Viva Fiesta San Antonio   Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Before  regular business this week, this business.

My new eBook of poetry, "New Days & New Ways" should start appearing on retailers' eShelves within a week or two. A list of current retailers is at the end of this post. This is my fifth poetry eBook. I also have a poetry book in print and an eBook of short  stories.






And now, back to regular order.







My pictures this week from the Battle of the Flowers parade about a month ago. I just now got around to uploading them. San Antonio's annual Fiesta runs about 21 days. Weeks of activities all  over the city,  including three official parades (and a bunch unofficial) during that period, the River Parade, which I've never been to, and two street parades, the Battle of the Flowers during the day, and then following the same routethat evening, the Fiesta Flambeau night parade. Both of the street parades pass right by IAMA, my usual coffeehouse hideout, providing an air conditioned base to watch the parade. This year, unlike last year, I concentrated my photo taking more on the crowd and less on the parade itself.

Even so, some things in a San Antonio parade must be covered, the caballos, of course, and their vaqueros and vaqueras. And with 25 or 30 Fiesta Princesses, there must be a picture of at least one of them. And the bicycle cops who keep the downtown safe for the tourists, and, as, nearly 60  years ago, the worst tuba player in best double-a high school band in the state, a picture of a tuba line cannot be ignored. So, that's the parade.

My anthology is Against Forgetting, subtitled "Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness." The book was published W.W. Norton in 1993.

Plus, as usual, my stuff, new and old, and my weekly potion of poets from my library.


Here's my usual suspects:


Me
pale rising

Marina Tsvetayeva
a white low sun

Me
a fan  of little things

Naomi Shihab Nye
For Rose on Magnolia Street
West Side 

Me
the invisible man at work

Vladimin Mayakovsky
Past  one o'clock

Me
retirement living

Gilbert Sorrentino
Two untitled pieces from The Perfect Fiction

Me
my cat hat

Gunter Eich
Old Postcards

Me
no fish swim in the same sea  twice

John Barr
Body Language

Me
voices from the sky

Eric Fried
One Kind of Freedom Speaks

Me
sustained by the memory

Marge Piercy
a cold and married war

 Me
remembering a summer afternoon

Miklos Radnoti
 Picture Postcards

Me
a happy man

William Meredith
The Fear of Beasts

Me
another one begins

Jimmy Santiago Baca
Immigrants in Our Own Land

Me
how to make a German comedy
I  feel challenged

Charles Baudelaire
You Will Repent

Me
survival tactics  








                                                                     



First for the week, a beautiful morning beginning.












pale rising

early morning...

the fly-over lane
connecting
Loop-4110 to I-10

the dichotomy of a quiet morning
starting

to the west...

night retains its dominion,
pinpoint
lights against
the black 
still holding

to the east...

a pale sky slowly lighting,
a no-drama
day break, as if in its passage
of the night, the sun
set aside it's bright orb,
diffused
its morning burn
to  welcome
slowly
a kinder, gentler
day









First from this week's anthology, Marina Tsvetayeva. Born in Moscow in 1892, Tsvetayeva, my favorite of the Russian poets who is considered by many as  the greatest poet of the 20th century, was on the wrong side of the Russian Revolution and lived in harsh conditions in and out of exile the rest of her life. Her daughter imprisoned twice and her husband murdered by the secret police, unable to write or publish, she died by suicide in 1941.

This poem is from Poems to Czechoslovakia, a long sequence written in her later years in protest over the Nazi occupation of that country.



A white low sun...

A white low sun, low  thunderclouds; and back
behind the kitchen-garden's white wall, graves.
On the sand, serried ranks of straw-stuffed forms
as large as men, hang from some cross-beam.

Through the staked fence, moving about, I see
a scattering: of soldiers, trees,  and roads;
and an old woman  standing by her gate
who chews on a  black hunk of bread with salt.

What have these grey huts done to  anger you,
my God? and why must so many be killed?
A train passed, wailing, and the soldiers wailed
at is retreating path got trailed with dust.

Better to die, or not to have been born,
than hear the plaining,  piteous convict  wail
about these beautiful dark eyebrowed women.
It's soldiers who sing these days. O Lord God.

Translated by David McDuff and Jon Silkin








                                                           



Here's an old poem from June, 2011.









a fan of little things

just finished
breakfast, thinking,
best damn super-extra-crispy bacon
of my whole doggone life
on this planet, which I thank
for creating the corn or whatever
that fed he pig
that became the best damn
super-extra-crispy bacon
of my whole existence on this planet
not counting the times
I might have been the corn
or the pig
or whatever else was involved
in creation
of the best damn super-extra-crispy
bacon ever, thank you, God,
if you exist and if you had anything
to do with it
and I'm thinking, damn
I wish I could wake up again
and come in here again and order
my breakfast again
and eat my best damn super-extra-crispy
bacon
all over again,
enjoy the super-extra-crispy
 crunchy pleasure
all over again as it it had never ever happened
before and the super-etcetera pleasure
was completely new to me,
experienced
for the very first time

but
that's the way I am,
a fan of little things,
the little atomic thingies
that come together to make up bigger
and bigger things, like stars, that in turn
come together
to make galaxies and  constellations
and ultimately a whole damn universe
laid out before me as i lie in the grass at night, looking
at it all, thinking of all the teensy-tiny things that came together
to make wondrous things like stars
shining against a universal backdrop of dark somewhere/nowhere
and pleasurable things
like cool breezes in summer, cold water splashing
on my droopy-morning face, little girls
who giggle
when I wink at them
and, as you might  guess by now,
super-extra-crispy-crunchy
bacon, the best I ever had, just this
morning








                                                                            

This is another poet from my library. The poet in this case is one of my favorites, Naomi Shihab Nye. Born in Lebanon of a Lebanese father and American mother, Nye is a world traveler in support of her art, and self-adopted daughter of San Antonio. The poem is from her book, Words Under the Words, published by The Eighth Mountain Press in 1995. Her work, as both the poet and as an editor of anthologies, is used often here. In her own work,, she writes often of her childhood and later travels to the mid-east. In these two poems she speaks of her adopted home in Texas.









For Rose on Magnolia Street

You ask me to remove my shoes
and it  is correct  somehow,
this stripping down in your presence.
Do you recognize  in me
a bone, a window, a bell?

You are translating a child's poem
about the color gray.
I float through your rooms,
peeking at titles, fingering the laces
you drape from your walls.

The first place I visited you,
a tree grew out of your bedroom,
hole cut in the ceiling.
Today there are plants in your bathtub.
Their leaves are thick and damp.

I want to plant myself beside you
and soak up some of your light.
When the streetlamps cross their hands,
when the uncles shuffle home from the market
murmuring of weather and goats,
you lean into a delicate shawl,
the  letters people writ you
begin glowing in your baskets.
Yesterday you wrote of the dog-man
who wanders everywhere
followed by a pack of seven hounds.
Soon you will tell us  the secret
behind you grandmother's soft hair.

(The "Rose" of this  poem is Rosemary Catacalos, another excellent San Antonio poet whose poem about the "dog-man" has appeared here. I haven't read it in a while, but remember it as a wonderful  poem.)


West Side

In certain neighborhoods
the air is paved with names.
Domingo, Monica,Francisco,
shining rivulets of sound.
Names opening wet circles
inside the mouth,
sprinkling bright  vowels
across the deserts of
Bill, Bob, John.

The names are worn
on silver linked chains.
Maria lives in Pablo Alley,
Esperanza  rides the Santa Rosa bus!
they click together like charms.
O Saves from the boarded-up windows,
the pistol crack in a dark backyard,
save us from the leaky roof,
the rattled textbook which never smiles.
Let the names be verses
in a city that sings!









                                                      




Here's another new from last week.










the invisible man at work

a bee
in a stripped bee suit
hidden among the drooping petals
of a flower

unseen

until a photograph is taken
and studied
closely

the  bee in his stripped bee
suit,
right there,
doing
his bee-work
for me
and
for you








                                                        

Here's another from the Soviets, Vladimin Mayakovsky. Born in 1893, the son of a Georgian forester, the poet became an active revolutionary in his adolescence, he supported the Bolshevik revolution and wrote propaganda and founded journals in support. Later, frustrated with increasing pressure form Stalinist authorities, he committed suicide in 1930. the next poem was his last and is read by some as his  suicide note.









Past one o'clock...

Past one o'clock. You must have gone to bed.
the Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I'm in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love's boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Nigh wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.

Translated by George Reavey









                                      


 I have a new  best pal. Her name Bella.















That doesn't mean  I'll ever  forget my old best  pals.


This poem from June, 20111, just months before, Kitty Pride first, then Reba, passed on to whatever heaven there is for old and faithful best pals.



retirement living

Kitty Pride, blind,
old as the hills,
five and a half months dead

according
to what the Vet said
six months  ago

(if you're going to bury
her at home,
he said,

you
should start digging
soon...)

but she abides
still
sleeps mostly

visits her litter box
when the need
arises

cries
when she wants
to be fed

cries
when she can't find
her water

cries
when she wanders into a corner
and can't find her way out

cries
when she wants someone
to hold and stroke her

cries
in her  sleep, mouse dreams
tormenting

~~~

Reba
world's oldest dog
arthritis  in her hips and deaf

as the proverbial post
responds to  a high whistle
and gesture

come...stay...
outside...
and I'll be back

follows
me around, trying
to gather with her eyes

all the secret things
she used to hear
watches me

intent on
every movement every
expression

talking to her as I  work
so that
even though she cannot hear

she will see my lips move
and know
I still think of her

know
she is  still
my best pal  forever











The next poet from my library is  Gilbert Sorrentino, with two untitled pieces from his book, The Perfect Fiction, published in 1968. I've taken the pieces from a collection of his work, Gilbert Sorrentino, Selected Poem, 1958-1980.

Born in Brooklyn in 1929, Sorrentino was a novelist,  short story writer, poet, critic, and professor. He died in 2006.









~~~~~~

In a fantastic light:
blue of hydrangeas, white
and pink, That light

before the evening starts
to come fast. The sweet smell
of rye and grasses, the

sounds of animals from
the barns, red, of course,
the hand up against

light touching the blossom.
Blue. It must be blue, the
other hand falling

away in casual gesture.
Innocent. The fantastic light.
Caught. Stiff. Concrete.


~~~~~~

The stupid painter paints. He
sells his world, or what he thinks
is someone's world.Writers write

their junk, everybody drinks his
booze, is gay, adultery is just another
day in, day out minuet.

Behind this world, is nothing.
This world reveals itself completely -
 the painter is a liar, the writer

wants to sell his books and fuck
somebody who says she loves
his work.  What strength can I,

who feels these temptations pressing
on my very eyes, draw from these
images of lust, and of success?

It is a total darkness. It is
filled  with women who are never
wrong, and when they make some

small mistake, stand in heels
and beautify the whole of day
and evening. God has allowed me

to  see only me, and that sight
is enough to drive me to the sources
of a power, any power.

I have love in my hands, all
smeared,  red, as in blood or  lipstick,
years have deepened the color.

It is the same red that our friend,
the painter paints. He smiles,
he whistles as he wastes my time.








                                                        




Here's another silly poem from last week.










my cat  hat

I had a cat
a beautiful calico
who adopted us as a youngster
and stayed for the rest
of her life

a beautiful
cat
who liked to sleep
on my lap
and when I lay
horizontal
my lap folded
into itself
and u
available
for cat naps
she
slept
on the pillow
right above my head
draped
over my head
like a coonskin cap...

my coonskin
cap cat
hat
cat








                                                    


A great thing about the many anthologies, especially the international collections, I buy at the used book store are the may poets I find out about that would have never heard of otherwise. A case in point, German poet, Gunter Eich. Born in 1907, Eich was a German soldier in World War II, serving until captured by the Americans and held in a prisoner of war  camp until his release in 1946. A poet and a playwright, he was active in left-wing German politics until his death in 1972.











Old Postcards

I
Here's where I wanted to put the streetcars
and swing
on the chain around the war memorial.
A sign for the deaf and dumb.
A sermon for the bakers
lolling about in the morning wind.

II
The view, gradually
colored by glue,
leaf cover  and road
all cut
by the same knife.
The asphalting planned
like dying.

III
Two kinds of handwriting -
a bicycle trip
to the castle ruins.
But we're okay.
Playing in the black sand.
Chewing read
for the holes in the wallpaper

IV
Blow tube on Sedan Day,
three zero four,
it's red in the lime trees.
Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

V
Hold tight
to the tanners' ropes
till the angels come
with their huge caps and shoulder cloth,
according to evidence of the stones,
the print in the smoke
you can trust.

VI
Tell me something
from the catalogues,
and where you've been so long,
about the stamps in the beehive,
our grandfather's professions
and the smell of hooves.
I'll count the drops for you
on the sugar,
a prime number,
and I'll eat with you.

VII
Paris,
which reminds me of
Mexican hats,
ribbons
with the seps of lovers,
information booths and mustard seeds.

VIII
there are
no cranes here.
but there are women
and races and
a laugh to keep you pondering,
old as
Renaissance staircases,
the steps of the prisoners
going down.

IX
We're aog the last.
To our left someone who
knew caves left yesterday.
Our preserves are all gone.
I was thinking, even yesterday,
of the oil jugs of the crusaders,
handed over to their besiegers,
honorably,
of the rain.

X
Why the coffee
wasn't drunk?
Well we were sitting okay
right down in the flooded parts,
our rented boats
between the  boulevard trees.
Why the sugar
wouldn't dissolve?
Nothing ever ended.
Here's what still  needs
telling: the cups, a
Charlotte who was taking our money, her
sad ruffles wet through and through.

XI
Fine,
fine.
But when the war is over
we'll go  to Minsk
and pick up Grandmother.

Translated by Stuart Friebert.








                                                                                         

Here's another old piece from  June, 2011. A bit of truth for  those of us with the ache of being  left behind to  consider.










no fish swims in the same sea twice

all of us
think sometimes
of getting back into the thick of things,
a little bored
looking on from the  outside,
certain we could fix it,
whatever it  is,
certain the world must be suffering now
from lack of our attention

sometimes
we listen in to those still swimming
in the turbulent seas
we left behind,
and when  we do, the truth,
painful but clear...

it is not our sea
they swim in, but some alien ocean
devoid of the kind of honor and challenge
that sustained us,
a new sea where the predator
is the sea itself

a sea too small now
for us
and our wider, deeper dreams -
better in such waters
to be a smaller, faster fish
than from our history we are prepared to be







Next from my library, from his book, The Hundred Fathom Curve, a poem by John Barr. The book was published in 1997 by Story Line Press.

Barr's path to poetry was not the usual one. He earned a BA in English at Harvard University on an ROTC scholarship,  the served in the Navy for five years during the Vietnam War. Upon his return to civilian life, he earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. He later taught in the graduate writing  program at Sarah Lawrence University and served as first president of the Poetry Foundation from 2004 to 2013.



Body Language

Arms implying one another,
legs in alternation going south,
this swaying scaffold of bones
bears through fields
the head without a thought.

~~

Blood floods the passageways,
the stomach grips its food,
the heart advances in darkness...

all while  I walk,
shake hands, work the wash of events

~~

In seven years, they say, it is renewed:
each hair in its follicle,
each pore in its microbe dell.
Atom for atom, the valleys of my brain,
the long journeys in my legs
suffer replacement.
A good occasion for improvement
you would think:
                            but no,
                              the same old scars
                              all my mistakes preserved.

~~

Once in his life
a man should know his body in its  prime.

Dark drifts of hair,
the narrows of the waist,
the great junction of the thigh,
the torso lagged with muscle bronze.

The body's peak
on the long parabola from helplessness to helplessness.

~~

At death
the soul flies out of the mouth,
all eyes on it, it
continues out of the room.
Then the body is declared
larval to the man.

Yet I live in a settlement of two hundred bones.
Of its own accord my body beats.
Unmemorized
the great whorls of my fingerprints
approach like storms.








                                                                   

This piece I wrote and posted on my poem-a-day forum last week turned  out harsher and more dismissive than I intended, but my writing philosophy is once you write it, you're stuck with it. So I'm stuck with this, no sense trying to stick it away back in the closet. If I decide I don't like it bad enough I'll just have to write another poem.









 voices from the sky

the mysteries of faith...

it's not that I'm
against  it,
it's just that I don't understand
it

the room behind me is full
of two dozen
older men. sharp-eyed men,
and the old priest
I see here often, skinny,
like he doesn't get to eat
except for the free breakfasts
he gets for showing up to provide
a priestly presence
to meetings of little old ladies
with blue hair and bumpy
legs, or,
as in this case, a room-full
of elder men, meeting, weekly it seems,
for quiet religious purposes...

I don't know these particular men
but I've known men like them
most of my life, acts of piety
an afterthought through the course
of most of their days, sharp-
penciled, green-eye-shade guys
applying evidence and reason
to all their affairs, unimpressed
by flights of fancy,
not subject to paranormal events
or expectations,
except...

for that corner of  their brain
they keep separate from the  part
that functions daily, a place where
the reason and evidence they normally count on
are not allowed, a space  they reserve
for gods and angels and devils
and ghosts and goblins and all sorts of fantasy
they would not allow to intrude in any portion
of the rest of their lives...

that's the part I don't understand, not faith itself
but these believers who turn their rational brains into
mewling kittens,  flat on their backs, legs spread
high  and wild awaiting celestial  visitation...

what, I  wonder,is it
they miss in the  rest of  their  lives
that makes them so vulnerable
to such mind-dulling darkness...

I'm always made uncomfortable
by leaders who profess such faith - I'd rather not
hear about it, reminding me  as it  does
of  how my fate might be in the hands of
a leader susceptible to the undependable
quirks of faith in magic and magical
beings

pray for him,  some say when a leader
faces quandaries and difficult
decisions,  and I can only think how much more
reassuring it would be
to have a leader  who wasn't  dependent
on my  prayers, a leader unwilling to place  my  future
in the hands of voices from the
sky








                                                   



Next from this week's anthology, Erich Fried. Born in 1921 to a family of Austrian Jews, Fried became a socialist in 1930 and remained committed to his political and social concerns for the remainder of his life. After his father died in a concentration camp, the poet and his family emigrated to England where he helped save more than seventy Jews from occupied Europe. Fried died in 1988.










One Kind of Freedom Speaks

Those who loved freedom
got me with their sweat
in the sleepless nights
of their dungeons and dingy rooms

Those who loved freedom
fed me with their blood
aught me to stand and walk
on their bones

Those who loved  freedom
called me to the capital
bore me into the palace
placed me on the throne

Now I am free
to  rule in their spirit
I stick very closely
to what they taught me

I still tread their bones
underfoot
I still drink the blood
of those who loved freedom

Translated by Georg Rapp








                                              



 Here,  June, 2011, again.









 sustained by the memory

I was a tree
before

and before that
a flower

wide-reaching
and blue

shifting
ever in the wind

and before that
a wind-borne weevil

in a loaf  of bread
at the day-old bread  store

on the corner of Madison
and Monroe

and before that
a grain of wheat

that made the flour
that made the bread

that my weevil-self
dined  on

and before that tiny gem
of wheat

I was the rich
soil

that grew the wheat
from a small seed

embedded
in my worm-crawling

loam
and before I was the womb

of earth
I was a nitrogen bubble

that fell  from and exploding
star

to prepare the womb
that grew the wheat that

made the flour
that fed the weevil

that hatched from an egg
in the shelter of the  blue overhanging

flower
that  grew first  beneath the tree

that was me
before the me  of  this old man

so  tired so tired
sustained by the memory

that once I was  a
star








                                                                          



Marge Piercy is the next poet from my library. Her poem is from her book, Breaking Camp, published by Wesleyan Poetry Program in 1979. Born in 1936, Piercy is a poet, novelist and social activist.













a cold and married war

Loving you is a warm room
so I remember
how I lived on the moon.
Ash and jagged craters
cold bright place under
a black steel sky.
The stars pierced me
stabbing my secret
aches and itches.
Torture of the witch with needles.
Am I worthy, eyes?
Never. Objects
came out of he silence
bizarre as medals
for unknown services:
chocolate cherries
rolling down from Sinai,
rose buds pink as
girls' first lipsticks.
When I lay down
head on a rock
the rock
recited tirelessly
as a language record
my sins and errors.

The months bled slowly
out of us.
the landscape went bald.
The cold stayed.
One morning there
were regulations posted.
Where I had not known
boundaries existed,
first hedges, then stakes,
finally barbed wire.
His cock crowed
I know you not.
repent, and other homilies.
My bones knocked.
Chessboard of dead volcanoes.
I had to go.

The only thing to do
with the corpse
was to eat it.








                                                                
A poem from last week, taking me back a lot of years, back living temporarily with my parents after completing military service and then graduating from college with total assets of a beat-up old car, a tank  of gas and, literally, 35 cents in my pocket. Taking some time to do stuff around the house while looking for a job (which I found about two weeks after this particular afternoon, the beginning of a 30-year career).








remembering a summer afternoon

remembering
a summer afternoon
sitting behind  my parent's house
on a patio I made from bricks
salvaged from a demolished building downtown,
enough bricks for a fifteen by fifteen foot patio
and a brick sidewalk from the kitchen door
to the garage, purposefully made
rough, bricks not completely
even, to give the appearance of great age
like an ancient cobblestone street
in an old and venerable of my imagination

the patio where my parents, unaccustomed
to air conditioning until later in their life
would sit in the evening, catching the soft,
damp breeze that blew from the gulf
almost all the time, a generation from a time
when stuffy houses were left behind  at end of day
for quiet talk in the cool of an outdoor evening, sitting,
my parents, until squadrons of mosquitoes swarmed in
with night's dark shadows,
sitting, my parents, in the shade  of a very old mesquite,
lightning struck, a large hole in the middle
of its trunk where it burned,
a lightning strike many years ago,
fierce product of a savage thunderstorm
from the northeast, a thunderstorm
lke the one approaching again from the northeast,
black and swirling clouds on the horizon, approaching
quickly from across the fields, the reason I rushed
to finish mowing, to be done before the torrent came,
to be done in time to sit here on my rough patio
with a dew-dripping glass of iced tea, watching it come,
a ready-or-not storm coming fast and strong...

but I'm ready and will watch it all from there
on that patio I made from salvaged bricks...

```

many years later now, mother and father long passes
the house long sold to others, others I imagine
sitting on that same old patio, under that same wounded
but eternal tree, leaving me to wonder,
as I imagine, if they ever notice my initials outlined
in bright red bricks right where the doorstep
meets the patio bricks...

wondering if they ever wonder...
,








Next from the anthology, Hungarian poet, Miklos Radnoti. Born in 1909, orphaned by age eleven and enrolled at the University of Szeged in 1930, the year his first book of poetry appeared. For his second book, he was tried for "effrontery to public modesty and incitement to rebellion" and found guilty, with all his books confiscated. He was called to forced military labor intermittently from 1940 until his death in 1944. In that year, he and twenty other survivors of a forced march were turned over to Hungarian noncommisioned officers, who, unable to do anything else with them, shot them all. Radnoti's corpse was exhumed in 1946 and in his pockets were found several poems, including the next one.




Picture Postcards

I

From Bulgaria thick, wild cannon pounding rolls.
It strikes the mountain ridge, then hesitates and falls.
A piled-up blockage of thoughts, animals, carts, and men;
whinnying, road rears up; the sky runs with its mane.
In this chaos of movement you're in me, permanent,
deep in my conscious you shine, motion forever spent
and mute, like an angel awed by death's great carnival,
or an insect in rotted tree pith, staging its funeral.

30 August 1944. In the mountains

II

Nine kilometers from the haystacks and
houses are burning;
sitting on the field's edges, some scared and speechless
poor folk are smoking.
Here a little shepherdess, stepping into the lake still
ruffles the water;
the ruffled sheep flock at the water drinks from
clouds, bending over.

Cservenka, 6 October 1944

III

Bloody saliva hangs on the mouths of the oxen.
Blood shows in every man's urine.
The company stands in wild knots, stinking.
Death blows overhead, revolting.

Mohacs 24  October 1944

IV

I fell beside him, his body turned over,
already taut as a string about to snap.
Shot in the back of the neck. That's how you too will end,
I whispered to myself; just lie quietly.
Patience now flowers into death.
Der springt noch auf, a voice said above me.
On my ear, blood dried, mixed with filth.

Szentkiralyszabadja 31 October 1944

Translated by Emery George 








                                                          
Here's a poem from June, 2001, upon meeting one of my favorite politicians again after many years absence. Over the course of my previous career, I dealt with a lot of politicians, some honorable, some snakes, some smart, some not so much, but this fellow, along  with one or two others, had such an open heart and open mind you could not but be pleased to be with him.








a happy man

he always seems
such a happy person,
always so happy to see me,
like yesterday,
running into him
while having lunch with my friend,
so  enthused,
so happy
after more than a few years
to see me again

I feel  his pleasure
and it gives me pleasure

no longer in politics
he was for many years
and was good  at it, and part
of his success  was his evident joy
in people, smiling as all  politicians must,
but seeming to mean it,
not  the general smile at the space
between him and you
that good politicians must master,
the institutional smile
of  someone who imagines themselves
an institution,  not the you-think-you-know-me
but-you-so-don't-take-this-personal
smile of the TV pitchman, none
of those media-age smiles,
but a real  smile,
a smile at you, at your face,  at your eyes
his eyes to your eyes, a meeting
of congenial spirits

he seems, always, a happy man
and it is always a pleasure to see him,
whether the separation
was a day, a  week, or a  number of years -

he's just happy to see you
and, by golly,
you're just happy to see him
too

and if  he has  dark secrets
you don't want to know
them









Next from my library, poet William Meredith, with a short poem from the collection of his work, Effort at Speech.

A poet and educator, Meredith was born in 1919 and died in 2007. He was poet laureate of the United States from 1978 to 1980.








The Fear of Beasts

Pity the nightly tiger: fierce and wise.
He works upwind; the moonlight stripes his glade;
No one can hear that tread,
Least of all his guileless, watering prize.
And yet, the wonder is, he is afraid.
At the water hole, one look from dreaming eyes,
From sleeping throat the feeblest of cries,
Will prove ambush  enough to strike him dead.
A beast in a human dream must go in dread
Of the chance of awakening on which he dies.








                                                            




Another poem from last  week.










another one begins

another week beginning...

another day beginning...

an uh-why-bother morning, providing
little incentive
for sleepy-heads to notice
its potential for new
beginnings

new  beginnings...

not just a re-do of the past, but a new start, a melding
of the past with new ambition and curiosity
and desire and drive to find
the untrod path, a new road discovery
from here to there, the here and the there
familiar but the trail beneath new
and untested and by the test of the way, the familiar there
becomes a new thing in the worlds of whats and wheres

such is the new beginning I yearn for,
another chance to do it better,
a chance to get it right, a chance
to  find the truth of it,
to find a place to rest the restless
demons of still incomplete and yet undone

about a new beginning...

about a new poem...








Last from my anthology this week is American poet (and one of my favorite Latino poets), Jimmy Santiago Baca. Born in 1952 in New Mexico, Baca grew up and lived a hard life, until arrested with drugs with intention to sell, he was sent to a maximum security prison in Arizona for nine years. Life  in prison was even harder than his life outside the walls.  His request to take literacy tests and study for a GED were answered with an assignment to field labor. Refusing, he was sent to solitary confinement where he stayed for four years. It was in solitary confinement that he found an intense love of learning, teaching himself to read and write, and discovered his own gift for expession. Greatly honored for his work in the years since, this poem is part of his "witness."






Immigrants in Our Own Land

We are born with dreams in our hearts,
looking for better days ahead.
At the gates we were given new papers,
our old clothes are taken
and we are given coveralls like mechanics wear.
We are given shots and doctors ask questions.
Then we gather in another room
where counselors orient us to the new land
we willnow live in.We take tests.
Some of us were craftsmen in the old world,
good with our hands and proud of hour work.
Others were good with their heads.
They used common sense like scholars
use glasses and books to reach the world.
But most of us didn't finish high school.

The old men who have lived here stare at us,
from deep disturbed eyes, sulking retreated.
We pass them as they stand around idle,
leaning on shovels and rakes or against walls.
Our expectations are high: in the old world,
they talked about rehabilitation,
about being able to finish school,
and learning an extra good trade.
But right away we are sent to work as dishwashers,
to work in fields for three cents an hour.
The administration says this is temporary
so we go about our business, blacks with blacks,
poor whites with poor whites,
chicanos and indians by themselves.
The administration says this is right,
no mixing of cultures, let them stay apart,
like in the old neighborhoods we came from.

We came hereto get away from false promises,
from dictators in our neighborhoods,
who wore blue suits and broke our doors down
when the wanted, arrested us when they felt like,
swinging clubs, and shooting guns as they pleased.
But it's no different here. It's all concentrated.
The doctors don't care, our bodies decay,
our minds deteriorate, we learn nothing of value.
Our lives don't get better, we go down quick.

My cell is crisscrossed with laundry lines,
my T-shirts, boxer shorts, socks and pants are drying.
Just like it used to be in my neighborhood:
from all the tenements laundry hung window to window.
Across the way Joey is sticking his hands
through the bars to hand Felipe a cigarette,
men are hollering back and forth cell to cell,
saying their sinks don't work,
or somebody downstairs hollers angrily,
about a toilet overflowing,
or that the heaters don't work.

I ask Coyote next door to shoot me over
a little more soap to finish my laundry.
I look down and see the new immigrants coming in,
mattresses rolled up and on their shoulders,
new haircuts and brogan boots,
looking around, each with a dream in their heart,
thinking they'll get a chance to change their lives.

But in the end, some will just sit around
talking about how good the old world was.
Some of the younger ones will become gangsters.
Some will die and some will go on living
without a soul, a future or a reason to live.
Some will make it out of here as human
as they came in, they will leave wondering what good they are now
as they look at themselves, so long gone from their families,
so long gone from life itself, so many things have changed.








                                                               


 Finishing up my old  poems this week with  two short ones, both, again, from June, 2011.









how to make a German comedy

groggy
this morning...

stayed up late
last night -

watched a German movie
on the International Movie

pay-per-view
channel

talk-talk
sex-sex

that's the way
it went

long  intervals
of talk (dubbed)

then long intervals
of sex (explicit)

talksextalksextalksex
and more talksex

pretty boring
after a while, but

I paid $3.99 for the movie
and wanted to get my money's

worth,
wanted to see the whole thing,

wanted to find out whatever it 
was about

so watched it on triple-speed,
made the talk-parts

tolerable,
made the sex-parts funny,

people like rabbits
hippity hop, bumptity bump,, flickity fuck...

look

I thought to myself
I made a German

comedy



 I feel challenged

I feel challenged
to write a wiener poem
today

well
I can do that,
without, maybe,
going either pornographic
or excessively
gastronomic

just don't expect
one of those
specialty brands
advertised
to "plump when you cook'em"
or anything 
of the foot long
variety

cause
I'm afraid
this
little weenie
is the best I can do








From Charles Baudelaire, a poem the equivalent of a bouquet of dead flowers to, apparently, an ex-lover. The poem is from Baudelaire, Selected Poems, published by Barnes & Nobel in 2003.

Baudelaire is credited as one of the major innovators in French literature, even though the bulk of his work was published after he, in very poor health in his last years, died in 1867. His best known work, Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil), was published in his lifetime and earned he and his publisher and his printer a conviction for blasphemy and immorality. Though he received only a small fine, it wasn't until 1949, nearly one hundred years later, that the judgement was reversed and the banned poems reinstated in France.




You Will Repent

Who understands the poet? Only the tomb.
So to the tomb I have confessed my dream.

My dark, my sombre beauty, when you lie
Asleep beneath black marble, when your rich
Mansion has turned to crumbling masonry,
Your bedroom to a dark and hollow ditch,

And when beneath the weight of all that stone
Your heart can neither wish nor even move,
Your thighs are locked, your feet no longer run
the gay voluptuous messages of love,

What will it profit that you never knew
What the dead weep at, you well-mannered whore?
Insomnia and fevers wait for you.
And worms will gnaw you as remorse might gnaw.









                                                      


 My last poem for the week.

Knowing what we know, it is surprising that we not just survive, but thrive.









survival tactics

summer
has turned the corner
of a wet and cool extended spring
and joined us,
just as we all knew  was bound
to happen

still,
it's a disappointment

like every unwelcome turn in life,
even when inevitable and expected,
a  surprise and disappointment

good times breed
the optimism of denial

just as when young
we find it hard to imagine
we will die, even  as we see it happening
all around us

just as we see the storm coming,
black clouds rolling on the
horizon, and imagine,
not the torrent,
but cleansing summer rain

and out strength, the way we can  enjoy
the storm when it comes, revel
in the majesty of its power

just as  we can live so long
as if we will never die,
knowing the truth
of it, but setting it aside for the pleasures
of the moments
we  live...

we  will be
surprised and disappointed
when our last hour  comes,  how could we  stand
to live if it was otherwise

it is the survival tactic of
a self-knowing species

the lesser animals enjoy the liberation
of moment by moment
immortality, never knowing
they will die

while we know it quite well,
and still  manage to live as if we don't
care










As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and me.





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´╗┐Poetry




Places and Spaces





Always to the Light






Goes Around Comes Around





Pushing Clouds Against the Wind





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Seven Beats a Second






Short Stories



Sonyador - The Dreamer




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