Third Horse in a Two-Horse Race   Wednesday, February 26, 2014







My anthology this week is The Essential Haiku, a selection of haiku by the three greatest masters of the form, Basho, Buson, & Issa. The book was published in 1994 by The Ecco Press, with translations by Robert Hass.

To add to these classic masters, I also have a few haiku by a current master of the old forms, my friend, Gary Blankenship. I have also included a few of my own less-masterful haiku.

I finally replaced my stolen camera, but it was about half way through preparing this post. So, I have some very old photos, plus a few try-outs from the new camera, mostly from an old industrial area on the near west side of the city, an area so far barely touched by the fine hand of urban renewal. Also have a nice picture of a bison, one of the first pictures I took with the new camera as we did a little country drive-around last weekend.

You know the rest of the story, poetry from my library as well as new and old stuff from me.

Here they are:


Me
about my red shoes

Kobayashi Issa
Four Haiku

Me
why do we eat cows but we do not eat dogs

Alice Walker
Compulsory Chapel 
The Kiss

Me
it  was our garden too

Yosa Buson
Four Haiku

Jane Hirshfield  
Tamara Stands in Straw
A Story      

Me
the moon last night
another day

Matsuo Basho
Four Haiku

Me
a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

Paula Rankin
Miracles
Weathering

Me
for two unnamed

Gary Blankenship  
Eight Haiku

Me 
and a good morning to you too, buckaroo

Daniel Donaghy
Elegy for T.L.

Me
all quiet on the moor

Me
Five Haiku 

Me
around the lake

Daisy Zamora
Hand Mirror
Beloved Voices
Blanca Arauz 

Me
it's their gift








      




 First for the week












about my red shoes

   bought me some red tennis shoes
last week
at a tent sale in a supermarket parking lot

Addiddas,
they told me,  though  I'll admit
the fourth "d" seems a little suspicious to me
but they're right and
pretty red
anyway and I'm a regular dude
flashing my red shoes down
the street - fire-
walking down the sidewalk,
each sizzling step a proclamation,
saying to the world, hey, look at these
red red shoes

and I'm talking red here,
red as the red sporty Studebaker
(Golden Hawk, or some such)
I wanted my father to buy when I was sixteen,
long and low and sporty and red red
red,
but my father, always so practical said,
not for a family of four,
he said, and I though why not just buy the car
for me and I'll drive off to wild and exciting
long and low and red-red sporty car
places
and you'll only have  to find a car for three,
that's what I thought, which I thought was pretty practical
but didn't say it because
dad's practicality didn't come with any aspect
of irony or compassion for the desperate needs of a horny
sixteen-year-old seeing in such a long and low and red
sporty Studebaker a promise of  certain  success
in the love and hot dirty sex department
so he ended up buying a
clunky
ugly
ugly
blue
certainly not red
red
Plymouth instead
Blue Buzzard, I called it, absolutely not a repository
of love and dirty sex and slow
as a three-legged turtle
with a hernia
besides...

---

and today
I sit here in my comfortable little
coffee and breakfast nest
feet stretched out, admiring my red Addiddas tennies
and the way they set a warm blaze
to my feet, thinking they're almost the best thing
ever, except for that long and low and red sporty Studebaker
I never had and for which I'd trade my fire-walking
red red tennies
in an Addiddas minute







                               



First  from this weeks haiku anthology of the three masters, I have four pieces by Kobayashi Issa. Born in 1763, Issa died in 1827.









   Visiting the graves,
the old dog
   leads the way.

---

   In a dream
my daughter lifts a melon
   to her soft cheek

---

   Autumn evening -
it's no light thing
   being born a man

---

   In the thicket's shade
a woman by herself
   singing the rice-planting song









                    




From February, 2010, a philosophical excursion.












why do we eat cows but we do not eat dogs?

why do we eat cows
but we do not eat
dogs?

is it because we've seen
the thrashing legs
and heard the muted yelps
of dogs dreaming
while never have we seen
a dreaming cow?

is it because we see a likeness
to our preferred self in the dog, in
it's spirit and curiosity and
sense of fun
and play;
never seeing the same
in a cow, no cow playing chase,
tugging on an old sock, no cow
gamboling in its field?

is it because
dogs fight when attacked
while cows go quietly
to  slaughter?

is it because a dog
will protect us,
while a cow will never even notice
we are in danger
and wouldn't do anything about it
if they did?

is it because
when we look into the eyes
of a dog
we see a recognition of ourselves
while the cow's eyes
show us only a reflection?

is it because we think dogs
are smarter
than cows, their fiercely
active minds,
always alert and ready to
jump on anything
that attracts their attention?
is it because their attention
can be attracted,
unlike cows who live in a docile,
placid world, a zen world
where they ride the waves

of the eternal one, the ultimate
Buddhist  of the fields,
having found the serenity
of grass and sky while
all else fades? - could this be why
in some places
dogs  are eaten and cows revered?

these are some of the questions
that plague me
whenever I think about
the practice of vegetarianism,
the principle reason why
I strive
to  think of the practice of
vegetarianism
as seldom
as
possible








                                             




First from my library this week, I have two poems by Alice Walker from her  book , Once, published in 1987 by The Woman's Press.












Compulsory Chapel

i
A quiet afternoon
the speaker
dull
the New Testament
washed out
Through the widow
a lonely
              blue jay
makes noisy song.

ii
The speaker crashes
on
through his speech
All eyes are
upon him
Over his left
ear
the thick hair
is beginning
to slip.

iii
I would not mind
        if I were

                      a sinner,

but as it is
- let me assure you -
I sleep alone


The Kiss

i was kissed once
by a beautiful man
all blond and
                      czech
riding through bratislava
on a motor bike
screeching "don't yew let me fall off heah naow!"

the funny part was
he spoke english
and setting me gallantly
on my feet
kissed me for
not anyhow looking
like aunt jemima.








                                                    


 From last week, a little more  serious poem than the first one.

We see this more and more, animals moving back into our back yards from where we thought we had banned them years ago. I don't mind the raccoons, but word is black bears from Mexico are migrating north and getting closer  all the time.










it was our garden too

   it was  our garden, too,
say the beasts
as they come down from the mountains,
through the forests,
over the hills,
across the deserts,
gather at the river
as it flows past
time,
and time again

it was our garden
too,
they cry,
and look what you've done,
our garden,  too,
and look what you've done,
they cry

our garden, too,
and look what you've done,
they sing
in a might growling, snarling roaring, quaking
chorus,
and now your time is through,
and now your time is through...

you time is through,
the sing and sing and sing,
their voices filling the void of our filth,
the poison and destruction
we leave behind, their song echoing amid
sounds of rebirth,
as the cacophony of us begins
to fade and
die








                           


From the haiku anthology, the second great master, Yosa Buson. Buson, known in his day as both a poet and an artist, lived from 1716 to 1783. (The illustration to the left is a self-portrait.)










   Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
   above the withered fields.

---

   Cover my head
or my feet?
   the winter quilt.

---

   A bat flies
in moonlight
   above the plum blossoms.

---

   A moored boat;
where
   did the spring go?








                                             
 Next from my library, two  poems by Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book, Of Gravity & Angels. The book was published Wesleyan University Press in 1988.








Tamara Stands in Straw

and dreams her long-necked, sweet-grass reveries
and shifts her weight in the patient way
of horses in the cold.
She will be a long time in this stall,
through the entire season of grass
she will have alfalfa, timthy,
an eight-foot, spare enclosure keeping her dry
on hooves held closed with polymer and wire.
This tall barn covers her strangely,
a mare who's never been kept in;
a worn-out structure roofed with tin,
it magnifies the rain.
I am to stay with her for several hours,
to keep her on her feet till the plaster sets.
The stable-owner sends a thermos of tea
and  drink slowly,
taking in its heat
in the faint warmth of the barn;
while the mare dreams and wakes and drinks
and returns to her hay and then her dreaming,
while darknesstighte3nsto the single space off horse
and night sounds of iron scud against the concrete
through all  the layered softness of straw.



A Story

A woman tells me
the story of a small wild bird,
beautiful on her window sill, dead three days.
How he daughter came suddenly running,
"It's moving, Mommy, he's alive."
And when she went, it was.
The emerald wing-feathers stirred, the throat
seemed to beat  again with pulse.
Closer then, she saw how the true life lifted
under the wings. Turned her face
so her daughter would  not see, though she would see.








                          

 Here's another from last week. As I say in the poem, what with cold and cedar fever, I haven't spent much time outside at night for the past several weeks. Cedar fever back with a vengeance, but cold gone, at least for a while, so I went outside and looked at the night sky. Moon and stars still there, giving no evidence of having missed me.











the moon last night

   the moon last night
big
and bright

first time I've seen it in a while,
having been hiding inside by the fireplace
through last week's cold nights

I assume
it's been there all along
and if it missed me
I have received
no
notice off it

this morning
reminded that it was there in the dark sky
all these nights
despite
my inattention, I assume
that it remains
somewhere
behind fog covering equally
the city and the sky
and the cows and rabbits and deer
and ancient gentlemen or ladies
pushing their walkers
before me if there be such
before me

I'll drive slow
just
in case
and hope I'm not over by those
impatient to  get where they're going
(not Sunday Services, I bet)
and not of sufficient imagination
to entertain any suspicion that there might be something
ahead
unexpected or unfamiliar
aimed at
re-arranging the circumstances
of their life...

it's the weather, brings out the different character
of us - the moon
encourages the crazy, while the fog
just eggs on  the most basic
stupid
that  lurks
until the next
obscure
and unsettled day descends
upon us



Two foggy days in a row last  week.  So naturally, the way I work every day, responding to whatever is in front of me, two fog poems in a row.


another day

   growing up  near the coast,
living
for fifteen years
right on the coast,
fog
seems to me an unexceptional way to start the day

like today,
the morning wrapped in thick mist
lying lightly on the ground,
shifting and moving in the slightest breeze,
mysterious, secrets waiting
to be seen,
morning like a book  waiting to be opened

each foggy morning a new day to be discovered,
all the mysteries of the last day's shifting uncertainties
returned,  waiting, like the morning's new book
waiting for an appreciative reader...

i wait this morning for the fog to clear,
to  pack away its mysteries and reveal the new and unread day
that waits behind the gray shade of early obscurity

I wait,
rarely disappointed when the curtain is  lifted
to  another day...

another day being my continuing ambition,
each one more precious than the last
in this life that grows shorter
with each blind cover...

---

another day open to me
welcomed and
welcoming








                                    

 
Last from the haiku anthology, four pieces by the third master, Matsuo Basho. The earliest of the three masters, Basho was born in 1644 and died in 1694.










   Midfield,
attached to nothing,
   the skylark singing.

---

   Clear water -
a tiny crab
   crawling up my leg.

---

   The winter sun -
on the horse's back
   my frozen shadow.

---

   First snow
falling
   on the half-finished bridge.








                                

We spent a few days at Lake Tahoe in 2010. I drove, 500 plus miles San Antonio to El Paso, clip a little edge of New Mexico, across Arizona and Nevada (some fierce winter weather in Nevada). Dee flew to Reno where I picked her up. After our visit at Lake Tahoe was done, we drove back together, to  California, then  along Interstate 10 back to San Antonio. I don't know how Dee liked her  plane  ride, but I loved my drive, even the scary part through the Nevada snow storm.









a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

   fifteen inches of snow in Reno
yesterday
none here at  Lake Tahoe

until now

the day,
bright and clear in the morning
and we  drive some number of miles
around the lake, taking pictures
along the way

a change begins now

from my tenth floor window
I watch snow clouds
cross the north mountains,
then begin a slow
drift across the water toward us

the "little cat feet"
whisper
over cold water

the wind below
picks up,
stirs up little storms
of dust
as the larger storm
draws near

first flurries
drift
past  my window








Next, here are two short poems by Paula Rankin. The poems are from her book, Augers, published in 1981 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press.

The poet died in 1997 at age 53 after a long battle with lung disease. I can't find a photo of here anywhere. Every once in a while I find a poet, even one with multiple books, like Rankin, who seem to have made a determination never to be photographed.







Miracles

Because I want to believe,
I stare at the procession
of those who come to be healed:
they lay afflictions at his feet
like addresses obscene callers dial from
when we, the as-yet-afflicted,
bed down for the night.

Everything is here that is needed:
river for total immersion, oil
for anointing, copperheads for the faithful

and he demons whose number is legion,
who have been through this before;
they quake in their human apartments,
steeling themselves for the shock
of raw air and the hunt of old wounds
for new flesh to lie down in.


Weathering

January: the dark comes down,
the air brittle with predictions.
I will not be going out:  leg in a cast,
I am trying to keep
to  safe, small places

trying not to think
of the cow walking dumbly up the embankment onto the highway
or the child found under the bridge
or the nursing home in east Nashville
where the wiring is faulty.

I am trying to be very quiet.
Perhaps I will go
unnoticed.

Then I hear my small son
singing into the darkness
as he slides down the driveway
home.








                                




I address the next piece to those among us who believe they, in their arrogance,  have the right and the power to forever interfere in the deepest and most personal affairs of the human heart.











for two unnamed

love is a fragile blossom
too rare
and delicate
to deny when it blooms

it is to be celebrated,
not  denied,
celebrated for oneself and others,
for to deny either for self or others
is to deny our own
most gentle
spirits...

---

though it is fragile,
love is also  hearty and persistent
following its own guiding
stars

not subject
to the whims of kings and princes
and Russian czars, who,
though they can ban it,
cannot stop it
any more than their edicts can stop
the wind that blows across fields
in summer,
the waves at night whispering
softly on sandy beaches,
the stars that shine, or the moon
that passes over us night after night

for love, all
love,
is as natural as all the other beauty and solace
nature provides to ease our passage
through this world and our live

for nature has decided it is our nature
to love and be loved,
our nature,
not to bow to censure
and the dictates
of jealous authority, such dark souls
in high or low places who live
in the misery
of their own unnatural and loveless
lives

poor dreary spirits - the love they cannot find
for themselves
cannot be denied to others...

they should as well shout  at the winds
that will forever blow

undeterred








                                




Having presented to you the old haiku masters, here's a modern master, my friend from Washington state, Gary Blankenship.











   brushstrokes lightly touch
the parchment
   the impression of an idea

---

   once a month she remembered
the first time
on the playground in the snow

---

   a shelf full of baseball caps
my favorite
   free at the dollar store

---

   I thought I remembered
what I forgot
   but I forgot I remembered

---

   sunflowers along the fence
peek
   at her sunbathing

---

   a cat with a mouthful
of feathers
   attacked by crows

---

   down the basement stairs
centipedes
   a spider on the light cord

---

   near abandoned homesteads
a scream
   relax it's only a cougar








                     




Here's another old poem, again from February, 2010.












and a good morning to you, too, buckaroo

   the Spurs
lost to the Lakers last night

I just noticed my vehicle inspection sticker
expired a month ago

and Sarah Palin
is still gettin' away with it -

on the other hand
the sun is shining

bright and fresh
and yellow as fresh cream

and a chilled north breeze
blows a hint of far mountains

and I haven't had a hangover
in more than 30 years

so good morning
to you, too,

buckaroo -

I'm feeling pretty damn good
this morning -

considering.








                                           



The next poem is by Daniel Donaghy, from his book,  Street Fighting Poems. The book was  published in 2005 by BkMk Press of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.











Elegy for T.L.

The El's catwalk called to us
while we passed quarts

of Schaefer's someone stole.
Fifty feet up, it stretched
beyond our broken places
in both directions.

I was second to make it to  the top.
I stared at your dark form

and streetlights even with our heads,
saw you tightroping the catwalk

straight out of your life
toward the houses of the rich.

You didn't once look down.
You didn't hold the rail.

The only sounds our feet
shuffling the metal walk.

You feel so quietly
no one else knew you were gone.








                                   




I going to finish this week with two new dog poem from last week. Here's the first one.












all quiet on the moor

   a real Baskerville
morning,
thick and soupy
along the ridge,  crossing
the new footbridge over Apache Creek
like pushing through a wet curtain hanging
limp and still

my golden hound has not a care
about such as fog, it being no match
for her black, twitch nose
and furred, at-attention
ears

no fear
she says to me her head up
and her eyes
cut to face me full  on

nothing out there
I can't
handle,  she says

just stay close...









                        




Having reviewed the masters from the haiku anthology and a modern master, my friend Gary  Blankenship, here several of my own.

I don't remember if these were intended to be actual haiku as properly defined and I don't feel like counting syllables this late in the game, so I'll just claim them to be haiku  at least in spirit. They were published in 2004 in Liquid Muse, an on-line journal of short verse.















    cloudless sky
after summer rain
   air neon bright

---

   fly high little gull
challenge the limitless sky
   surf on wet gulf winds

---

   summer morning dew
rivulets on sun-stained glass
   blue through water falls

---

   summer clouds glower
trembling leaves in sunlight shimmer
   waiting winds whisper

---

   tall grass burns brown
in fearsome summer sun
   cactus blooms bask








                              




Here's another poem from our days in Lake Tahoe. My last poem this week from February, 2010.












around the lake

rain
snow
ankle-deep
slush puddles
and sidewalks

mountains
on the other side
of the lake
as well as those
hanging above us
hidden
by the clouds
that settle over us

in our South Texas home,
a city-wide emergency
would have been declared
hours ago, but here,
people walk on the sidewalks,
cars drive on the streets,
skiers line up to take a lift to
a mountain top
whose existence must,
under these conditions,
be taken on faith

yellow school buses
pass
snow chains  clanking

Reba and I go for a walk
at lakeside
in a park I found yesterday

we are not the first
to break the snow, little
duck tracks, triangles
divided by a line
from point to base,
and tracks of some bird
of a larger sort, tridents
in the snow

a white sailboat sits
offshore
half hidden  in the
snow

there yesterday
as well...








The last poet this week from my library is the very interesting poet and revolutionary Daisy Zamora. Born in 1950 in Nicaragua to a wealthy and prominent family, she came joined in the fight against the dictator  Samoza in the 1970s, joining the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1973. Exiled for a period, she returned to become a combatant in the Sandinista revolution. Later, in 1979 during the final Sandinista offensive, she became the voice and program director for the clandestine Radio Sandino. After the revolution was won, she was appointed vice minister for culture in the new Sandinista government. During this period and after, she authored five books of poetry in Spanish, including this one, which, in my edition, is published in both Spanish and English. Translator for the book was Barbara Paschke.





Hand Mirror

After so many years
my grandmother Ilse returns
with her astonished
dark and melancholy eyes,
and glances
       - Slender Narcissus -
at her small silver pool,
her magic oval,
her moon of cut glass,
occupying this face
more and more hers
                         and less mine


Beloved Voices

That afternoon when you called Maria Mercedes
I discovered in your voice the voice of your father
whom I never knew

There was a moment
when you spoke with that voice that wasn't yours.

A voice
              echo of another voice
that your older sister, Gladys,
               would remember
or your mother (if she were living)
would have recognized immediately.


Blanca Arauz

I met her at the beginning of the war,
we became close;
drinking coffee and talking all afternoon
and sometimes all night
                        until dawn
we realized we thought alike.

A single body. The same ideas.
                         We were like two lamps
- besides the Coleman lantern
that lit up the whitewashed planks of the telegraph office -
even though we weren't together,
even though we spent five years apart,
she in San Rafael, I in these mountains.

Two  lights seeking each other, sending signals,
                         calling out
across the marshes, through the night and trees
         to illuminate one another.









                      



And here's the second of my dog poems to end the week.












 it's their  gift

   the squirrel,
hanging on the tree trunk
at about dog-head level,
looks at the dog

the dog looks at the squirrel

I  look at both of them,
waiting who  will break first

finally,
the squirrel says, "fuck this,"
and scrambles up the
tree

the dog looks up the tree,
looks at me,
looks, again,
up the tree, looks again,
at me,,  says, "well,  hell," with her eyes,
along with some dog cuss-words
not fit to be repeated
anywhere outside a dog pound

such a proper lady
for such un-lady-like language

she hangs her head,
embarrassed
about the squirrel and tricks
and disrespect to  the canine-kind, embarrassed at her own
gullibility, embarrassed not least
by her awful cussing...

she turns and heads off down the trail...

"we'll not speak of this again," she says

such a truly embarrassed and chastened
dog -

but it is temporary...

"let's go find a good tree and pee on it," she says,
having clearly put the morning
up to now behind
her,  moving
on,as dogs do...

it is their gift











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Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
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