Street   Tuesday, December 31, 2013








Another Wednesday holiday so I'm posting this a day early so I don't have to interfere with my black-eyed pea eating to work on New Year's Day. Also, I figured it would give all you New Year's Eve stay-at-homer  to read instead of watching Car 53  Where Are You? reruns.

 My photos this week are San Antonio  street views, from downtown and near downtown to the hills where I live, taken over the course of several years and several seasons. Included are my three most recent coffeehouses, the first the current, the others, may they rest in peace in coffee heaven.

I decide not to have my customary anthology this week. Instead I have selections from Leaves of Grass. Although there were many other excellent poets around in his time, Walt Whitman is to my mind the founder of a true American poetry, the de-colonizer who gave American poetry its own place in the global  universe of the art.

What a brave and glorious poet it is who says this (from Song of Myself):


Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, I  contain multitudes. 


Affirmation for us all that we are each unique, yet even in our  uniqueness, part of the encompassing all.

And this week, in  addition to Whitman, poems from my library, as well as two short poems from the fourth Baltimorean I promised last  week but had to delay because of time issues. I also, as  always, have my own  stuff, new and old, most from 2010,  but including one  very old, written in 1969. 

For the new year, here's me and them and everyone else:

Me
exile on Christmas Beach

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Me
winter night
  
Christopher George
Beer and a Dog (with illustration)
Half Crown (with illustration)

Me
side-tracked

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Me
the secret of our success

Ranier Maria Rilke
from First Part - XXV

Me
thinking right is good

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Me
such life there  is

James Richardson
Emergency Measures

Me
the big tree gets a pretty fence

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Me
some day,  but not today

Paul Muldoon
Whitethorns
An Old Pit Pony

Me
fast lane  

Walt Whitman
from Song of Myself

Me
so much more to it

Ron Slate
Lion of God

Me
Elizondo Road

Walt Whitman
from To Think of Time

Me
chickens and eggs

Anne Sexton
The Evil Seekers

Me
sailors on a fading sea

Me
notes from a grounded witchdoctor          
                        








     


It being the time of the year, I guess I should start with my Christmas poem, 2013. Not a big admirer of the holiday, any holiday, in fact, but I usually get dragged into it, sometimes kicking and screaming before it's over.

Then I begin to feel guilty and have to make up with everyone.












exile on Christmas Beach

exile!

Christmas morning

(sorry Holiday morning,
saying so just on the possibility
it might piss off
all the "War on Christmas"
crackpots)

as I was saying
Holiday morning, up
at my regular time with no place
to go, all my regular places
closed so that employees can gather
around their Holiday trees
and open their Holiday presents
and enjoy their Holiday
turkey (are they pissed
yet?)

so I'm stuck at an I-Hop
with a skinny crowded table
and bad coffee
and no WiFi, waiting for Dee
to  join me for eggs and pancakes
and bacon and sausage
and whatever else might kill me
before my time

but when we leave
we discover that some
unknown diner bought our breakfast
for us and they've already
left and we don't know who it was
or why it was, and...

oh hell -
Merry Christmas








I begin my Whitman this with some of his best known lines, second probably only to Captain My Captain, his poem upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which, at least in my time, every  student read in Jr. High School. The poems are from America's greatest book of poetry, Leaves of Grass.

The pictures you normally see of Whitman are of a bearded old man. I found this other photo to illustrate his poem this week, a younger Whitman when he was writing his poems and seeing all the people and things of his time that he brought to his work.

These lines the opening lines to Song of Myself, the most proud and glorious affirmation of humanity and universality ever, in my opinion, written.



from Song of Myself

I

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
Fore every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, ad their
     parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.










  


First oldie of  the week,  this one from December, 2010.










winter night

winter night,
in the last moment
before dusk falls
the sky is clear,
light blue,
like the "it's a boy" blankets
you get a the hospital
to warm
a new-born son

thin,
almost transparent blue

moon bright
in the soft sky,
not full,
flattened a little
on one side like a globe
flattened
at the South Pole
so it won't roll off your desk

Antarctica folded in on itself

a chill  wind
blowing from the top of the hill,
raising a shower
of golden leaves from trees
along the creek

light winter-home taste
of chimney smoke in the air

ten degrees
cooler
than the numbers on the thermometer reads

very quiet








In my introduction to last week's post, I promised four poets from Baltimore. As it  turned out, because of time problems, I ended up with only three.


      
 Here's number four, Christopher George, with two short poems, complete with his own illustrations.

Chris was born in Liverpool, England, in 1948. He and his wife Donna live in Baltimore, where he is editor of the poetry journal Loch Raven Review. 




 Pike Brewing
art by Cheryl Leo  Gwin and Charles Finkel

 Beer and a Dog

Beer bubbles up your nose
the roll opens its mouth wide
swallows the  dog whole
slathered with yellow mustard
ketchup and sweet sweet pickle



 Penguin Modern Poets # 1
first published in 1962


Half Crown

As regal-treasured as "Queen Anne's Lace"
or vulgar-cheap as "Cow Parsley" - -
the '60s Penguin paperback I bought

back then - pages now yellowed
-- still promises three British poets

for half a crown or ten pence per poet
paid in coppers
with the profile of young Queen Liz 








     


Here's another from last  week, a couple of days before Christmas. It is not, as Ren and Stimpy might  say, a "happy happy joy joy" season for me, making me melancholy if it makes me anything at all beyond irritated with the interruption in my life.












side-tracked

side-tracked
here and now
like a snail darter
I say
having no idea
what a snail darter
is like

except that it is I think
blind and the name
suggests a real hither
and thither little
fish like the guppies
I used to have in my
fish tank, except guppies
on meth, darting hither
and thither, living
in cold ponds
in dark caves and near
they say to
extinct

and that's why
I can't write a poem
this morning
because my brain is all
hither and thither
like a tiny snail darter
in a dark cave
bumping into unseen
walls
and struggling
against
extinction








     


Here's another from Whitman, from a little further on in Song of Myself. Every time I read him I am surprised at how much of my personal philosophies come from  him.











from Song of Myself

 3

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning
     and the end,
But I do not talk of beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Not any more youth or age that there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge an urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always sustance and
     increase, always sex,
Always a knit  of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn'd and unlearn'd theel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entered,
     braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my
     soul.

Lack one  lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they dis-
     cuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty
     and clean.
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less
     familiar than the rest.

I am satisfied - I see, dance,laugh, sing;
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the
      night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy
      tread,
Leaving me baskets cover'd with white towels swelling the house
     with their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my
     eyes
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two,  and which i
     ahead?








  


 Here's another from December, 2010.










the secret of our success

the flag
a neighborhood away
waves.
stretches  south
in the north wind

the pasture
across the way
neither brown nor yellow
but some winter color
that is neither
but includes shades of both

there are several hundred
varieties of oak  tree
most of them found
in the hills north of the city,
four kins in the oak grove
that bounds the pasture across
from evergreen green to
red and gold to bare for the
season...

I have oaks
in my yard,
one, the kin that sheds
it's leaves in spring
for new growth;  one fast-
growing, broad-leafed,
beautiful in its colors
now, and two I transplanted
from my front yard, volunteers
from the large acorns
that fall  in spring in the grass
and flowerbeds, pushing  up
little oak-tree shoots that
you have to transplant quickly
before their roots get too long,
hard to get the whole tap root,
or at least enough of it to
allow continued growth elsewhere

two  times successful so far,
out of many tries, moved
last year, beneficiary of a very wet
spring, grown from about
three inches to three feet,
the other transplanted late
this year, still barely three inches...

I worry about them in the cold,
like I worry about the dog
the the cats - nature having
a much larger margin of error
than I, can afford to lose 90 percent
of each year's seedlings

but I can't -
I must cherish all that I have...

and so must you,
for it  is the secret of our success








    

First from my library this week is this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. The poem is from The Sonnets to Orpheus, published by Simon and Schuster in 1985. It's a bilingual book, French with English translation by Stephen Mitchell on the facing page.








from "First Part"


XXV

But you now, dear girl, whom I loved like a flower whose
     name
I didn't know, you who so early were taken away:
I will once more call up your image and show it to them,
beautiful companion of the unsubduable cry.

Dancer whose body filled with your hesitant fate,
pausing, as though your young flesh had been cast in
     bronze;
grieving ad listening -. Then, from the high dominions,
unearthly music fell into your altered heart.

Already possessed by shadows, with illness near,
your blood flowed darkly; yet, though for a moment
     suspicious,
it burst out into the natural pulses of spring.

Again and again interrupted by downfall and darkness,
earthly, it gleamed. Till after a terrible  pounding
it  entered the inconsolably open door.








This next thing, written last week after too mentions in my presence of those creepy duck creatures  on TV.

It was meant as parody, but I don't think anybody who read it read it that way. (Which causes me to worry a little about my image.) It's supposed to mirror an experience I'm sure we've all had, speaking to someone who seems intelligent and good-natured until about fifteen minutes into the conversation the pleasant Dr.  Jeckle when you begin to see Mr. Hyde emerging.

My own most  vivid experience of that type was a long time ago when I  picked up a hitchhiker who seemed a perfectly normal, rational, temporary down on his luck, fellow. It was less than five miles down the road before he began to tell me about his life on the run, the legitimate King of Denmark, being chased  around the world by agents of the pretender to his throne.

And there, I've explained the poem, which I don't think a poet should ever do.






thinking right is good

the East
and much of the Midwest  buried
under ice and snow
while here
the sun shines bright
above a clear blue sky
and the temperature wandering
about between 50 and 60
and it is a beautiful day
this morning before the night
before
and I'll try not to be
unnecessarily smug at my good
fortune because
I'm sure there will be a cloud
here some day

and in the meantime
it is a pleasure to be smug
because all those uppity Easterners
and cud-chewing Midwesterners
deserve a dose off humbling outsider
smug
now and then
after all the terrible things
they say about my home
state in the heart of which
I am now deep, hi ho hi ho...

such meanness demonstrate
here, hardly my normal
self for I find no pleasure
in the misfortune of others,
except when I can contrast
my good fortune to their
otherwise fortune
which
I am completely convinced
they so  richly deserve

bunch of damn liberals
and dairy farmers
who claim Santa Clause
is not white and neither is Jesus
and how stupid is that
cause everyone knows God
is white and Jesus is his son
so he must be white too,
white dude Dad and Jew mother
but we'll forget about the mother
part since who wants a half-breed
Messiah and talking about that
would be for  certain another front
in the War on Christmas which is about
white Christians and is definitely not about
Jew mothers...

how hard to understand is that
hi ho hi ho

no wonder they have ice and snow
and we don't because they think wrong
and deserve it while us thinking
right  certainly
deserve
our  bright sun and blue sky
and temperatures in the 50-60s

simple as that
hi  ho  hi
ho








          

Here, a scene as perfectly drawn by Whitman - note how vivid and complete is every detail. Still from Song of Myself. As I thumb through, I begin to  feel I will not get out of "Song" in just one post.









from Song of Myself

The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
     with my hand.

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.

The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor  of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled  hair, I note where the pistol  has
     fallen.

The blab of the pave, tires of carts,  scuff  of boot-soles,talk of the
     promenaders,

The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
     clank of the shod horses on the granite  floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of  snow-balls,
The hurrahs for popular  favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs,
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital,
The meeting of  enemies, the sudden oath,  the blows  and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
     passage to the centre of the crow,
The impassive stones  that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv'd who fall sunstruck or in fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
     give birth to babes,
What  living and hurried speech is always vibrating here, what  howls
     restrain'd  by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous  offers made, acceptance, re-
     jections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them - I come and I depart.








   



The obituaries - I read them every day, in part for the stories I can imagine.









such life there is

Baskin, Beale & Baulk
three old white men together,
pictures in a line
on the obit page like a defunct law firm
prospectus,
flanked on one side
by Millie Quintana, dead at 77, picture
from fifty years earlier, pretty
Millie
of the short brown hair
and sparkle-sparkle eyes,
and on the other side, Moses
Quesada. same age as the rest,
picture from his navy days, wild smile,
white teeth flashing, sailor
cap
on a jaunty-tilt to the front, dark hair
in a little spit-curl on
his forehead

such life there is
among
today's dead;
so many stories
never told
again








       

Next from my library, a poem by James Richardson from his book, By the Numbers - Poems and Aphorisms, a National Book Award Finalist published by Copper Canyon Press in 2010. Richardson is professor of creative writing at Princeton's Lewis Center for the Arts.








Emergency Measures

I take Saturday's unpopulated trains,
sitting at uncontagious distances,
change at junctions of low body count, in off-hours,
and on national holidays especially, shun stadia
and other zones of efficient kill  ratio,
 since there is no  safety anymore in numbers.

I wear the dull colors of nesting birds,
invest modestly in diverse futures,
views and moods undiscovered by tourists,
by nothing I can't carry or would need to sell,
and since I must rest, maintain at  several  addresses
hardened electronics and three months of water.

And it is thus I favor this unspecific cafe,
choose the bitterest roast, and only the first  sip
of your story, sweet but so long, and poignantly limited
by appointments neither can be late for, and why now
I will swim through the crowd to the place it is flowing away from
my concerned look and Excuse me excuse me suggesting
I am hurrying back for my umbrella or  glasses
or some thrilling truth they have all completely missed.








       

This piece came out of story in the newspaper about a new fence going up around this tree in the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the coast. I remember taking my son to see the tree many years ago. It's the same age  as the redwoods. Though not as tall it  is about the same size around the trunk, with massive limbs that, being an oak, seem to  reach out forever, making it, unlike the redwoods, very climbable. That's part of the problem.










the big tree gets a pretty fence

all the oak  trees
on the middle coast  near
Rockport-Fulton
grow  with their branches
spread west,  having been pushed
that way by ever-blowing
gulf winds
since they were seedlings

(think Donald Trump and his hair
in an opposing wind)

it is a marvel to see them,
so strange in their
appearance, testament
to the persistence of life
in every environment

most marvelous to  see,
most persistent in its grip on life
is the big tree near the marshlands
of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge,
estimated to be 1,500 to  2,000 years old,
reputed to be one of the oldest
trees in the United States,
grown not in some welcoming verdant forest
but in the unforgiving  salt and sand
of the gulf coast, survivor of drought,
hurricanes, shipwrecked  Spanish sailors
struggling to reach the shore, to survive
the cannibal Karankawa, pirates,
salt water  tides, family
picnics  on wide blankets under
the spread of its massive limbs,
dead-later lovers
carving their passion and promises of undying love,
children
climbing - lasting through it all,
growing
growing
growing
taller
taller
wider and wider
through century after century...

getting fragile now in its old age,
area firemen pump water to its roots,
years ago, a fence built by the CCC to protect it
from picnickers and children and vandals'
passions, a fence that fell down in time
while the tree held fast it's sandy grip,
the fallen fence replaced by chain link,
the tree then like a prisoner in protective custody
even as it hangs on
growing
taller
wider growing...

now a new  fence,a  pretty pine-wood fence,
the big  tree's fallen brothers from the north
it's protector now,  with observation decks
so that quick-living, fast-dying
humans can look and marvel at the slow pass of history
on this out-of-the-way spit of coastal sand
and marsh and wintering cranes and
misshapen trees...

how much longer will this trains survive
within its new and pretty fence,
longer than the fence, we hope, longer
than those who come today to see it,
longer than he who writes in this  early
morning, longer than the Jesus
whose  concurrent birth we so assiduously celebrate,
longer than the malls where the faithful become
the consumed, manipulate into wanting
everything, always...

how  much longer will the big  tree survive
wanting only the rainwater and sunshine and unpolluted air
that nourishes it,
all such necessary things
hostage to our  endless wanting, the tree's past
our past,  the tree's future
unfortunately ours
as well







         

This is a longer piece from Song of Myself, showing  Whitman and his  wonderful lists, as if he set out to itemize the universe.

But then, in Whitman's list, every item is a revelation of newly seen reality.









from Song of Myself

 15

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles
     its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiv-
     ing dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin,  he heaves down with a strong arm,
the mate  sands  braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are
     ready,
The duck-shooter walks  by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the alter,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
     looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's
     bedroom;)
The jour  printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his qauid of tobacco while his eyes blur with the manu-
     script;
The malform'd  limbs are tied to the surgeon's  table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at  the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by
     the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat, the
     gate-keeper marks his pass,
The young fellow drives  the express-wagon (I love him, though I do
     not know him;)
the half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on
     their rifles,some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman,takes his position, levels his
     piece;
The  groups of newly-come immigrants cover the  wharf or levee,
As the wooly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them
     from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their partners,
     the dancers bow to each other,
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof'd garret and harks to the
     musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek the helps fill  the Huron,
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm'd cloth is offering moccasins
     and bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers  along he exhibition-galley with half-shut eyes
     bent sideways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown  for
     the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it
     off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago born
     her  first child,
The clean-hair'd Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in
     the factory or mill,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter's lead
     flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering
     with blue and gold,
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his
     desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow
     him,
The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,
the regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white
     sails sparkle!)
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,
The peddler sweats with his pack on his back,  (the purchaser higgling
     about the odd cent;)
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock
     moves slowly,
the opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open'd lips,
the prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and
     pimpled neck,
The crowd laughs at her  blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to
     each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great
     Secretaries,
On the plaza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined
     arms,
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut  in the
     hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his  wares and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the
     jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are lying he floor, the tinners are tinning the roof,
     the masons are calling  for more mortar,
In a single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
     the fourth of Seventh-month (what salutes  of cannon and
     small arms!)
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,
     and the winter grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the
     frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick  around the clearing, the squatter strikes deep
     with  his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast towards  the dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-
     trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through
     those drain'd by the Tennessee, or through those of the
     Arkansas,
Torches shine  in the dark that  hangs on the Chattabooche or Altama-
     haw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great grandsons
     around them,
In walls  of adobe, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after
     their day's sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,
And these  tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of thee on and all I weave the song of myself.








  


Another old poem about a foggy, misty day, the day today a lot like that kind of day then.









some day, but not today

i feel as old
as fog
on a winter morning
opaque
and adrift
and cold, like refrigerated
mist from a butcher's locker

someday
I will write a poem
about the many metaphoric misuses
off fog
- fog of confusion
- fog of denial
- fog of deceit
and so on and
how unfair it is to bestow
such negative allusions
to a part of nature's plan
for the collision of atmospheric tendencies
that can't play together nicely...

and then I will write a poem
about how I used to enjoy
foggy mornings on the coast,
driving across the narrow spit of road
across Oso  Bay in a gray corridor,  water
on either side, the slap of unseen fish
as they jump into the air and strike the water
with their tails when they fall, and the fog
at the harbor, on the T-heads and gulls
with their morning cries, a few feet away
but invisible in the mist, or  driving
on a forested road in East Texas, roadway clear,
but fog drifting like long-dead soldiers
in their gray uniforms among the trees,
or walking on the streets downtown,
between tall buildings, across  the river
on stone-arched bridges, listening
to the quiet off the city still sleeping
amid the mysteries of the morning murk...

someday
i'll do all that,
but not today,
for today i feel old
as fog
on a winter day
and only want to
sleep
in its gray embrace








Here from my library are two poems by Irish poet Paul Muldoon,  from his book Moy Sand and Gravel published in 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for  Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize, Muldoon  has held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry since 1999 and has  published over 30 collections of poetry. 








Whitethorns

The paling posts we would tap into the ground with the flat of a spade
more than thirty years ago,
hammering them home then with a sledge
then stringing them with wire to keep our oats from Miller's barley,

are maxed out, multilayered whitethorns, affording us a broader, deeper
                                                                                                        shade

than we ever decently hooped to know,
so  far-fetched does it seem, so  far-flung from the hedge
under which we now sit down to parley.



An Old Pit Pony

An old pit pony walks
its chalks
across a blasted hearth

Its coat is a cloud hung on a line.

It sighs
for the pit-poppered skies
of the world beneath.

Its coat is a cloud hung on a line.








         



This string poem from watching car lights pass on the interstate just before dawn cracked open the night.












fast lane

wet
road black
ivory
mirror
passing lights
little
bug
lights
scurrying
bright 
eyes
in
dim 
dark
 to  
little bug
duties

fast  
lane
living
little
bugs
on a
wet
jungle
trail

passing
and
passing
and
passing
again








                


Having completed transcription of  that long section from Song of Myself, I reward myself with this shorter bit that comes a little later.










from Song of Myself

17

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
     are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to
     nothing.
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are
     nothing,
f they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
The the common air that bathes the globe.








 


Another from December, 2010.











so much more to it

waiting
for the day to begin,
watching

the slow accumulation
of light,
like the way puddles form

in a slow, steady rain,
drinking coffee
watching commuters pass

on the interstate
thinking as they speed past
of the poem lying with Burger King wrappers in the back seat

of every car,
stories I don't know, will never
know, poems I will never write -

such is life, so much
more to it
than we'll ever see as we huddle in our little corner

try as we might to imagine it, to understand
and describe it all, our ambitions
far outpacing

our capacities to see beyond the dark
to see through our own dark
and the dark that surrounds all of us -

all of us sharing
the dark at the bottom of a well,
the only true sharing we will ever do...

it is a lonely business, alone
in the dark
reaching blindly for someone to hold on to,

anchoring
our life to another
for as long as the dark may last -

to be left alone again
in the end,
the greatest terror of all our fears

```

finally
I see the sun this morning
glowing  orange behind winter-bare trees

one more time,
at
least








       


The next poet from my library is Ron Slate. I have the next poem from his book, The Great Wave, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009.











Lion of God

Some remember me from those  days
not by the name given to me,
but by the breach between name and boy.

At ten I pronounced the unspeakable
name of God, my teacher  rose from his chair,
dragged me by the scruff, then shook me

in his teeth. Speaking the word to make
a pleasing sound, I neglected
to consider the significance,

committing a grave offense.
Thus I was  transformed by terror,
my classmates looking on,

and in the space between name and child
arose fear, respect, contempt,
wonder,  loss of  faith, awe of the eternal.

I took my  seat and read on,  wary
of meaning but loving the  lilt, relying now on rhythm
so the time may never be interrupted again.








    



I wrote this next piece, a fond remembrance of an  acquaintance almost  certainly long  passed on, upon hearing  news  of him a couple of  days before.












Elizondo Road

I just learned
that Freddy got himself
a road...

up near Bluetown,
a tiny town a couple of miles
from the small town where I grew up,
just a cotton field
from the Rio Grande River...

a little Mexican  beer joint
there where I  used to go  to buy
beer when I was about sixteen,
no questions  asked
until a new guy asked me
what year I was born
and I couldn't get the math
to work in my mind
so I turned around and walked
out

lucky for my drinking habits
the new guy didn't  last
long, costing the owner  too much
business, I'm guessing,
so things quickly returned to
normal...

```

(this is supposed to be about Fred,
not me, which I often forget when in the midst
of  poeming...)

so,
as I was  going to say
before I so rudely
interrupted
myself,
Fred was a very nice fellow...

 a nice fellow, my co-worker
for a few years,
a farmer, a social worker
who helped farm  workers and labor contractors
find each other for the annual
migration to harvest crops
in the north, a friend to all who might need
a friend, and, come election time,
a gatherer of Democratic  voters,  filling
his  big farm truck  with farm  workers,
insuring they all knew
by the time they reached the polls
who the Democrat was and how to vote
for him...

a man with all the normal South Texas
prejudices, but like with most of that kind,
prejudices applying only to those he didn't know,
never to any he knew and made his friend,
in short, a very nice fellow and a good friend
to have in the best and worst
of times...

if I listed all the people I've known
who deserve a road, it would be a
very short list and right at the top
would be Fred from Bluetown, Texas,
a man I know would  be
very proud
of his road, a man I  knew
and liked many
years
ago








      
 I wanted to do more with this week's  look  at Walt Whitman and his great Leaves of Grass than just his first and largest and greatest poem, Song of Myself. Since this is my last poem from the book this week, it's time to do what I had set out to do.

This next piece if from late as the book is presented is also too  long to use in it's entirety, so  here's just  a part, the poem's  concluding verses.








from To  Think of Time

8

Slow moving and black lines go  ceaselessly over the earth,
Northerner goes carried and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
     Atlantic side and they on the Pacific,
And they between, and all through the Mississippi country, and all
     over the earth.

The great masters and kosmos are well as they go, the heroes and
     good-doers are well,
The known leaders and inventors and the rich owners and pious and
     distinguis'd may be well,
But there is more account than that, there is strict account of all.

The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,
The barbarians of Africa and Asia  are not nothing,
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not  nothing as they
     go.

Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that  we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of
     us changed,
I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present
     and past law,
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and
     past law,
For I have dream'd that the law  they are under now is enough.

And I have dream'd that the purpose and essence of the known life,
     the transient,
Is to form and decide identity for the unknown  life,  the permanent.

If all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, the Alarum! for we  are betrayed,
Then indeed suspicion of death.

Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihila-
     tion?

Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whiter I walk I cannot  define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicated that it is good.

How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all  perfect, and the imponderable
     fluids perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely
     they yet pass on.

I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an eternal
     soul!
The trees have, rooted int he ground the weeds of the sea have! the
     animals!

I swear I think  there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite  scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it,
     and the cobering is for  it!
And all the preparation is for it - and identity is for  it - and life and
     materials are altogether for it!








   


Here it is, the last 2010 poem.










chickens and eggs

I've never had anyone to
talk to about things
bothering me
except for myself,
sometimes
talking myself to sleep
at night, more recently
writing
the conversation down
like this
and calling it a poem

a result is
I don't remember
ever taking anyone's advice
on anything;
but maybe that's the cause,
not the result,
maybe I never had anyone
to talk to because
I knew,
and they knew as well, that
I wasn't going to pay any attention
to what they said
anyway
so what's the point

a real cause and effect
thing, the nexus of most big
questions,
who caused what
or what caused
who;
did some god or gods
cause us
or did we cause them
as I suspect

for I am of the school
that we are the creators
of everything from pigs' sty
to the all-powerful God on his throne
in heaven,  none of it real,
illusions all, from pig stink to the glitter
of the pearly gates, dreams held together
by common belief,  drawn from some immaterial
pre-blast memory of some immaterial
pre-blast
dimension where, unlike ours
everything is real

it is why we must always believe
all the things we all believe,
for if we did not
they would not be and neither
would
we

maybe
we could talk about this
some time

before
it's too late







                
 Anne Sexton is the last poet from my library this week. Her poem is from her collection, The Awful Rowing Toward God,  published in 1975 by Houghton Mifflin.

I chose the picture on the left from among a very large number of photos on her Wikipedia page, including several nudes. Not that surprising considering her early career as a model, but still, being not what you expect to find in a normal poet bio, surprising enough.





The Evil Seekers

We are born with luck
which is to say with gold in our mouth.
As new and smooth as a grape,
as pure as  a pond in Alaska,
as good as the stem of a green bean -
we are born and that ought  to be enough,
we ought to be able to carry on from that
but one must learn about evil,
learn what is subhuman,
learn how the blood pops out like a scream,
one must see the night
before one can realize the day,
one must listen to the animal within,
one must walk like a sleepwalker
on the edge of the roof,
one must throw some part of her body
into the devil's mouth.
Odd stuff, you'd say.
But I'd say
you must die  a little,
have a book of matches go off in your hand,
see your best friend copying your exam,
visit an Indian reservation and see
their plastic feathers,
the dead dream.
One must be a prisoner just once to hear
the lock twist into his gut.
After all that
one is free to grasp at the trees, stones,
the sky, the birds that make sense out of air.
But even in a telephone booth
evil can seep out of the receiver
and we must cover it with a mattress,
and tear it from its roots
and bury it,
bury it.








      



Here's my last new poem for the week, writing Sunday morning at the beginning of what would a beautiful cool and bright mid-winter  day in South Texas.











sailors on a fading sea

in the misty 
morning
streetlamps pool
light on dark parking  lots

brown leaves blow  across
the light
like tiny fish
swimming
in a glowing pond

winter night
finding its way
to day
taking me
with it, quiet
as the tiny fish
that swim
in their little fading 
seas








I finish this week, not with a new poem, but a very old one from the late sixties, written under the influence of the times, of several San Francisco poets I particularly liked (though I cannot remember now  who they were) and most of all, my first concentrated reading of Walt Whitman. I liked the free-flowing forms of the Beats and the immediacy and imagery of Whitman. No need to say anything about the times. I was content to be, especially, with Whitman, a learner and emulator. The idea that I would ever  be more  than that never occurred to me.








notes from a grounded witchdoctor

rosy glow
    rosy glow
breaks the light
into silken clouds
of floating pink
    drifting
          drifting
into the expanding
corners of my pulsating room
rooms
      fields
           tiny
                universe
growing
       growing
too big
       too
       much
fallingbackfallingback
       regrouping
 afraid of reaching

give me room

control
   control
      control
      sure
          no longer afraid
jumping for the clouds
riding
            riding

into the ever expanding
corners of my pulsating room
                              riding

clouds of taffy
     sticking
                 sucking
            pulling me to the floor

phosphorescent  walls quake and tilt
throwing off slippery shadows
that pool at the floor
eat at the floor
                and leap at  me
             with the deliberate
                slowness
of an unconquerable tide
  then turn golden
     then red
  at my feet
the angry lobster redness
                            the infectious angry redness
colors my feet
                       and crawls up my leg
chewing
                 chewing  
                                  chewing
reaching
    crawling
pulling at my body
pulling me to a high place

I stand atop  a hill  
     in the shade of a tree
     a wide-spreading tree

birds sing from the tree
     and I understand the song
     and try to sing along
but the birds stop
and leave me singing
     alone
                         alone

until a bird lunges from the tree
to stand on the ground
and becomes a shadow figure
     a man in black
     a man with no face

black space where a face should be
the thing
the shadow faceless thing
begins to cry
and birds come from the tree
     and land on his shoulders
          as crows
great black crows
           evil
           black crows
that sit on the phantasmal shoulders

                                                           and cry

the ground collapses beneath me
the hill flattens beneath me
and I am in a valley
and the hiss is behind me
     and the figure
            and the crows
stand on the hill and cry
                                        so far  above me
as the hill shimmers
through the heat of the valley
     fades 
              and 
                                     disappears...

I'm alone in the valley
    in the dust of the valley
         in the hot hot dust of the valley

it  grows hotter in the valley
     and it grows hotter in the valley
and I'm lying naked
      in the boiling mud
                                    of the valley

people stand around me
men and women without faces
     black spaces
                           where faces should be
men and women
     in long black skirts that drag
                       in the mud

they laugh at me

great ghostly specters from a tribal past
                                               they laugh at me

I  press my cracked lips
into the mud and try to suck
for water and burn
      my face
      and my lips
      and my tongue

      mud
             not mud
      mud
             mud
                     not mud
                          grass
                          wet grass
                          dew-wet grass
                          cool dew-wet  grass

I run my tongue over the grass
          bite into the grass
           chew on its coolness
I  lie on my back
under the cool fresh sky
                                      and stretch out my arms
                                      and pull handfuls of grass
                                      and throw them at the sun
                                      and let the grass
                                      rain back on me
and catch it
                     with my body

I crawl beneath 
the grass and meadow flowers
and roots and working earthworms
             and look up to watch
                                                the sun in in its interminable agony
of circling
     circling
             ever circling

I watch the sun
through the roots
and grass and crawling insects
                             from behind the petals
                                        of meadow flowers
circling
                         circling
                                                circling
f
  a
     l
        l
           i
              n
                 g

c   r  a  s  h  i  n  g
                              d
                              i
                             v
                              i
                              n
                              g

s         w        o      o     p     i     n     g

clawing
             at 
                 my
                      eyes
burning 
             at
                 my
                       eyes
searing
            my eyes and cheeks and lips and screaming tongue

I close my eyes

and I'm in a room
             a small room
             a dark room
             a black room
a room without light
             but for a dot
pulsing off and on
     off and on
                        off and on
                                           off and on
in one corner of the room

the dot grows 
as it pulses     off     and     on

larger
and larger

it crashes toward me

washes over me

leaves me in a lonely light
                                                  alone

alone

alone

alone now
                 lying now on my floor
linoleum cold against my cheek

I turn on my back
                               alone on the floor
                                                                                        and 
                                                                     sleep








Let's hear it for the  end of this miserable year with wishes for something a whole lot different for 2014.



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.





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Places and Spaces





Always to the Light






Goes Around Comes Around





Pushing Clouds Against the Wind





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Seven Beats a Second






Short Stories



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