River Walking   Wednesday, November 06, 2013






Another short  post this week, still finishing up on the final edit of my next book. I hope to be back on a regular  schedule by next post.

In the meantime, no anthology this week, just me, new and old, and poets from my library.

I enjoyed "splashing" my Santa Fe photos last week, so  I splashed some more, a newer section of the Riverwalk, between downtown and The Pearl development.


Here are the poets and the poems.


Me
Mariachi Corazon de San Antonio

Czeslaw Milosz
Mid-Twentieth Century Portrait
Greek Portrait   

Me
an atheist defends Jesus from those who appropriate his name

Carl Sandburg
Fog
Choose
Crimson
Whitelight
Flux
Losses
Troths

Me
recent social change

Patricia Fargnoli
The Eagle, the Wild Sow and the Cat
The Fox and the Grapes 

Me
far ahead and yet unseen

Colette Inez
Tunnel Songs

Me
past due
happy-go-lucky
tomorrow's stars

Howard Moss
At the Cafe
Have You Forgotten

Me
part of the secret of successful poeming 

John Oughton
Appearance at Pier 4

Me
contract issues         









 

This was a great night a week ago.








Mariachi Corazon de San Antonio

taught by a friend,
an all-star mariachi band
drawn from all San Antonio high schools,
playing  among the lights
and fountains of the city's historic Main Plaza,
the arches of San Fernando Cathedral
the backdrop as they perform

and they start their first number
and, my God, they're good...

I kind of new that, having listened to them
rehearse Thursday evenings at my
coffeehouse-music-academy-hide-out,  butt the effect
of them in full performance,  costumed in grand mariachi style,
violins and guitars
and soaring vocals that rise above
the broad plaza, and reverberate against
the surrounding high-rise buildings,
and thinking, Jesus, these are just
kids and listen to them,
reminding  me of the times I heard  my son perform,
first  in the city youth orchestra, then,
the various bands he was with,
gigs in in places both high and low, bringing light
and joy to even the lowest and darkest,
thinking,  how in the world did that scrawny kid
that grew up in my house
ever become a part of something
as good as this,
and even  as  such memories
passed through my
mind,
I looked at the parents in the reserved section,
wanting  to go to each of them
as the ovations began, to lean over to them
and whisper,
I know just how you feel right now,
isn't  it wonderful...








 From my library, I have two short poems by Nobel Prize  winner,  Czeslaw Milosz, from the collection, Selected Poems, 1931-2004, published posthumously in 2004 by Harper-Collins.

Born in 1911 in Lithuania, Milosz survived World War II in Warsaw, publishing in the underground press. After the war he was stationed in New York, Washington, and Paris as a cultural attache from Poland. He defected to France in 1951 and in 1960 moved to the United States  to teach at the University of California, Berkeley. His Nobel Prize was awarded in 1980 even as his work was still banned in Poland. He died in Krakow in 2004.




Mid-Twentieth-Century Portrait

Hidden behind his smile of brotherly regard,
He despises the newspaper readers, the victim of the dialectic of power.
Says, "Democracy," with a wink.
Hates the physiological  pleasures of mankind.
Full of memories of those who also  ate, drank, copulated,
But in a moment had their throat cut.
Recommends dances and garden parties to defuse public anger.

Shouts: "Culture!" and "Art!" but means circus games really.

Utterly spent
Mumbles in sleep or anesthesia: "God, oh God!"
Compares himself to a Roman  in whom the Mithras cult has mixed
   with the cult of Jesus.
Still clings to old superstitions, sometimes believes himself to be
    possessed by demons/
Attacks the past, but fears that, having destroyed it,
He will have nothing on which to lay his head.
Likes most to play cards, or chess, the better to keep his own counsel.

Keeping one hand on Marx's writings, he reads the Bible  in private.
His mocking eye on processions leaving burned-out churches.
He backup: a horseflesh-colored city in ruins.
In his hand: a memento of a boy "fascist" killed in the Uprising.

Krakow, 1945


Greek  Portrait

My beard is thick, my eyelids half cover
My eyes, as with those who know the value
Of visible things. I keep quiet as is proper
For a man who has learned that the human heart
Holds more than speech does. I have left behind
My native land, home, and public office.
Not that I looked for profit or adventure.
I am no foreigner on board a ship.
My plain face, the face of a tax-collector,
Merchant, or soldier, makes me one of the crowd.
Nor do I refuse to pay due homage
To local gods. And I eat what others eat.
About myself, this much will suffice.

Washington,D.C., 1948









The next poem is from January, 2011. It is one not included in my  next book, which is made up of a selection of poems from all the daily poems I wrote in 2011.

For a while during this period, I sat at my local breakfast restaurant across from a table of three to four men who, like me, ate at the same restaurant, at the same table every day. All four of the regulars religious men, two at least, pastors, they discussed religion and the bible and Jesus and Christianity. They were intelligent men, very well-educated in the topics they discussed (one was a well-known author of books on early Christianity). Initially, I used the men as comic foils; later, as I listened into to their discussion, I became fascinated with both the level and quality of their talk.

This is one of the poems that came from that listening in.



an atheist defends Jesus from those who appropriate his name

the church is a creation of Paul,
not Jesus,
says one of the religiosos
to the others

and in a flash
my mind is cleared
as all the contradictions
between the two thousand


years
of Christianity
and the thirty years
of Jesus

are explained -
Jesus, on one hand
claiming for himself no divinity,
(for how could he claim divinity

yet
instruct us, the least divine
creatures
in all of creation

to be like him)
claiming the god of the Jews
not as his father,
but as love, and peace

and forbearance,
for it is through forbearance,
he taught
that freedom and justice will come,

the inheritance
of the meek
a joyful heart
and peace of the just -

Jesus,
the revolutionary Jew,
the greatest danger to his ministry
not the Romans or the other Jews


but the church founded in his name
by Saul who became Paul, the evangelist,
the mystic,
the counter-revolutionary

denier of the flesh
and human will..
and so, in his church's teaching
the favored creation became the lowest,

subject to the  will and approval
of a revised Jesus,
an anti-Christ Christ
who calls upon his faithful

to grovel prostrate before
the ascendant
princes
of quarreling sects

and the dogmas
that debase
his
name








I'm a little surprised that today's left hasn't rediscovered Carl Sandburg since he speaks so eloquently and with so much fire of the same concerns that move them now. Radical, unionist, anti-war crusader, unreasonable sometimes in his demands, but always a poet of those who work and strive in an often unfair world. Anti-capitalism as it was practiced in his time, he would look at the capitalism of today and the insane income distribution in the United States today and would be even more radical than  those who call themselves radical today.

But, this week, I don't have those poems. Instead I have several of his poems more in the little cat's feet mode than his man the barricades cries. I took the poems from the book Carl Sandburg - Selected Poems, a book with all the moods of Carl Sandburg, published by Gramercy Books in 1992.

And, of course, I can't do even this little bit of Sandburg bits without starting with the little cat feet.



Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.


Choose

     The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
                         Choose:
For we meet by one or the other.


Crimson

Crimson is the slow smolder of the cigar end I hold.
Gray is the ash that stiffens and covers all  silent the fire.
(A great man I know is dead and while he lies  in his coffin
     a gone flame I sit here in cumbering shadows and
     smoke and watch my thoughts come and go.)


Whitelight

Your whitelight flashes the frost  tonight
Moon of the purple and silent west.
Remember me one of your lovers of dreams.


Flux

Sand of the sea runs red
Where the sunset reaches and quivers.
Sand of the sea runs yellow
Where the moon slants and wavers.


Losses

I have love
And a child,
A banjo
And shadows.
(Losses of God
All will go
And one day
We will  hold
Only the shadows.)


Troths

Yellow dust on a bumble
     bee's wing,
Gray lights in a woman's
     asking eyes.
Red ruins in the changing
     sunset embers:
I take you and pile high
     the memories.
Death will break her claws
     on some I keep.








      

Being not  a young man anyway, I find it prudent to keep note of  all the things that render me even more and more obsolete.






recent social change

was at the laundromat last  night
after our dryer went defunct
right after I finished
washing two loads of clothes.

- and no, this is not the recent social change
of which I will speak - I've been doing
my own laundry for nearly
50 years - long a bachelor, I  came to marriage
with a number of long established
habits, a few,
like  doing my own laundry,
my bride chose not to make me break -

so no, I am not an exhibit
one way
or another
in this discussion...

 the recent social change
of which I speak is evidenced
by the fact
that of the five people at the laundromat,
including me,  all were
men,
not just  men, but
to my eye
completely regular men
with no tendencies  shown
that might be a cause of distress
to some of the more conservative elements
of Texas society...

I don't know when
this change occurred,
since the last time  I found myself
in a laundromat
I was a male island in an ocean
of curler-headed woman
in tee-shirts
and butt stretched
Capri pants

but
that was a long time ago,
so perhaps we can all hope
progress is merely a matter of
waiting  for it...

```

the only problem I can  imagine
with this  recent  change  would be if,
while the men were  out doing the laundry,
the women were at home drinking beer,
smoking cigars and watching
football








Next, I have two short poems by Patricia Fargnoli, from her book, Small Songs of Pain, published by Pecan Grove  Press of San Antonio in 2004. It is a book of poetic realizations of the fables of LaFontaine.

Fargnoli, a retired psychotherapist, received the May Swenson Poetry Prize for her first book, and has also received the Robert  Frost Literary Award. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals. She teaches at the Keene Institute of Music and Related Arts.





The Eagle,  the Wild Sow  and the Cat
                             (L'aigle, a laie et la chaatte)

A tree diagonals
corner to corner.
How solid the trunk
the white cat climbs -
toward the eagle
protecting her young
and away from the sow
foraging for truffles
at the roots.
Someone has chopped off
a heavy limb
halfway, beyond which
the cat stops
in her climb between
danger and danger.


The Fox and the Grapes
                      (Le renard et les raisins)

The grapes are as big as the fox's head
and between the grapes and the fox
spreads a whole canvas of sky.
Everyone knows the story -
the fox never gets the grapes.
The reason is: all that unnegotiable
space between them.








      


Here's another old piece from January, 2011, also not included in the next book.







far ahead and yet unseen

Tuesday
is a pretty good day...

back when I was
young

and with a tendency
to  drink my way through

weekends,
Monday was a challenge,

a dim, dumb day
with remorse for breakfast -

Tuesday,
like crossing home plate

with the winning
run -

awake and alive
ready to jive -

Wednesday  was
a downer from the Tuesday high,

a driving west on I-10
middle of nowhere day,

desert on one side,
mountains on the other,

destination far beyond
the horizon,

to far along to give up
and go home -

and Thursday,
just another Wednesday

multiplied, with rain added
and gloomy outlooks,

while Friday,
when weekly winds finally

blew favorably to my back -
close enough to the weekend

for raucous anticipation
far enough from Monday

to  forget the price
to  be paid

````

now
as an old man

most of my days
are like Tuesday, days free

of the regrets of  earlier years;
a day to be thankful

for a life in the middle of
nowhere,

where journey's end
still lies far ahead and yet unseen








I have a poem now by Colette Inez, from her book, Family Life, published Story Line Press in 1992.

Inez' family life was anything but uncomplicated. Her father a priest and her mother a scholar, her birth was a problem, resolved by sending her off to a catholic orphanage in Brussels where she spent her early childhood. Sent to America to be placed in a foster home, her first foster mother died an alcoholic and her second was abusive. Surviving those early years, she became a much-honored poet and a member of the faculty at Columbia University.





Tunnel  Songs

Engraved by rain
my father's stone
marks a body
turning in a world
he used as he could.

I was not made lightly
when he and my mother wept
dark tunnels in an iron bed.

Rain on his grave
writes nothing
in a language I can read.

When I was born my mother
hid me in a paragraph.
"No one will notice
if she doesn't cry," she said
running to confess
failure in orthography.

Now she lives like a stone
in her sister's garden.
The rain prepares a speech
to write on her face
in the winter.

When she sleeps I will feel
her turning
in my bed of parentheses
in my house of lost rhymes.







     

Next, I have several shorter poems from last week, a couple maybe a  little  darker than my first two new poems this week.







past due

I dreamed last night
of smothering irrelevancy,
walking through dusty, empty rooms
where  once sun motes danced
to my will...

how many more years,
a life,
all dressed up
and nowhere to go that counts

unaccustomed
to  being among the uncounted,
I want to  protest,
to demand back the life
I feel my due,
but.
even as I do,
I  know
the demands of a shadow
count for naught,
that the day of my due are passed

leaving me smothered
by irrelevancy
in a room  where once
sun motes danced
when I called
the tune


happy-go-lucky

some cope,
quietly do the best they can
with what they're
given

some people
don't
understand that

equate
coping with satisfaction,
don't understand
pain
that doesn't cry out
in the night,
anger
that doesn't pound
walls,disappointment
that stays hidden
behind dry
eyes
that never  blink



I wrote this next little thing as  an impromptu response to a Facebook post bemoaning arrival of another Monday. Made me think that  this person should be happy for each Monday she gets, understanding that someday another Monday will not come again.


tomorrows  stars

i have a dream
where no  Monday comes,
neither you to me come,
nor i to you,
nor anything else
ever again

tomorrow's
stars
gone today








Next, I have two short poems by Howard Moss, from his collection, Notes from the Castle. The book was published in 1979 by Antheneum.

At the time of publication, Moss was poetry editor of The New Yorker.  Before joining the magazine's staff in 1948, he was an instructor of English at Vassar  College. He remained with The New Yorker until his death in 1987 at age 65.





At the Cafe

At the cafe, at an outdoor table
Fronting the last of the puppet shows,
We have come to sip a bit of brandy
And watch the rapidly descending evening.
Violinists scrape the bow of air,
Arguments begin and finish soon,
As if philosophy were running a cafe
Where nothing is served but old ideas;
Tensed against the wine-soaked washrag
Of the sky the trees erect themselves
In the last small oblivion of lights;
Talk grown animated...someone screams...
This passes, these days, for the Bohemian.
Still the knees of two bright things
Are touching...Everyone's lost the theme:
What is the mind compared to it,
To feeling's theatre always in flames,
On the stage, its aging, ludicrous opera
Still faintly heard among the ruins?


Have You Forgotten

Have you forgotten the sweetness of women,
Their treble cries,, the underworld of milk?
How in the fleshy inside off an elbow
The warm hollow trembles with blue silk -
All luscious opaque roundness in a blur
Of bedroom coverlet, of rind and mound,
Those supple thighs I nested in a twelve
Whose milk-white forms melted the horizon's
Aggregate of birds into empty distance.

To walk by heavy mirrors of a myth
With the greedy mouth everyone begins with
And feed on nothing  but the self reflected
Is to know how pleasure ceases, does away with
Savor, and the attributes of Eden
End up in a darkroom of details,
Or a day of too much light whose sun erases
Privacies gone flat, communication
A letter bomb arriving in the mails.








Another poem from  January, 2011, which is not in the book, which  surprises me, since I have  a whole section in the books of poems about the difficulties of  writing a poem early in the morning. I don't know how I missed this  one.

Seems to me that this  particular poem could be useful as a  study guide by poem teacher s in poem schools all over the world, presenting  as it  does the down and dirty about poem writing.





part of the secret of successful poeming

part
of the secret of successful poeming

is patience, lying
in wait,

taking the time you need
to contemplate the universal sureties;

scratching
where you itch

(but only as long as no reaching
under the table is required),

considering  the flow of traffic
on the interstate,

the traverse
of orange morning clouds from eastern light

to western dark,
the price of gas, the dietary effects

of burgers and fries
and pecan pies and vanilla crunch

surprise,

the politics of remorse
and partisan recrimination,

the increasing globe
of your belly

like the planetary explosion
of Star Wars,

in slow motion,

the fat cats on your front porch
who seem to think every time you drive into your

driveway
you're doing it just so you can feed them,

again,
the same over-fed cats

who won't come  within six yards of you
if you don't have their food bucket

in your hand,
the neighbor across the creek

who brings her dog out for a walk
along the fence every time you want to take some sun

(dirty-minded old woman -
nice looking dog)

...but what you must never do
is think about writing a poem

for thinking about writing a poem
is the worst  preparation ever


for writing  a poem
because your mind will twist

into all sorts of poetic poo-poo
shapes

and  the essence of you, which
is about regular real, boring things

and  not  about all  sorts
of  poetic  poo-poo

will  be submerged
and any poem of the essence of you

will be  submerged
as well

and all that's left  will be some
highfaluting poo-poo

and by that I mean
the  shit

your sixth grade teacher tried to stuff down you throat
back when you were still learning to read

````

of course a poem that is the essence of the essence
of you

might end up to be shit as well,
but the original  authentic shit off the essence

of your  essence
is  better, always,  than a pale copy

of the highfaluting shit
of some English dude who  probably

played
with himself

while eating his morning
kidney pie and Cheerios








I finish up my library poems this week with a poem by John Oughton. The poem is from his book Counting Out the Millennium. The book was published in 1996 by Pecan Grover Press of San Antonio.

Oughton was born in Ontario in 1948. He lived in Egypt and Iraq while his father worked for the World Health Organization and later lived several years in Japan. He earned a BA and an MA at York University and later studied at Naropa Institute in Colorado. A freelance writer for many years, he also teaches English at Centennial College in Toronto.




Appearance in Pier Four

This is me dining at Pier Four Restaurant
encompassed by lady tourists from Erie, PA
who find this city eerily
like their own, but bigger.
I regret lost loves.
The view is two-tone:
grey water streaked with silver,
a patched grey sky.
Why did I ever let her go?
When will I write another poem?
Where is my waiter?

Am I what I appear:
a white turtleneck bearing a beard,
writing nothing about the constitutional
crisis, but instead an unwilled song.
It's equally grey in Erie, PA.
The silver-coiffed widows near me
come from that close tone.
Her eyes were large, and I made them
angry, then sorry. One tourist says,
"You're a good sport. That much I'll  say
for you. This scrod  is out of  this world."
So is where we are, sister,
Pier Four suspended by this poem
which arrives at  last like a waiter.

The lake and sky merge monotones .
"Ladies," I long to yell
"Where did I go wrong? Should I marry?"
But another's discussing
her first husband, who was good for 30 years.

The people who now live only in my memory
move about restlessly. Did my grandfather
ever feel like this,
with his fine church-singing voice,
his cabinetry, his cancer?








     


I finish the week with this light report the proper discipline of your pets.







contract issues

my furred friend
Bella
goes with me wherever I go,
including
waiting in the car in the morning
while I'm having my early
breakfast...

her reward when breakfast is done,
a walk and her daily dog (i.e. turkey) sausage patty...

the walk is negotiable, the dog sausage
is not...

failure to perform  adequately
all elements of the dog  sausage contract
means an automatic visit to
dog divorce court where such failure
must be explained...

being  late for an appointment
yesterday,
and seeking to retire from breakfast
with great haste,
I forgot
the dog sausage...

Bella insisted that however late I  might be
for such petty human appointments
as might have caused my forgetfulness,
until the proper dog  sausage
patty
was presented as required
there would be no
leaving
the parking  lot...

I went back into the restaurant
and ordered the sausage
as ordered, then took it out to her
just as she prefers, still warm
from the griddle...

she returned my car keys
and we carried on the day, my temporary
contract violation forgotten...

she's good that way,
her brown eyes always a welcoming well
of forgiveness...

as long as she  gets her morning
dog sausage








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