Thinking Out Loud   Wednesday, January 29, 2014







My photos this week are the result of a random ramble though my image files, stopping along the way
as I saw something I thought might be interesting, pleasing, whatever. Nothing else to it.

My anthology is The KGB Bar Book of Poems. The book was published in 2000 by Harper Collins.

The KGB Bar is a Soviet-era themed bar located in New York City's East Village. The second-floor venue was a speakeasy for Ukrainian socialists who met there, behind locked doors, during the McCarthy years. Since the bar opened in 1993, it has become a New York literary institution, with free poetry and fiction readings five days a week (Sunday through Thursday).

The book is a collection of poems read at the bar during its first three years of operation.

More poems from my library again this week, as well as new poems (memory series) and old poems from me.

This would be the this of it.


Me
come  the resurrection

Erin Belieu
Your Character is Your Destiny

Me
an instruction in the grander scheme of things

Daniel Nathan Terry
The Field (Fredericksburg
Still Life Outside the Surgeon's Tend (Fredericksburg)
Limitations

Me
continental  divide

Thomas Lux
Plague Victims Catapulted  Over Walls Into Besieged City

Me
I dissemble convincingly
bright day

Samuel Hazo
Accident Ahead

Me
gravity's gold

Tom Carey
Zohar

Me
Monday notes

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
from A Coney Island of the Mind  #s 21, 22, 23, & 25

Me
seasons changing around us

 Mark Strand
The Night, the Porch

Me
charcoal cat

Li-Young Lee
Nocturne
My Indigo

Me
three days on the mountain 

Paisley Rekdal
on getting a dog and being told what I really wanted was a child

Me
season of zombies walking      








          


This is my first new poem of the week, a continue of the menu series I started last week.









come the resurrection

the path down and back
is steep and arduous, especially
for older people,
though benches along the way
provide a place to stop and rest
a moment to breath thin air
and listen to the wind
passing
between canyon walls,
the stubby trees
restless in response

birds call along the way
but go silent
among the ruins,
homage to the ghosts
who patrol the bare adobe rooms,
guarding the ancient wall
until those who left
return again, pull from storehouses
the grain and seed they left
behind
for this very day
of resurrection

we are silent visitors,
with the birds, waiting for the
tread of soft
footsteps
so long absent from their
home

(Mesa Verde, 1979








My first poet from this week's anthology, The KGB Bar Book of Poems, Erin Belieu.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Belieu received advanced degrees in poetry from Boston University and Ohio State University. She has taught Washington University, Boston University, Kenyon College and Ohio University. She currently teaches in an MFA/Ph.D creative writing program at Florida State University.

According to the book, she read this poem at the KGB Bar on May 18, 1998.








Your Character Is Your Destiny

          but I'm driving
to where the prairie sulks
like ex-husbands, pissing
awake his downtime in a day-old
shave, the permanent arrangement
this sky moved out on years ago

You're in my jurisdiction,
the territory that makes old men
look older than their unpolished boots;
where only truckers get by, cranked
on speedballs and shooting up what passes
for an incline; where dead-eyed ranch
dogs drink oil from a roadside pool.

sick in the kind off viscous heat that will
fuck you without asking and
whenever it feels the need.
You're the straight out of my town's
post office, not the face on
the flyer but the blank propping
behind him. You're the new stoplight,

the red direction from nowhere,
the unnecessary signal I want to run.








                     

Here's an old poem from January, last year.








an instruction in the grander scheme of things

in the grander
scheme
of things
the world is
wet
today
or
at least
my part of the world
is wet
which is wet enough
for me
since non-wets
in other parts of the 
world
don't  affect
me
here 
where 
wet is
the grander 
scheme
of me and mine
and
your not-wet
has entirely
no effect
on my wet
which is the
grander
scheme of my thing
today
which
you may have guessed
is wet
and it is cold too
which is another part
of my grander
scheme of things today
and if you're hot
and dry
in the Gobi Desert
well
big fricking deal

since I can't see
how that has anything
to do with
me
since 
cold and wet 
is my grander scheme
of  things
today
and searing desert
sands
have not part in
it

any questions?








                                     
First several poems from my library this week is by Daniel Nathan Terry, 2007 Stevens Poetry Manuscript Winner. The poem is from his book, Capturing the Dead, published by NFSPS Press. The book is a collection of Civil War poems, often  referring to  specific participants in the war.

A former landscaper and horticulturist, Terry teaches English at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.






The Field (Fredericksburg)
                                               Private Haydon

A mercy: I cannot see
my comrades writhing in the mud.

A mercy: I cannot feel
my legs.

I hear drums. Cannons. My heart
beats slower than my blood
requires.

Let my mother weep.

Let my father's ghost smile
upon his fallen soldier.

Let my brothers raise the plow, turn
the earth of home.Let the what grow

ripe with sun.


Still Life Outside the Surgeon's Tent (Fredericksburg)
                                                                                            Noah Williams

A white-enameled
wash pan  -

the kind you bathe
babies in -

filled
with severed feet.


Limitations
                    Mathew Brady

"A spirit in my feet said 'Go' and I went." - Brady

Despite my calling,  I'm not a messiah. I cannot be
everywhere at once and rarely anywhere twice.
Despite sending men - good men like O'Sullivan
and Williams - into the fields of war  to be my eyes,
there are photographs I've missed. Even my presence
is no guarantee of success. Circumstance

and nature sometimes conspire - inclement weather,
faulty equipment,low light, artillery smoke,
and my own failing eyesight. But I am not
the only short-sighted leader blinded by the limits
of mortality. I have heard from my man Gardner,
who heard from some other,

that among the un-interred of Bull Run
an orderly on grave duty made a singular
and telling find: while lifting a skull from the field,
he heard a hollow knock then a low rattle from within,
but when when he flipped the skull over
to search for an assumed bullet, out rolled

a glass eye.








            



Again, another new poem in the series.









continental divide

snowfield
backed up by pine

7 years old,
the first time he's seen
this much snow,
out of the car
pushing through hip-deep snow...

first snowball,
hits me on the chest,
I return fire,
snow battle ensues
until we collapse laughing
in the snow...

shadows pass
in forest silence,
behind thick pines,
deer,
giving no apparent notice
to the strangers
and their loud, unfamiliar games
in the virgin snow...

fresh storm coming,
first flakes fall,
fat
wet flakes
hitting with a splat
on our coats,
the windshield

time
to get off the mountain

(Colorado, late October, 1990)









                                                
 Here's a little bit of a strange poem from the KGB Bar anthology. The poet, Thomas Lux, read the poem at the bar on December 1, 1997.

Born in Massachusetts in 1946, Lux teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. 








Plague Victims Catapulted Over Walls Into Besieged City 

Early germ
warfare. The  dead
hurled this way turn like wheels
in the sky. Look: there goes
Larry the Shoemaker, barefoot, over the wall,
and Mary Sausage Stuffer,  see how she flies,
and the Hatter twins,, both at once, soar
over the parapet, little Tommy's elbow bent
as if in salute,
and his sister, Mathilde, she follows him,
arms outstretched, through the air,
just as she did
on earth.








                       

Here's another from January,  last year.










I dissemble convincingly

been up
for nearly three hours now
and the bug 
says
time to get your acey-duecy ass
back to bed

but
work to do
I protest

commitments
to keep

maybe
I can get all that done this
afternoon
I dissemble  convincingly
to my own self

until the
my acey-duecy ass
is going back to bed




bright day

bright day
morning clouds
burned away;  sunshine
folds itself around
afternoon shadows








                                 
Next, a poem by Samuel Hazo, from his book A Flight to Elsewhere. The book was published by Autumn  House Press in 2005.

Hazo is the author of poetry, fiction, essays, various works off translation, and four plays. He was named Pennsylvania's first State Poet Laureate.







Accident Ahead

Caboosed behind a funeral
   of truck after truck after truck
   you edged downhill until
   you passed the relics of bus
   hoods crumpled like excelsior,
   station wagon overturned
   and compact  cars compacted
   even more just hours earlier
   and left for scrap.
                                Firemen
   in helmets  and hip-high boots
   still browsed the berms.
                                          Fire engines
   and an ambulance kept idling in case.
Later a newscaster would claim
   that six of the fifty lives affected
   by the pile-up ceased on impact.
He blamed black ice.
                                   "It's what
   you never see until it's much
   too late because it fools
   the naked eye."
                             That sounded
   too impending to be overlooked.
It  spoke to you of more
   than January roads.
                                   The more
   you drove, the more you saw
   the implications and the risks
   as if you were a target in a  hunter's
   sight.
             With both hands
   tightly on the wheel, you steered  
   into the unforeseeable and unforeseen
   but definite black ice ahead,
   beyond and all around you.









                          



Number three new from last week. More in the series.









gravity's gold

Bella and I, her golden fur
blazing like the bright
of a second sun shining, and me,
devote disciple of the church
of intermittent napping,
sit  together on a park bench
in the central plaza crawling
with people seeming all
tourists, the only likely
resident habitues, the aged hippies
sitting behind us strumming
guitars, talking about everything
from starships to moons shadows
on the plaza in dim early
morning...

the tourists who pass,
old couples, pretty girls
with accents, all stop
to talk to Bella, to stroke
her head, as if she were,
indeed, the sun with the sun's
gravity, pulling them
to her orbit...

while she, usually so distant
and unwelcoming to anyone
who is not me, more
like a cold far star than
the warm draw
of an afternoon, basks
in the attention...

doesn't want to leave
when I get tired of
sitting

(Santa Fe, 2013








Tom Carey read at the KGB bar on March 23, 1998.

He was born in Santa Monica, California, the scion of two generations of cowboy actors, appearing, himself, such films as Plaza Suite and The Day of the Locust. He moved to New York in 1977, where he sang, acted, wrote, and finally, in 1988, became a Franciscan brother in the Society of  St. Francis.





Zohar
                  for Jane DeLynn

I keep meaning to tell you
about the thirteen mystics
expelled from Spain
by the demonic  Isabella.
how  they knew the secret
of  binding words to air.
And when the light poured
like oil
over the hear of Aaron,
they saw love,
indifference and need,
objects speeding through time,
low speaking clouds.
So, someone cuts
and someone eats
and someone always remembers
the agony and grace.
A five-year-old
running into the spray,
falls over a wagon.
Now this is the question:
The boy wailing
into the daichondra,
droplets cupped in green
and the sun in them.
The thirteen exiles stood,
their backs touching
a wall in Safed,
and they watched
while one at bread
and knew it mattered more
than they knew.
One elbow's on the table
the knife's
on the kitchen counter.
Neurons never actually touching
remember Second Avenue.
If it was, never was,
don't matter.
Everything's a mess.
Something speaks
in the arrangements.









                            

 January last year  again.










Monday notes

overcast day
today

too  bad

found my  sunglasses
I couldn't find
yester-sunny day

---

45  at sunrise
60 by noon, great for squirrel chasing
at the park mostly Bella
chasing
while me,  mostly I'll be watching

she'll never catch a squirrel
but she doesn't know
and I'm not telling

ambition -
it's  important
even in a dog's life








From A Coney Island of the Mind, I have several short poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

 The book was published in 1958 by New Directions. I was 15 or so  by the time the book got to me, Ferlinghetti, the first poet I read who seemed from a different universe than the poets they were stuffing down our throats at that time. It got better in a year or so when some subversive poetry editor sneaked e.e. cummings' buffalo bill is dead into our textbook.

Ferlinghetti couldn't be bothered to title his poems, a shortcoming that always pissed me off.






21

She loved to look at flowers
smell fruit
And the leaves had the look of loving

But halfass drunken sailors
staggered thru her sleep
scattering semen
over the virgin landscape

At a certain age
her heart put about
searching he lost shores

And heard the green birds singing
from the other side of silence


22

Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him
                         thru screendoor summers

Thru the back streets
                                 of all my memories

Somewhere a man laments
                                          upon a violin

a doorstep baby cries
                                   and cries again
                               like
                                      a
                                        ball
                                              bounced
                                                            down steps

Which helps the afternoon arise again
to a moment of remembered hysteria

Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him


23

The Widder Fogliani
                        otherwise known as Bella Donna
                                 the Italian lady
                                                      of American distraction
the Widder Fogliani
                                was a merryoldsoul
                 she had whiskers
                                             on her soul
                                                            and her soul was a pussy
But she had a hard coming of it
                                                 that time I beat her
                   at her own game
          which was painting moustaches
                                                            on statues
                                                    in the Borghese gardens
                                              at three in the morning
and nobody the wiser
                                  if ever she gave
      some stray Cellini
                                   a free Christmas goose


25

Cast up
            the heart flops over
                                           gasping 'Love'

a foolish fish which tries to draw
   its breath from flesh of air

And no one there is to hear its death
                                        among the sad bushes
        where the world rushes by
                                    in a blather of asphalt and delay








                      



 New from last week.










seasons changing around us

late getting there,
the park closed for the season,
so we are alone,
mile after mile of rolling hills
covered with the colors
of autumn, spread across
hill after hill,
like a box
of Crayolas spilled
in the summer by some  child,
left to melt in the sun
when mother called,
hardened now
in the cold,
to multicolored streaks
running where
summer flow had taken
them...

an early winter storm
follows us,
closer behind
every time we stop
to take in the fragile beauty,
its seasonal end
approaching,
buried in snow on the hills
so bright before
the surviving glory of the lost season
passing
all around and ahead...

we leave the parkway to stop
for the night
and in the morning
find our intended route
over the mountains blocked
by very heavy snow...

we take the low road
and leave the mountains
behind
for another day

(Blue Ridge Parkway, 2011)








                                            

Mark Strand was born in Canada  of  American parents in 1934. He served as U.S. Poet Laureate and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He read at KGB March 12, 1998.







The Night, the Porch

To stare at  nothing is to learn  by heart
What all of us will be  swept into, and baring oneself
To the wind is feeling  the ungraspable somewhere close by.
Trees can sway or be still. Day or night can be what they wish.
What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort
Of being strangers, at  least to ourselves. This is the crux
Of the matter,  which is why even now we seem to be waiting
For  something whose appearance would  be its vanishing -
The sound, say, of a few leaves falling, or just one leaf,
Or less. There  is no  end to  what we can learn. The book  out  there
Tells us as much, and was never written with us in mind.








This poem from January, last year,  is about a feral charcoal gray cat who lived on  our front porch and went walking with the dog and I every morning. She disappeared about a month ago,  and I miss her and her affection for the dog, even though she never, in the course  of a year and a half, let me touch her.

However, she was pleased to have me feed her, several times  a day.




charcoal cat

charcoal cat
a shadow in the dark,
her plush gray
coat fades into the night,
shifting between trees, picking
her hidden way
between
bushes,
finding all the dark pools
along her way,
a mysterious early-hour specter,
a presence unseen
until she steps too  close to the light
and I see her choose her soft lurking way
behind

she is so surprised








Next from my library I have two short poems by Li-Young Lee from his book, Rose. The book was published in 1986  by BOA Editions.

Lee was born in Indonesia to Chinese parents. His grandfather was China's first Republican President and his father was Mao's personal physician. After relocating his family to Indonesia, Lee's father spent 19 months in a prison camp there. When released, the family fled anti-Chinese sentiment, beginning a five year trek that took them through Japan and Hong Kong, before settling in the United States in 1964.

Lee attended Pittsburgh University, the University of Arizona and the State University of New York. He is a widely honored and widely published poet.





Nocturne

That scraping of iron on iron when the wind
rises, what is it? Something the wind won't
quit with, but drags back and forth.
Sometimes faint, far, the suddenly, close, just
beyond the screened door, as if someone there
squats in the dark honing his  wares against
my threshold. Half steel wire, half metal wind,
nothing and anything might make this noise
of saws and rasps, a creaking and groaning
of bone-growth, or body-death, marriages of rust,
or ore abraded. Tonight, something bows
that should not bend. Something stiffens that should
slide. Something, loose and not right,
rakes or gorges itself all night


 My Indigo

It's late. I've come
to  find the  flower which blossoms
like a saint dying upside down.
The rose won't do, nor the iris.
I've come to find the moody one, the shy one,
downcast, grave, and isolated.
Now, blackness gathers in the grass,
and I am on my hands and knees.
What is its name?

Little sister, my indigo,
my secret, vaginal and sweet,
you unfurl yourself shamelessly
toward the ground. You burn. You live
a while in two worlds
at once.








                              



Another new poem in the series.










three days on the mountain

after two days of climbing
we crossed
from west to east
in a heavy snowstorm,
knee-deep in half a winter's
accumulation
between the trees

it was about 2 in the afternoon
when we crossed
the crest,
within two hours
we found the clearing
where we slept that night
under a diamond strewn
sky...

a bright rising sun
woke us
under a cloudless blue sky
broken by the thing contrail
of a jet flying higher, even,
in the cold morning firmament
than where we slept

coffee over an open fire
and freeze-dried eggs
scrambled,
frying pan and coffee pot
cleaned in the snow,
breakfast eaten quickly
before the last day's trek
down the mountain,
an easy day,
each of us, as we spread out
along the trail,
quiet in our thoughts,
remembering
the past months,
friends now,
who we knew, in just a few days
would be gone,
unlikely to ever be seen
again

our last memories -
the mountain
and the three days
we spent together on it

(New Mexico, December, 1964)








                                            
Last for the week from my library, a poem by Paisley Rekdal, from her book, A Crash of Rhinos, published by the University of Georgia Press in 2000.

Rekdal  grew  up in Seattle, her mother Chinese-American and her father Norwegian. She received a BA degree from the University of Washington, an MA from the University of Toronto Center for Medieval Studies and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Widely published and honored, she teaches at the University of Utah.

It is a very interesting poem I have selected from her book. Perhaps sometime in the future after continued study, I will figure out the title.





on getting a dog and being told that what i really wanted was a child

For years I considered the journey.What meals
I'd make,  what cities I'd  conquer, the foreign thighs

of walls tattooed with graffiti. I imagined
the exhaustion of mornings up,

without a home, the pushing on, and thought
of sailors hovering the frozen

river crusts,  or the way stones
stuck the mouth of Magellan walking

through the Verzin gates. How they burst
through lip and gums! And how dangerous

their animals must have seemed to him with their yellow
faces and small teeth.And then,  of course,  I  thought

about how Magellan knew  his  men all  hated him, the one
Portuguese on a ship of Spaniards,  irritating and obvious

as a nipple. How they plotted
to revolt at each intersection of the sea

and cheered when the unknown natives
threw stones. Perhaps I am promiscuous,

the way some sailors  choose to love
themselves on long journeys

and Magellan, when he reached each new port,
lay on its fish-rotted quay

and sobbed. What I want
 is the dust of canyons

full of dead seas and the sun a killing god.  No need
for wars or discipline,

to make my body a bark
for  others cast adrift, bobbing like buoys

or ice flows. There are monsters on the Pole, Magellan wrote,
And giants, a handsome people.

Though he never knew what to  say of the woman
who  crawled aboard his boat to see if it was true:

that dingies suckle from the mother ship like pups
from wooden bitches.And  snuck to loosened nail  deep

inside herself to carry as she hobbled home,
nursing it in secret

as if its iron
was really gold.








                           


This is the last new  poem of the week, a break from the series I've been working on.









season of zombies walking

two weeks
of  cedar fever

the highest count
of cedar  allergens
in fifteen years

sniffling drippling
nose,
itchy
watery eyes.
energy
and ambition
swirling
down the great
bottomless
sink of Blatzovia-Kaplatz

I do not wish
to get  out of bed

I  do not wish to do
anything but sleep,
wrapped tight
in my blue  blankie of snug,
my  blue-raggedy, womb-memoried
nest of contented murmur

for
I live in a world
ob snuffling
blindly shuffling
zombies...

or,
at least,
seems that way
through my own zombie
eyes








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