Draught Beer Not Horses   Saturday, May 17, 2014







I lost a week while my computer rested peacefully at the repair shop. Nothing was accomplished but my reintroduction to the old-fashioned, slow-poke days of pen and ink.

But I am catching up, posting this only a few days off my regular schedule.

With it, I have some photos from Corpus Christi and the mid-gulf coast of Texas, an area where I lived very happily for fifteen years.

I have selections from a very good anthology, Unsettling America, An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. The book was published by Penguin Books in 1994.

I have poems from my library and mostly new poems from me, my old poems this week being only a week old, being the pen and ink poems I wrote during the week my computer was AWOL.

All in all, not bad for having lost a full week.


Here's what I have, shorter than usual, acceptable under the circumstances.


Me
if my mind was geography

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Old Italians Dying

Me
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #1

Jose Montoya
The Paradox of Loneliness...Is That It Is Constant

Me
barku express

Lawson Fusao Inada
Father of My Father

Me
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #2

Sonya Sanchez
Poem

Me
allergies

Julia Lisella
Song of the Third Generation

Me
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #3

Stanley Kunitz
The Mulch

Me
looking at a picture of Theda Bara

Gary Soto
Behind Grandma's House

Me
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #4
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #5  

Valerie Berry
 Difficult News

Me
there is a thread

Kimberly M. Blaeser
Certificate of Live Birth

Me
dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #6
dispatches from the  time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #7  

 Me
another passage one to the other            









                                                                                     



Here's the first  poem from the couple of days before I temporarily lost custody of my computer, a pretty normal way to start the day, actually.











if my mind was geography

I hate to write  poems
about being unable to write a poem
but let's face it...

if my mind was geography
it would be the Chihuahua Desert  nothing
but dry sand, angry frogs,
prickly pear cactus,
and ugly bugs...

if my mind  was ship
it would be saying, "What
iceberg?"...

if my mind was a parking lot
it would be deserted
but for oil drips and
skid marks where glories past collided
with reality present...

if my mind was a coffee cup
it would  be empty
except for coffee scum and a wet cigarette butt
on the  bottom...

if my mind was  a mountain
it would be underwater, ever seen
and never climbed...

if my mind was an ancient Egyptian
it  would be a mummy
wrapped
in sandpaper...

if my mind was  a burro
it would be climbing
the Andes on cracked red
toenails...

if my mind was a sentry at Fort Knox
it  would be asleep,
dreaming of copper pennies
and the baubles that bought Manhattan

if my mind was a poet
it  would be writing  about the twitchy fell
in the booth up  front, my god,
he won't stop  talking,
facing the wall all  a'bouncing
in his seat,
perhaps he's the poet
in the woodpile,
twitching with the trickle
of a poem tickling
between his
ears

a poem, I'm thinking
nothing
like this one








                                                                                  


The first  poem from this week's anthology, Unsettling America, is by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I've used the poem before, but it's one of my favorites of his work. Ferlinghetti, with Whitman, a master of the list poem, excels with it here, each item on  the list specific and recognizable.










The Old Italians Dying

For years the old Italians have been dying
all over America
For years the old Italians in faded felt hats
have been sunning themselves and dying
You have seen them on the benches
in the park in Washington Square
the old Italians in their black high button shoes
the old men in their old felt fedoras
                                      with stained hatbands
have been dying an dying
                                         day by day
You have seen them
every day in Washington Square San Francisco
the slow bell
tolls  in the morning
in the Church of Peter & Paul
in the marzipan church on the plaza
toward ten in the morning the slow bell tolls
in the towers of Peter & Paul
and the old men who are still alive
sit sunning themselves in a row
on the wood benches in the park
and watch the processions in and out
funerals in the morning
weddings in the afternoon
slow bell in the morning Fast bell  at noon
In one door  out  the other
the old men  sit there in their  hats
and watch the coming & going
You have seen them
the ones who feed the pigeons
                     cutting  the stale bread
                          with their thumbs & penknives
 the ones with old pocket watches
the old ones with the gnarled hands
                                  and wild eyebrows
the ones with the baggy pants
                                 with both belt & suspenders
the grappa drinkers with teeth like corn
the Piemontesi the Genovesi the Siciliani
                          smelling of garlic & pepperonis
the ones who loved Mussolini
the old fascists
the ones who loved Garibaldi
the old anarchists reading L'Umnita Nova
about the glory of the One
                                   who moves everything...
The old men are waiting
for it to be  finished
for their glorious sentence on earth
                                         to be finished
the slow bell tolls & tolls
the pigeons strut about
not even thinking of flying
the air too heavy with heavy tolling
The black hired  hearses draw up
the black limousines with black windowshades
shielding the widows
the widows with the long black veils
who will outlive them all
You have seen them
madre di terra,  madre di mare
The widows climb out of the limousines
The family mourners  step  out in stiff suits
The widows walk so slowly
up the steps of the cathedral
fishnets veils drawn down
leaning hard on dark cloth arms
Their faces do not fall apart
They are merely drawn apart
They are still the matriarchs
outliving everyone
the old dagos  dying out
in Little  Italys all over America
the old dead dagos
hauled out in the morning  sun
that does not mourn for anyone
One by one Year by year
they are carried out
The bell
never stops tolling







                                                           


For my old  poems this week, I'm using some not-so-old poems from the  week I was without my laptop, writing the old-fashioned way with pen and ink on a little journal.

Here's the first of them, written the first day I was stuck in a Shakespeare mode, just another ink-stained scribbler.













dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and  broad-leafed plants #1

how quaint,
this pen and flowing ink thing...

will
the inspiration flow
as well
as it flows when electricity courses
in a dry, red stream along the dark wire
pulling ideas from the dusty recesses  of  sheet-rocked walls
where mice and dust bunnies play,  pushing the ideas
to  my keyboard,  infecting my fingers
with the electricity of creation, my muse
energized and read to play
for another
day










                                                                    

The first poet from my library this week is  Jose Montoya, with a poem from his book Information - 20 Years of Joda. It is a bilingual book was published in 1992  by Chusma House  Publications. The book also includes many of the poets sketches.

Montoya, born in 1932 was a poet and artist from Sacramento, California, and was for time Sacramento's poet laureate and one of the most  influential Chicano bilingual  poets. He died in 2013.








The Paradox of Loneliness...Is That It Is Constant.

You can actually forget
loneliness, but only
momentarily and always
in times of  stress

And because you sing and
you travel far from home
because those songs have
to  be sung to delight people
and make them forget
loneliness you find yourself
alone,  alone.

And towards the end of
every sojourn you begin
to relax and you begin to
feel restless and an urgent
anticipation builds up
inside your gut to get back,
to get back home!

But being alone, one can
only look forward to more
loneliness -

Because there is no home
when one is alone.  and
that perhaps explains why
so many of us wind up
embracing ugly people.








                                                                                           



 A few new barku from two weeks ago.













barku express

night
an envelope
closed
around me -
marked, "return
to sender"

--

parked bus
rumbles -
in the dark,
writing
my
first poem

--

crossing
the continental  divide -
soft snow
drifting, first
snowball
fight

--

walking -
university
to downtown -
snow,
falling, cold
soft  angels  touching

--

homes carved
in cliffs,
fires,  cold
relics,
deserted -
all lost

--

Indian boys
replay Bighorn
revenge -
flatten grass
over
Custer's grave

--

distant
mountains -
white on blue
like clouds
cresting -
first snow

--

dog pees
intently,
doesn't see
rabbits
in the brush,
watching

--

journey ends
for the day -
dog  snores
dreams
rabbits -
running









                                                                  


From the anthology, this poem by Lawson Fusao Inada. Born in California,  Inada was the fifth Poet Laureate of the State of Oregon. Born a third generation Japanese American in 1938, he was interned
with his family at camps in California, Arkansas and Colorado for the duration of World War II. In addition to his work as a poet, Inada is a jazz bassist and began teaching poetry at Southern Oregon University in 1966. His poetry is most often informed by his music and his family's experiences in the internment camps.













Father of My Father

                             for Mtsuji Inada

I
The way the incense gripped,
coughing, everyone coughing,
their throats resounding in the hall...

Above the stage, a dragon
licked his  lip.

They were moaning,  bowing and moaning -
three old-kimonoed men
their tassels flapping.


The altar bristled
lacquer and gold latches.

The clapping wood, the gift
of incense in the bowl...

II
Incense. Sucking the wind from him -
face a deflated callus...

Then the shoes paraded, on and on,
issuing from the walls.

Finally, to be strolling
over the garden -

gaunt rocks, bonsai
knuckled at the bottom.

Above, all  structures
surrounding the pagoda of San Jose.

III
Have you ever seen
blue eyes in a Japanese face?

That is the main thing I remember.

She took the wrong road
nightly at their intersection,
leaving his shouting, screaming,
pacing the house with a flashlight

as if something was missing

Have you ever lost your woman?
Have you ever lost your crops
and had to move? -
packing  up  without your woman,
some evacuation going on...

Have you ever been wakened
by blue  eyes shining into your face?

You wondered who you were.

You couldn't move.

Or there were evenings
steeped  in scrolls and incense...

Sometimes,  to  be alone
in that museum,,cleaved
by shadows,, the tongue's disfigurings...

In Arkansas he staked a ragged garden.
Then that Colorado  wind
eroded.

I flourish in the sand.
But what comes second-hand
is not the same.

Something is missing.

I sometimes wake to streetlight
pacing in my room.

I would not hold him then.

Nothing could stop me now.









                                                           





Here's another from my pen and ink week.















dispatches from the time of  dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #2

approaching downtown
on Interstate 10

tall buildings
passing through clouds
of  light gauze

the sky lowered
to brush the tops
of big-haired women
and their Elvis-pompadoured
pimps
settling in at the end of shift
for pancakes
at The Pig Stand on
Broadway

long nights
and slow-starting days
for the men and their ladies








                                                                             





Here's a poem from my library by Sonia Sanchez. The poem is from her  book like the singing coming  off the drums, published  Beacon Press in 1998. Sanchez, born in Alabama n1934 is an African  American  poet closely associated with the  "Black Arts Movement." She has authored over a dozen poetry books, as well as plays and children's books.










Poem

1.
i am dreaming
i  have spread my dreams out like wings.
i have selected today a dream
about flying and i take off
sailing on  your blue smile.
for today it is enough.

2.
all this year
i have heard
my pores
opening.

3.
i have told
you my name
so there is
tomorrow.

4.
see me through
you own eyes
i am here.

5.
let us be  one with
the earth expelling anger
spirit unbroken.

6.
we are
only
passing
through let
us touch.

7.
come again  inside
me let us take another
turn at loving.

8.
i hear your smell
running  across my threshold.
shall  i hold your breath?








                                                                                    




A moment of clarity on a day when all else was a blur.










 allergies

queasy-brained
and
fuzzy-stomached

one thing to do
before returning to bed

this is not it








  
                                                                             

The next poet from the anthology, Unsettling America, is Julia Lisella. The poet received her Ph.D. in English at Tufts University in 2001. She currently teaches courses in American literature, poetry writing, women's literature and first year writing at Regis College. She also coordinates the Regis Writers Read Series.











Song of the Third Generation

I learned to read in the dark,
in the car, wherever the light
moved, shifted. My mother believed
I would burn my eyes out.
Between the breath and the text
my birth and hers kept happening
in the late night
in the daily horoscopes
in the 4:30 Movie
and the huge picture book filled with Hollywood stars.
My Ava Gardner died, my mother says,
My mother learned how to read the text of a life
as her mother learned to translate Il Progresso:
by reading a little bit of headline,
any little bit.
They could both predict disasters - my mother's
in American English: divorce, drug addiction
and insane asylums. Nonna's in rich Calabrian dialect:
earthquakes, earthquakes, and food shortages.
Somewhere between our mouths
and what we said is what we learned.
Somewhere in the old country
we breathed text
without knowing how to read.
I learned in the old way too -
in a corner of the kitchen
watching my mother pour batter
off flour and zucchini blossoms
into bright spattering oil,
or in the cool basement at the edge of the ironing board,
the lint speckling her dark sweater,
at her elbow as she whipped the  cloth
beneath the needle of her industrial Singer.
No other record, no other text
exists but the buzzing and this way of learning
in the old way, which is any way
that we can.








                                                         

                                                                                        




Another poem from the pen and ink days while my laptop was undergoing maintenance.














 dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants  #3

intimate
early light

immediate
past-dawn,
vibrant
and clear

the air cleaned
by overnight storms,
not enough to break
the drought, but still chasing
from the new day
months of dreary, dry
and vacant

days been nowhere,
days going nowhere,
holes
in time
sucking life, leaving for us
only still and sterile

a break from all that
this morning

new light infectious
with life
days








                                                                                                 

Now, a poem by Stanley Kunitz, from his collection, Passing Through, The Later Poems, New and Selected. The book was published by W.W. Norton in 1995. Kunitz, born in 1905 was Poet Laureate of the United States twice, first in 1974, then again 26 years later in 2000. He died in 2006.









The Mulch

A man win a leaf in his head
watches an indefatigable gull
dropping a piss-clam on the rocks
to break it open.
Repeat. Repeat.
He is an islander
who loves the margins of the sea,
and everywhere he goes he carries
a bag of earth on his back.
Why is he down in the tide marsh?
Why is he gathering salt hay
in a basket crammed to his chin?
"It is a blue and northern air,"
he says, as if the shiftings of the sky
had taught him husbandry.
Birthdays for him are when he wakes
and falls into the news of weather,
"Try! Try!" clicks the beetle in his wrist,
his heart is an educated swamp,
and he is mindful of his garden,
which prepares to die









                                                                                                




I wrote this as a kind of a lark a couple of  months ago, never got around to using it.  I saw the picture  years ago and never forgot  it.











looking at a picture of Theda Bara

she ate men
for  breakfast lunch and dinner

and didn't care where
she left the bones

so
smear me  with peanut butter

and call me when it's time
for a midnight

snack...

I'll bring the
jelly









 
                                                    





Next from the anthology, Gary Soto, one of my favorites, used here often.












Behind Grandma's  House

At ten I wanted fame. I had a comb
and two Coke bottles, a tube of Bryl-creem.
I borrowed a dog, one with
Mismatched eyes and a happy tongue,
and wanted to prove I was tough
In the alley, kicking over trash cans,
A dull chime of tuna cans falling.
I hurled light bulbs like grenades
And men teachers held their heads,
Fingers of  blood lengthening
On the ground. I flicked rocks at cats,
Their goofy faces spurred with foxtails.
I kicked fences. I shooed pigeons.
I broke a branch from a flowering peach
And frightened ants with a stream of piss.
I said "Shit," "Fuck you," and "No way
Daddy-O to an imaginary priest
Until grandma came into the alley,
Her apron flapping in a breeze,
Her hair mussed, and said "Let me help you,"
And punched me between the eyes.
















Here are two more old-new from pen and ink week.













dispatches from the  time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #4

bedlam!!

crickets cricking
frogs croaking

(a basso profundo call
from the bull of the pack
ripples water in the
creek)

rooster from down the street
crowing
and the dogs on both sides
barking
and the  backyard trees
rustling
in the morning breeze

all  life
awake and waiting for the morning to begin
except for that single
species
that requires a newspaper
and a pot of coffee at Jim's
(with some first-light sass from Berlinda
as she pours out the first cup
of black awakening)

that would be me...

waiting for my first sip of liquid alert

all  that
before the starting pistol can sound...

and even so,
at best only half-awake, still ahead
of the rest of my kind, they still snug abed
waiting for the silence of all morning creatures
to  return as the get on with their daily does-its, shh
I whisper to Bella, rattling her collar
as we sneak out the front door, careful quiet
so as to not wake the sleeping kind, eager
to  wrap ourselves in the morning bedlam before
the serious silence of day
returns...

self-aware in our  own slow ways,
and eager for Belinda's morning  administration
of coffee-conscious that will bring us,  even in it's limited,
dawn-orange way,
to the wise-guy antics of another
turn of the universal wheels
of then and now



dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #5

beginning day six without my computer

and the sands of time
trickle so slow
drifting
across the face of
Ozymandias
sinking
so slowly sinking
beneath the sands of minutes
turned to hours, sands of Solitaire,
the game of lost minds, trickling,
slow card upon slow
card
the sands of time
like the will to live
slowly trickling
waiting
for  digital resurrection
bits and bytes of sand trickling
through  my  dust-filled
mind








                                                                                   


The last of my library poems this week is by Valerie Berry, from her book Difficult News. The book was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2001. Berry is a physician practicing community medicine in the San Francisco Bay area.











for Nancy Roeske

One day, after lunch, that year
before you died when no one knew
you would, we talked about what kills
women doctors. We discussed the literature,
facts crisp on our tongues,our four hands dumb
among sandwich plates and teacups, the bread knife
relaxed on the cutting board

Those kitchen  academics proved all Abstract
and no Conclusion. What keeps coming back
is just this summary of gesture: you hand on the edge
scraping crumbs into a whole-wheat pyramid,
the tiny pile flattened by one moist fingertip,
the crumbs carried slowly to your mouth,
your hand undulant, awkward - a next-to-
last gesture I saw, but did not see - your hand
lifting like a bird at the start of
long flight, before it finds
the rhythm of distance.









                                                                                  



I had  another poem  here but decided it really sucked so let my brain out to roam to see where it would go. Better or worse, it went here.











there is a thread

there is a connecting
thread
that binds the world
and all its parts,
the new and the old
the dirty and the clean
the saint and the thief
the chicken and the road
the peanut and the butter
the prince and the pauper
the acorn and the oak
the tree and the forest
the lake and the  trout
the love of a man for a woman
of a man for a man
of a woman for a woman
the love of all that moves in the day
and whispers in the darkest night
the moon and the stars and the sun
and each of its orbiting
globes whether gatherings of gas
or rock and iron and death
and life and the hydrogen and oxygen
and the orca and the ocean
that enfolds it
and the field and the mouse
and the mountain and the top
and the oceans and the deep
and me and you,
the me part
you
the you part
me
there  is a thread that connects
us
to all
all
to  us
and finally
us
to we
together








                                                                                            


Here's the last poem this week from the anthology, Unsettling America. The poem is by Kimberly M. Blaeser. The poet, critic, essayist and fiction writer is a Native American of mixed German and Anishanibbe descent.









Certificate of Live Birth

I
Shuffling papers
          rushing to find some critical
          form or letter or journal
          mired amid the stacks that have collected
          the I've hidden in every corner of the room

Tiny newborn footprints step out of flatland
           a xerox copy of my birth certificate
Nostalgia
           no time -
Yet as I hold the single sheet
          it shapes itself and curves out of my hand

Chubby ankle circled firmly
           protesting kicking held still
           foot inked
           the page indelibly marked
           with my unwilling signature
Perhaps some memory of that first helplessness
           makes me struggle still against capture
           against hint of bonds -
You won't  imprint me again

II
Or perhaps it was your capture
            that so enraged my yet unconscious mind
            that brought me kicking into the world
For yours was the more torturous:
            Father, Caucasian.
            Mother, Caucasian.
What pain what shame what fear
            must have forced that check in that flatland box?

Mother, should I correct it

But no it is more accurate
             just as it stands
In that mark I read your life
I read the history of Indian people in this country
It is my heritage more truly than any account of bloodlines
It tells the story of a people's capture
It tells the story of a people's struggle to survive

And, Mother, this poem is the certificate of our live birth
For together we have escaped their capture
Our time together outdistances their prison

It stands in ruins within the circle of our lives
               Father, Caucasian.
               Mother, American Indian.
               Daughter, mixed blood,








                                                                             






Here are my last  two  pen and ink poems from my week marooned on that pen and ink island with Winslow the volleyball.















 dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants #6

midnight storm
crashes like a tidal wave
through the neighborhood -
the sky lit
by crashes of great
thunder

rain like
a Caribbean waterfall,
flooding streets,
pushing the creek
over  12 feet,bank
to bank...

this morning
dry
so far but dark...

more strong winds
blowing from the north

cold




dispatches from the time of dinosaurs and broad-leafed plants

another glory morning
after another overnight
storm...

"clear as a bell"

I've heard it said
so  many time and this  day
gives  it meaning
like never before -
sunlight ringing clear
yellow
as if we were within
not under
the wonderful yellow sun...

53 degrees now, 40s predicted
for tonight

mid-May in South Texas,
weather confirming
the source of our Tex-Mex  culture
of the absurd...









                                                                                



Here's my last new poem for the week.












another passage one to the other

bright  full
moon heading into
the blue-black western sky

orange tinge
to the east, new day's promise

night
and its creatures
begin their daily retreat

those of us who find life
in both the dark and the light
exult in another passage
one to the
other











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Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
zafusy
The Blogging Poet
Poetsarus.Com
Wild Poetry Forum
Blueline Poetry Forum
The Writer's Block Poetry Forum
The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet