wake them up
instead,
do some wahoos
up their wazoos so maybe
they
'd
shake themselves out of it
and become
alert
not-so-stupid
people
and the obvious place to start
if I could do that
would be right-wing politicians,
wahoo
you tea-party poops,
I'd say,
how's your wazoos hanging...

maybe
go back in time, investigate
how the industrial revolution prompted
the onset of our stupid sleepy
people plague ..

June 12, 1966,
that's when it began
and I saw it happen,
Indianapolis, Indiana, downtown,
a "fast-food restaurant is what it called itself,
might have been a McDonald's
and I haven't been in  a McDonald's since
just in case,  a hamburger bun
made its way via a conveyor  belt
until it was positioned  beneath
a large overhead tube out of which plopped
a hamburger patty which landed
precisely
on the bun, which moved onto another
overhead tube (smaller nozzle this time) 
out of which spurted a plop of ketchup
right
precisely
on the greasy gray patty which had earlier
plopped out of an overhead
tube, all of the above,
bun, patty,  ketchup  plop
continuing down the conveyor to where
another bun (top  this time)
plopped down on the previously assembled
mess, continuing then down the line
until picked up by a young man
with dirty fingernails and a very large
pimple on the end of his nose
who wrapped the concoction
and put it
proudly
in a box, 39 cents, he said -

this  initial assault on the not-yet-sleepy,
not-yet-stupid populace
of this great country was  originally
exposed
by documentary filmmaker George Romero
but no one could believe
first,
that anyone would make a hamburger this way,
and,second,
that anyone would so  proudly show an un-sleepy, unstupid  populace
that they were making a hamburger this way
so Romero's documentary
about the zombie-making effect of eating
such factory-burgers
was dismissed a a pulp  fiction
"b" movie
and so we  were led  to  where we  are today,
adrift
in a rising sea of wazoos
in desperate need of vigorously,
but lovingly, applied
wahoos








         

Last this week from my library, this poem by Joyce Carol Oates is from her book, The Time Traveler, published by E.P. Dutton in 1989.









Undefeated Heavyweight, 20 Years Old

I
Never been hurt! never
knocked down! or  staggered or
stunned or made to know there's a blow
to  kill  not his own! - therefore the soul
glittering like jewels worn
on the outside of the body.

II
A boy with a death's-head mask dealing hurt
in of arc of six short inches. Unlike ours
his flesh recalls its godhead, if  dimly. Unlike
us he knows he will live forever.

The walloping sounds of his body blows are iron
striking bone.
The joy he promises is of a fist breaking bone.
For whose soul is so bright,  so burnished,
so naked in display?

All  insult, says this death's-head - ancient,tribal,
last week's on the street - in redeemed in the taste
of another's blood.

You don't know. But you know.


Since this is such a short  post,  here's an Oates bonus, such wonderful, precise  writing.


How Delicately...

How delicately the fish's
     backbone is being
lifted out of its
     cooked flesh -
the sinewy spine, near-

translucent bones
     gently detached from
the pink flesh -
     how delicately, with
what  love,  there can be no hurt. 









I finish this short post, with two short poems. Both throwaways, I admit, but the second one I'm kind of proud of. On a day spent in bed, with back pain  so intense I could hardly stand to sit, I managed  to write a poem about a back ache with a sly nod to William Carlos Williams, one of my poet-heroes. 







pretty ironic

a reviewer once  complimented
my work
for my sense of irony

I never have figured out exactly
what that means when
appearing in any particular
situation

the word,  used in so many ways
seems a bundle and a jumble
of meaning, essentially meaning
whatever you want it to mean,
making the compliment  according some of the
meanings I've seen, pretty ironic
that the only thing I know about  irony
is that  I ironed my own shirts  beginning
when I was about fifteen

there are a lot of words like that, it seems,
that lots of people use
without being able to tell you
precisely
what they mean...

so I  figure,
hell,
if they can make it up as they go along
so can I

pretty ironic
if you think about it

or, perhaps, moronic,
depending
on  your sense off irony


figs

extremely painful
back spasms

enshrouded
in drugs  of many
and unpronounceable
names

no walking,
less  sitting

let's pretend
i ate
the  figs

and call this
my poem
of  the
day








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