Scramble   Wednesday, January 08, 2014






I didn't have any ideas at all about pictures this week, so I just went to one of my oldest files and started uploading anything I thought might be of even a little interest to someone. We'll see.

I'm skipping my normal anthology feature again this week, featuring instead travel poems by the poet I would most like to have traveled with, Blaise Cendrars. Born Swiss in 1887 as Federic-Louis Sauser, Better known by his adopted name, he  also self-adopted as a Frenchman, becoming a naturalized French citizen in 1916.

One of the, if not the, greatest traveling poet of his time, he died in 1961, with an interesting and varied life in between his beginning and ending, a life well-worth a review in Wikipedia.

One of the things I like best is his absolutely clear and non-judgmental eye for all that is around him.

My poems are from the collection Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems, published by University of California Press in 1992, with translation from French to English by Ron Padgett.

Plus, my library and my stuff, old and new.

More of  the same, specifically, this


Me
the eve before the eve before the morning

Blaise Cendrars  
The Great Fetishes

Me
wonderful day

Wislawa Szymborska
Smiles

Me
random  ponderables while dog pees on her favorite trees

Blaise Cendrars
from Kodak

Me
ambushed

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Moonwalkers
Shells

Me
trail mix

Blaise Cendrars 
more from Kodak

Me
never been to Chile

Federico Garcia Lorca
Birth of Christ

Me
weather observations and Victorian gents

Blaise Cendrars
still more from  Kodak

Me
one true thing

W.S. Merwin
Exercise

Me
breakfast at  the flour mill

Blaise Cendrars
from Kodak

Me
poets on every street corner

Alexander Shurbanov
Place for Humans
Still Life

Me
 remembering the caves

Michael Ryan
In Winter

Me
it's a sign   








    
 Here's my first new poem, written, if it clears up some of the confusion of it, the morning of December 30th, the day before New Year's Eve.








the eve before the eve before the morning

it is
the eve
before the eve
before the morning
so many place
such hope
on

I
was cured
of all that magic thinking
when I was about
thirteen
when I discovered
on the new year morning
that we still had no money,
my bicycle still had two flat tires,
and girls still didn't like me

but
my dog did

waking me in the morning
after the eve
with a squiggle under the covers
at my feet, licking my feet
in her usual good-morning way.
just as she did in all the previous eves
before the eve
before the morning...

1957
I'm thinking it was before
the morning after the eve, a good year
as I remember it,
and the 1958 morning after the eve
as well, with noting really important
changing between me
and my best
pal







     

 In Cendrar's book, the different section are titled with the title of the book or other publication the poems in the section came from. Often, the titles are geographically based, tales told from one of his  travels. This next piece is from the section titled "Black African Poems."







The Great Fetishes

I

A hardwood sheathing
Two embryonic arms
The man tears his belly
And worships his risen member

II

Who are your threatening
As you go off
Fists on hips
Barely in control
almost fat

III

Wood knot
Head shaped like an acorn
Hard and refractory
Face stripped
Young god sexless and shamelessly jovial

IV

Envy has eaten away your chin
Covetousness lures you
You rise
The missing part of your face
Makes you geometric
Absorbent
Adolescent

V

Here's the man and the woman
Equally ugly equally nude
The man slimmer but stronger
Hands on his belly
Mouth like a piggy bank slot

VI

Her
The bread of her sex she bakes three times a day
And her belly stretched full
Pull
On her neck and shoulders

VII

I'm ugly!
But sniffing the smell of girls of my solitude
My head is swelling up and soon my nose is going to fall off

VIII

I wanted to escape the chief's women
My head was shattered by the sun's stone
In the sand
All that's left is my mouth
Open like my mother's  vagina
and crying out

IX

This one
Bald
Has only a mouth
A member that goes down to his knees
And feet cut off

X

Here's the woman I like best
Two sharp lines around a mouth shaped like a funnel
A blue forehead
Some white at the temples
And the gaze shining like a bugle

                                   British Museum           
                       London, February 1916 










 And now here is the first of this years old poems, this one from January, 2010.








a wonderful day

breakfast
this morning,
3 perfectly brown,
perfectly crispy pieces of bacon

oh, what a wonderful
perfectly perfectly perfectly
wonderful
world
it is today -
reminding me
of what all the wise ones
knew before me

a wonderful day
is not a matter of some number
of wonderful hours
but of brief moments
of bliss -

the sun rising
on a far horizon;
the falling sun
behind a patchwork
of clouds;
a beautiful woman
crossing a street,
intent with pride and purpose;
a child
in a park
pulling a thorn
form a dog's paw;
a baby who smiles when he
sees you coming;
the crack
of a cold winter morning
when first you step into it;
three pieces of perfectly brown,
perfectly crisp
bacon
in the morning -
all these
and more,
flashes of bliss
along the way of the living of a human life

pay attention,
lose yourself from the grind
of cloudy endurance,
and
it will only take 1 or 2
of these moments
before you find yourself
in a perfectly
wonderful
day




Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz



First from my library this week, this poem by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, winner  of the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of my favorites for her direct simplicity, she was born in 1928 and died in 2012.

The poem is from her book Poems New and Collected, 1957 - 1997. It was published in 1998 by Harcourt. The poems in the book were translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranzak and Clare Cavanagh.





Smiles

The world would rather see hope than just hear
its song. And that's why statesmen have to smile.
Their pearly whites mean they're still full of cheer.
The game's complex, the goal's far our of reach,
the outcome's still unclear - once in a while
we need a friendly, gleaming  set of teeth.

Head of state must display unfurrrow brows
on airport runways,, in the conference room.
They must embody on big,  toothy "Wow!"
while pressing flesh or pressing urgent issues.
Their faces' self-regenerating tissues
make our hearts hum and our lenses zoom.

Dentistry turned  to diplomatic skill
promises us a Golden Age tomorrow.
The going's rough,, and so we need the laugh
of bright incisors, molars of goodwill.
Our times are still not safe and sane enough
for faces to  show ordinary sorrow.

Dreamers keep saying, "Human brotherhood
will make this place a smiling paradise."
I'm not convinced. The statesman, in that case,
would not require facial exercise,
except form time to time, and so he moves his face.
But  human beings are, by nature, sad.
So be it, then. It isn't all that bad.







      
This is another new poem from last week.










random ponderables while dog pees on her favorite trees

my dog
makes children
and pretty girls smile

and makes old women
go coochie coo

```

a man dies
on TV
and I think of my dad,
dead going on 34 years now

how could that be...

dead at 65
what a young age
that seems now
for a man to
be dying

```

young women
of my own youth
were such a mystery,
silken creatures
from a different universe...

young women today,
so lean and beautiful
and smart and strong,
different creatures
even than
before

I smile and I speak
to them,
the cute old man
at the coffee
house

how far I imagine I have
fallen

```

I lust after young women,
like Jimmy Carter did,
a little for their sex, mostly
for their youth

```

where
women have evolved
it seems to me
to be even better, to be even more mystic
and mysterious than they were before

men...

I don't  know  about young me,
dull and seeming thick

mostly
I'm not impressed

```

tellers
at our drive-in
bank
include dog biscuits
with receipts if they see
a dog in your car

dog
is very smart

knows  this, moves to the front seat,
presses her  head against the
windshield
to make sure she is seen

```

I am passed the age
where I don'  want to act my age

I see old men now
trying hard to be the studly gents
the imagine they were in their
youth

I'm quite happy
now
being old and slow
and have no illusions
I was ever any more enhanced
in days long  ago...

to  long in my life
I have been a
realist

(except sometimes, on
a slow day,
I am the hero in a mid-afternoon
dream, and the girl is
beautiful
and she wants me to do
all  manner of speak-able things
to her ripe and luscious
body.)

then I wake
and am only sometimes
and only temporarily
confused...

```

dog
likes country music,
blue grass
with banjo and fiddle
the best, but with always a soft spot
for Johnny Cash and Merle

she sings along in the car
on long  afternoons especially when driving
through the desert -
she's a Marty Robbins dog
in the desert
and Patsy Cline on fresh-scented
country roads

we share our taste in
music, but
I'm of  better voice...

but what can I say, she's
still a darn good
dog




Photo by Dora Ramirez-Itz



    

The next  selection of  poems from the Cendrars collection are taken from his book Kodak, including poems from his trip across the  United States, the East to the West and on up to the Alaska.







West

1. Roof Garden

For  weeks the elevator  have hoisted crates of loam
At  last
By dint of money and patience
The shrubbery is blooming
The lawn is a delicate green
A spring gushes out between the rhododendron and camellias
On top of the building the building of bricks and steel
Evenings
The waiters in white serious as diplomats lean over th chasm which is
     the town
And the gardens are bright with a million little colored lights
I believe Madam murmured the young man  in a voice vibrant with
     restrained passion
I believe we will be fine here
And with a large gesture he swept the large sea
The coming and going
The navigational lights of the giant ships
The gigantic Statue of Liberty
And the enormous panorama of the town cut with perpendicular bands
     of  darkness and light
The old scientist and the two multimillionaires are alone on the terrace
Magnificent garden
Masses of flowers
Starry sky
The  three  elderly gentlemen stand in silence listening to the laughter
     and happy voices rising from bright windows
And to the murmured song of the sea at the end of the record


V. Girl

Light dress in crepe de chine
The girl
Elegance and wealth
Hair a tawny blond where matched pearls shine
Calm and regular features that reflect frankness and kindness
Her big almost green sea-blue eyes are bright and  bold
She ha the fresh and velvety complexion with a special pinkness that
     seems to be the prerogative of American girls


VI. Young Man

He' the Beau Brummell  of Fifth Avenue
Tie of gold cloth sprinkled with little diamond flowers
suit a pink and violet metallic material
Ankle-boots in real sharkskin with each button a little black  pearl
He sports fine asbestos flannel pajamas a glass suit a crocodile-skin vest
His valet soaps his gold pieces
He never has anything but perfumed brand-new bills  in his wallet


Far West



VI. Squaw Wigwam


When you go through the rickety door made of board ripped from
     packing crates an with pieces of leather for hinge
You find yourself in a low room
Smoky
Smell  of rotten fish
Stench of exquisitely rancid fat

Barbaric panoply
War bonnets of eagle feathers necklace  of puma teeth or bear claws
Bows arrows tomahawks
Moccasins
Seed and glass bead  bracelets
You also see
Some scalping knives one or  two old-fashioned carbines a flintlock
     pistol elk and reindeer  antlers a whole collection of little embroidered
     tobacco  pouches
Then three very old soft stone peace pipes with reed stems

Eternally bent over the hearth
The hundred-year-old proprietress of this establishment is preserved like
     a ham smoked and dried and cured  like her hundred-year-old pipe
     and the black of her mouth and the black hole of her eye


VII. City of Frisco

It's an old hulk eaten away by rust
Twenty time in dry dock and engine make only 7 or 8 knots
And to economize they burn old half-used cinders and cast-off coal
They hoist some makeshift sails every time there's a puff of wind
With his scarlet face his bushy eyebrows his pimply nose Captain
     Hopkins is a real sailor
Little silver rings pierce his ears
This ship is loaded exclusively with the caskets of Chinese  who died in
     America but want to be buried in her native land
Oblong boxes red or light blue or covered with golden  inscriptions
Now that's a type of merchandise illegal to transport











Another poem from January, 2010.








ambushed

i
have a hitch
in my get-a-long
this morning,
a vintage mid-fifties
phrase, probably planted
in my young brain by
Tennessee Ernie Ford
or some  such,
meaning  i'm limping around
like an old man
because off a pain in my hip,
the result of my cheapness
in refusing to pay $200
to have someone remove
a fallen tree from my
backyard resulting in
$400 worth of personal
pain and suffering after
trying to do it myself,
plus paying $200 to someone
to do the job i couldn't finish

but that's another story

it's the phase
i'm interested in this morning,
the phrase that slipped
directly from my brain
like a quarter
passing, unhindered, through
the guts and gears of a malfunctioning
vending machine...

in what secret fold of our brain
do things like this abide, a homely phrase,
a word you forgot your knew, an ugliness,
deep buried, you think, never to see again
the light of day - and suddenly there
they are again, the good and the bad
and the merely embarrassing, jumping
right out, throwing themselves
at the world like a giggle at your mother's
funeral, a subversive fart
while having tea with
the queen,
yourself revealed,
not really yourself, you explain,
but little pieces of your earlier self
you thought long left behind
long banished or
forgotten

my mother
would sometimes call window shades
window lights,
an embarrassment to her
because she thought it revealed
her country-poor upbringing

my father
stuttered when excited,
like all of us,
sometimes ambushed
by the
past







           


Next,  two short poems from 1982 American Book  Award,  Emplumada, by Lorna Dee Cervantes. The book was  published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 1981.









Moonwalkers

In rarefied air,  absent as  lovers
Objects are blanched and peppered to gray,

Flushed belly-up, sincerely
Drawn by their weightlessness;

We are not alone this night, walking,
Searching for a distinguisher

Between the bare witness moon,
Love,  we are together in this;  for good.


Shells

I string shells
put an order
to  my life

I find in shells
the way I live
everything I touch

is fragile
butt full of color
or brine

I can't
hold back
from touching

      **

stranger
not my husband
you offer

seabirds
cleft  surf
the sun

ripping apart
the fog-strewn
shoreline    








           
Yes! Another year behind, a new year ahead - my first poem for 2014, New Year's Day.







trail mix

made dinner
last  night, steak
macaroni and cheese (for color)
and beans...

cowboy dinner -
not a green thing anywhere

```

my son's dog is Ayla

she loves to play chase-the-ball

throw the ball and she'll run and get it and bring it back
for another throw
 throw the ball and she'll run and get it and bring it back
to continue the game

she'll do it for
hours

I decided to play the game
with my dog, Bella, so I threw the ball

she ran and got it...

took it to the far-back corner
of the back yard
and buried
it...

that'll be enough
of that

```

he had a wife
and two children
who he loved and cared for
above all else...

he wasn't a
philanderer  at heart

but every woman
between

eighteen and seventy-five
wanted him

and he was no good at all
at resisting

temptation...

he was
my friend...
I wonder if he's still
alive,

still
not resisting temptation

```

on the other hand,
I knew a woman, good mother
and wife, except that being such
left her feeling unfulfilled,
seeking such filling
with tennis pros and other men
on the margin seeking always
someone else's good wife and mother
to fulfill

```

"on the wins
of  a snow white dove
I  found my own true love,
sent from above,
sent from above"

country folk in the old days
knew about religious music, praise
music that looked to God
in their own rough life,  understood
the gifts of life and love
he gave them...

a barista in a coffeehouse
whee I used o go liked to play
modern praise music, sung and played
by sincere-faced yuppies, puppies
whose closest experience with their God
was the dollar and a quarter weekly allowance
they used to get from their mom and dad, awful music,
unimaginative wailing, heartless, crass, and dull as the worst
pop music by the worst teen sensation...

it was a church-supported coffeehouse...

you'd think they'd be more careful
about demeaning the supposed glories
of  the God they claimed to
worship and
adore

```

and speaking of
godly missions,
fulfillment,
steaks, and great accomplishments
of the previous year
I was very proud, after years of trying,
to master the arts of the omeleteer
late in the previous year, finally
learning how to prepare and omelet
in the proper masculine
fashion

it's  a man food to fix
you know, what with all the
swifting and spiffting and stirring
and stirring before easing
the eggs into a pan heated
to the exact temperature,
selecting all the proper
ingredient to be added to the eggs
in the proper sequence and
at the proper time
as they fluff, swirling
the rising eggs around the pan
(properly buttered before-hand of course).
with the the man's naturally commanding
gentle yet resolute flip
that is required
so that your omelet has the proper
slight browning on both sides,
it is a manly thing to do,
this creation of the perfect
omelet, pride of the chicken's midnight
cackle, requiring all of a man's greatest
attributes of delicate strength
and keen observation...

I am very proud
today, as I consider this, my accomplishment,
perhaps my greatest accomplishment
of 2013

new mountains to climb
in 2014, new vistas to  explore
and conquer...

perhaps buttermilk
pancakes








     

Still from Centrars' book Kodak, I have this.




Aleutian  Islands

I.

Steep cliffs  facing the icy polar  winds
Inland there are fertile meadows
Reindeer elk musk ox
the arctic fox the beaver
Fish in streams
A low beach has been used as a seal  fur farm
At the top of the cliff they harvest eider nests whose feathers are worth a
     fortune

II.

Huge sturdy buildings where a rather large number of traders live
All the way around a little garden containing every kind of vegetable
     capable of withstanding he climate
Mountain ash pine arctic willow
Border  of heather and alpine plants

III.

Bay scattered with small  rocky islands
The  seals sunbathe in groups of five or six
Or stretch out on the sand
Where they play they give a kind of guttural grunt like barking
Next to the Eskimo hut there is a lean-to where the skins are prepared









Wanted to go there in January, 2010. Still do.








never been to Chile

never
been 
to

C
h
i
l
e

but
would
love
to

go

some
day
to that

s
t
r
i
n
g
b
e
a
n

country
s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g
all
the way

d

o

w

n

the

P
a
c
i
f
i
c

co
ast
of
SouthAmerica
to
near
Ant
arcti
ca -

down there
to 
Tierra
Del
Fuego
which means
Land
of
the
Fuego
in
Spanish

and i'd
surely
like
to 

go

there someday








         

Next from my library, this poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet In New York,  published, my edition  in 1988 by The Noonday Press. It is a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages, the translation by Greg Simon and Steven  F. White.







The Birth of Christ

A shepherd bets to be suckled in snow that drifts
white dogs stretched out between shaded lanterns.
The little clay Christ has split its fingers
on the eternally keen edges of the splintered wood.

Here come the ants and the feet stiff with cold!
Two small threads of blood break  up the hard sky.
The demon's intestines growl through the stricken
valleys and the resonant flesh of mollusks.

Wolves and toads sing in green bonfires
crowned by flaming anthills of  dawn.
The mule has a dream of enormous fans
and the bull  dreams a pierced bull and water.

The child with a three on its forehead cries and stares.
St. Joseph sees three bronze thorns in the hay.
And the swaddling clothes exhale the desert's fumbling
with stringless zithers and beheaded voices.

The snow of Manhattan blows  against billboards
and carries pure grace through the Gothic arches.
Idiot clergymen and cherubim in feathers
follow  Luther in a line around the high corners.








      
From last week, second day of the new year. But who's counting.









weather observations and Victorian gents

it's cold,
but not that cold...

it's true I'm wearing my hat, but
I always wear my hat when it's below 50 degrees.
this after a bald fella told me
about twenty years ago that about 80%
of our body heat escapes through the top of our heads
when it's cold, and,  thus, a warm hat
on your head
will make the whole rest of your body
feel warmer - this is the kind of thing that
us semi-tropical boys
will never figure out unless someone
from colder climes
tells us...

at the same time. it is funny
to  watch the women in this kind of weather
45 degrees and they're dressed
like they just stepped off that ship stuck
in Antarctic  ice...

but you can't really blame them,
they have all these wonderful winter clothes
that they paid good  money for
and there's never enough cold days
to  wear them all so  the pile them on
in layers on every rare day
when there is the slightest justification...

can't blame them for wanting
to  get their money's worth of wear
out of all those expensive
clothes,
but
the sight of it reminds me off my days in the Mid-East,
seeing the women all covered head to toe in their burkas, looking 
to me like a pile off laundry walking to the washateria,
though I noticed, while being careful not to notice too obviously,
the most beautiful eyes exposed in that version
of the garb which leaves eyes uncovered,  such beautiful, beautiful
eyes, my reaction reminding me of those Victorian gents
who got all a-twitch over the sight of ankles
exposed to the greedy eyes of lecherous
men...

all around me today,
young women  long legs  in  their stylish boots,
and old  ladies
wrinkled,rosy cheeks peeking from
between fur hat and collar,
and blue eyes, they all seem to have such ice blue eyes,
like sun on snow or aged porcelain, sparkling...

I like  these cold mornings
peering from beneath my hat
at all the covered
women
almost as much, maybe more
than at the beach in summer
all those  tanned and rounded bodies
if I were a Victorian gent
I'd be collapsed in spasms, chewing sand,
on those summer afternoons at the beach among
the tiniest little bikinis
and oh-so-well-turned ankles...

one of  the many reasons  I'm pleased
I'm  not a Victorian  gent, summer, winter,
spring, or fall, beauty abounding
whatever the time
of year,
no matter the season,
no matter how hot or cold
beauty all about me,
my spirits never
dampened








       


Still in Kodak, here's  Cendrars' view of America's greatest  river near it's terminus. (Before it was "improved.")








River

Mississippi

Right here the river's almost  as  wide as a lake
The yellowish muddy water rolls between two marshy banks
 Aquatic plants extending the acreage of the cotton fields
Here and there appear the towns and villages  lurking back in some little
     bay with their factories with their tall black chimneys with their long
     piers on pilings running way out into the water

Overwhelming heat
The ship's bell rings for lunch
The passengers sport checked suits blinding ties sunset-red vests like
     flaming cocktails and Louisiana hot sauce

You see a lot of crocodiles
The young ones frisky and wriggling
The big ones their backs covered with greenish moss just drifting along

The luxuriant vegetation indicates the approach of the tropical zone
Gigantic bamboos palm trees tulip trees laurels cedars
The river itself is now twice as wide
Dotted with floating islands from which our boat scares up clouds of
     waterfowl
Steamboats sailboats barges boats  of all kinds and enormous rafts
A yellow  steam  rises from the  overheated river

 Now there are hundreds of crocs thrashing around us
You hear the dry snapping of their jaws and you see very clearly their
    wild little eyes
The passengers get a kick out of firing into them with hunting rifles
When a sharpshooter  kills or mortally wounds one
Its fellows rush to tear it
To  pieces
With small cries rather like the wailing of a newborn baby




Photo probably by  Nina Itz (my mother)



  

Here, again, from January, 2010.








one true thing

growing up
in a bi-cultural milieu
i learned a lot of dirty words
that i never really knew
the literal meaning of

 that's why
as i've grown older
and more cautious, i've
restricted by cussing
to English

fairly certain
when i call someone
a double-duped-willy-whacker,
i know what i'm saying
and mean it

it is the way of many things
in modern life,
superficial knowledge hiding
greater ignorance
of the deeper truths of living

it is a truth,  i think
that truth has many levels,
and try as i might, it seems
i never get much past
the basement

and sometimes
despair
that i'll ever learn
the real
of anything...

but i keep trying,
part of what this exercise is about,
 writing day after day, thinking as i write
hoping someday i'll reach
the mezzanine and know at least

one true thing








The next poem is from one of my prize half-prize bookstore finds,  the May,  1972 issue of Poetry magazine. Unfortunately, the journal, forty years after it's appearance, is by this time being held together by rubber bands and paper clips. The poet is W.S. Merwin, seventeenth Poet Laureate of the United States, appointed by 2010. Merwin, who lives in Hawaii, takes special interests in the restoration of the islands rainforests. He is a two time winner of Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1971 and 2009), as well as numerous awards an honors. Born in 1927, he was still a relatively young poet when this poem was published in Poetry, a year after winning his first Pulitzer. From the photos available, I've chosen to use the one that pictures the poet at the approximate age of first publication of his poem.







Exercise

First forget what time it is
for an hour
do it regularly every day

then forget what day of the week it s
do this regularly for a week
then forget what country you are in
and practice doing it in company
for a week
then do them together
for a week
with a few breaks as possible

follow these by forgetting how to add
or to subtract
it makes no difference
you can change them around
after a week
both will help you later
to forget how to count

forget how to count
starting with your own age
starting with how to count backward
starting with even numbers
starting with Roman numerals
starting with fractions of  Roman numerals
staring with the old calendar
going on to the old alphabet
going on to the alphabet
until everything is continuous again
go on forgetting elements
starting with water
proceeding to earth
rising in fire

forget fire








Okay, this, from last week, is a fake poem, but for poem-a-day purposes, even a fake poem is still a poem.

I just noticed, this the  second poem in a row featuring pancakes. Maybe I should make pancakes for dinner tonight and just get over it. Maybe with some wilted lettuce. That was my dad's specialty. Didn't understand it then, don't understand it now.







breakfast at the flour mill

breakfast
with a friend
this morning, at the restaurant
connected to the Pioneer Flour  Mill
where they make
syruplious pancakes ,
all the way south of downtown
in the King William district,
by the river, a ways to go
so time is short  
so poem must be short as  well...

moon 
stars
brightly shining
clouds
slowly drifting
trees
whisperly stirring
dog
sniffing and sniffing
cat
grayly slinking
skunk
waddly lurking
(wait...
skunk is another 
poem entirely)

but 
enough...

every word seems
abundant with "s's" today
and my "s" key is sticking,
giving me either no "s"
or triple "s's)
which is highly
aggravating,
so even if
I didn't have to  rush downtown
I'd be stopping
here any
way...

(just
noticed
this not so
short
after all -
oh well
like they say, I do
ramble
on...








      

  Still from  Kodak.

This will be my last from Cendrars this week. But I'm not ever halfway through his travels. Still come, not next week, but maybe the week after, some of my favorites.








The South

I. Tampa

The train has just stopped
Just two passengers get off on this broiling end-of-summer morning
Both are dressed in khaki suits and pith helmets
Both are followed by a black servant who carries the baggage
Both glance absentmindedly at the distant houses  that are too  white at
     the sky that is too blue
You see the wind raising swirls of dust and flies pestering the two mules
     harnessed to the only coach
The driver is asleep with his mouth open



IV. Spanish Ruin

The nave is in the 18th-century Spanish style
It is all cracked
The damp  vault is white with saltpeter and still bears some traces of gold
     leaf
The lantern  beams fall on a mildewed painting in the corner
It is a Black Madonna
Thick moss and poisonous striped dotted headed mushrooms cover the
     stone floor of the sanctuary
There is also a bell with some Latin inscription


V. Golden Gate

The old grillwork provided a name for the establishment
Iron bars thick as  a wrist which separate the drinkers from the  counter
     where bottles of every kind of alcohol are lined up
Back when gold fever was at its  height
When women from Chile or Mexico were auctioned off right and left
    by slave traders
All  the bars had grillwork like this
And the bartenders came with a drink in one hand and  a pistol in the
     other
It was not uncommon to  see a man killed because of a drink
It's true the grillwork has been left there for show
Just the same the Chinese come in for drinks
Germans and Mexicans
And also  a few Kanaks off  the little steamboats loaded with mother-of-pearl
     copra tortoise shell
Chanteuses
Atrocious makeup bank tellers outlaws sailors with huge hands











From, yep, again - January 2010. A pretty good new year wish list, I'm thinking.









poets on every street corner

I was going
to write a poem

about what i would do
if i could run the world

but
sitting here now

i realize
i don't know what to do

either

except
i'd like to  see rain

every Thursday
and sunshine and blue skies

the rest of the week
except

in the winter
when there should be snow

and blue skies
and children skating

on iced-over ponds
and cows in the fields

blowing clouds
through their noses

and palm trees on beaches
for those who don't like

shade
ad big waves for the surfers

and clear clean streams
slow moving

between tall green trees
for us who prefer to float

and people learning to shake off
bad times

like dogs shaking off wet
a big shake

beginning with flapping ears
passing on down to big

shimmy shakes
of their rear

butts like a Mixmaster
in overdrive

and no icky things
in dark corners

no snakes
and no spiders and no

poison lizards
or animals who like to eat

people

and no fatherless children
or old people

rotting in isolation
and inattention

and no one dying
of diseases they couldn't afford to

cure
and no backaches or migraines

or rashes
in hide-away places

and no people who eat too much
or people who never get to eat

as much as they need
and no drunkards or drug addicts

or gangsters
who shoot children from their cars

and no priests, preachers, ayatollahs,
rabbis or other parasites on the human soul

instead
poets on every street corner

proclaiming truth and love and silly songs
for all who would listen

and people who will listen to all the poets
on all the street corners

and return their love
and maybe throw money

and no Republicans -
that should be at the top of my list

instead of here
at the

bottom



Photo by Billie Itz




Next from my library two poems by Bulgarian poet Alexander Shurbanov.  Born in 1941, Shurbanov is a poet, literary critic, translator and teacher (Chairman of the English Department at Sofia University). He's published five poetry collections and three books of essays, as well as a number of critical studies of early English poets and translations of anthologies of English Renaissance Poetry and Plays.

The book, Frost-Flowers, was published by Ivy Press in 2002 (and I just noticed the poet signed the book on a visit to San Antonio in 2003). It is a bilingual book, with English translation of the Bulgarian text by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman.





Place for Humans

Grass and shrubs stare at each other
from the edges off the trail.
                              They don't dare
to  cross.
This is the domain
reserved for man-
dust-and-stone-
dissecting all of nature
with an inexplicable urge
to open mountains
move seas   
                 and constellations
and sacrifice everything
everything
until it turns
into dust and stone.


Still Life

In the harbor, under a festering layer
of oil and rotting plastic,
the water is dead,
hopelessly dead.
The anglers, congealed on the quay,
are optimism's leftovers.
Like the balding top
of a drowned man
(a former philosopher
or a president)
a buoy,  crowned with weeds,
rolls sluggishly.
Sluggishly
and - I don't know  why -
solemnly.








It was just a couple of  days earlier that I made a point of telling someone that a poem was supposed to be a song, not  an essay. Then I heard this story on NPR's Science Friday and wanted to write about it.

So what did I end up with, an essay with line breaks.






remembering the caves

so it's like this,
we memories in our brain
and when our brain
dies
so die the memories

but there are also
memories that
reside in our genes
that do  not die with us
but are passed on to our
offspring, memories
encoded in genes
that are part of the
inheritance
just as are the rest
of the genetic
mix that makes us

generational memories
passed on and passed on
so that some part of  us
remembers the cave,
remembers  the man-things
the almost-us Neanderthals
who we remember
as we remember so many
other fantastical things
beyond our experience
things we explain through
tall tales and myths and
fairy stories...

and beyond that,
it is said, all living things
animal and plant
have these genetic memories
just as all living things
have a consciousness, the
whooping cranes
int their winter marsh home,
finding this refuge every year
not through some trick
of navigation, but because
they remember it,
generations of genetic memory
remembering its comforts
and where it is and how
to get there

and also the forests
and the prairie grasses
and the sunflower
who turns its face
to the sun before
the sun rises, knowing
from generations,  that  it will
rise and that it will rise
in the east and generations
of warm-sun memory tell it
when it is time to turn...

science learning from
myth, myth suggesting
new science, and with each
new thing we learn,
new mysteries,, all knowledge
an accumulation of ignorance
addressed, universal
consciousness, memories
from all becoming
part of all...

where have we heard
that before...

```

this
state of knowledge
expanding
today

theory
always questing to be
challenged, questing
to be debunked

what does a poet
know of this
and what advice
can such a dabbler
provide

not much

only enough to consider
one suggestion -

maybe we should all talk
to our petunias today

though we know they will not
talk back, science tells us
there is a good chance
they will hear
and warm themselves
in the genetic memory
of kind words
spoken
by those who
in the past knew them
better than
we








                 


Next, and finally from my  library, I have a poem by Michael Ryan, from his book, New and Selected Poems, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2004. Born in 1946 in Missouri, Ryan has been teaching creative writing and literature at the University of California, Irvine, since 1990.








In Winter

At four o'clock it's dark.
Today, looking out through dusk
at three gray women in stretch slacks
chatting in front of the post office,
their steps left and right and back
like some quick  folk dance of kindness
I remember the winter we spent
crying in each other's laps.
What could you be thinking at this moment?
How lovely and strange the gangly spines
of trees against a thickening sky
as you drive from the library
humming off-key? Or are you smiling
at an idea met in a book
the way you smiled  with you whole  body
the first night we talked?
I was so sure my love of you was perfect,
and the light today
reminded me of the winter you drove home
each day in the dark at four o'clock
and would come into my study to kiss me
despite mistake after mistake after mistake.








It was 57 degrees this morning at 5 a.m. when I walked my dog. By the time I finished breakfast at 8 a.m. there was a very strong north wind blowing and it was 44 degrees. It's going to be cold tonight.



it's a sign

this is not
a happy chirpy
day

birds
moan from the trees
dogs
whine and cower
cats scowl
in aggravation
at the world's
failure
yet again
to recognize
feline pre-eminence
in the order of things

trees
droop their limbs
stars, like cheap plastic
jewelry
on a dark-hearted
whore,
do not shine
the sun rises, its single
bright  eye
sagging above the horizon's edge
like a lay-about drunk
preparing for its day's labors,
again
it seems to say
again and again and again
I rise, it says,
seeking only the dark relief
of night falling
sister moon, it calls,
stay awhile
longer

let me sleep...

it's not a happy, chirpy day -
when birds
moan
from their trees
you know it's not a
happy, chirpy
day

it's a
sign



Photographer unknown



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