Twenty-Two Interations of the End of All Things   Wednesday, July 16, 2014





My photos this week are old ones that look a lot alike. When that happens, it's time to declare a theme, "The End of Days"

My anthology this  week is Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep, subtitled, "An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945." It was published Little, Brown and Company in 1994.

My old poems for the week are from July, last year, when for some reason I don't recall I brought together a series of poems about my cab-driving days that I initially worked on in the late sixties, before I stopped writing. Went back to them in the late nineties when I returned to writing, then stuck them in a drawer and, though they did reappear now and then, I mostly forgot about them.

Here's how it all works out:

Me
city of slow water and beautiful women

Robert Hayden
Homage to the Empress of the Blues

Me
new story

Donald Justice
American Sketches

Me
summer, 1952

Gwendolyn Brooks  
A Song  in the Front Yard

Me
the driver
the dispatcher

Wendy Barker
Liquid Poem

Me
ride the tiger

Etheridge Knight
Dark  Prophecy: I Sing of Shine

Me
the scrawny, pint-sized drunk guy
the Mr. and Mrs. 
a shy Mexican girl

Siegfried Sassoon
Supreme Sacrifice
The Effect

Me
thinking  I could be a monk

Audre Lorde
For the Record

Me
the all-beat-up guy and his friend
the shrimper

William Stobb
Absentia

Me
the end of  all things

Rita Dove
Turning Thirty, I Contemplate  Students Bicycling Home
Canary

Me
the night I got chased out of Mexico

Me
     this very year    





Before moving on to the business of the week, here's a photo from the reading from my new book, "New Days and  New Ways," last week at the International Academy of Music and the Arts (IAMA) coffeehouse. It went well, with enough audience, if we could get everyone to stand real close together, to make a crowd. Pictured are me and IAMA owner and principal teacher, Dr. Rachel Cruz, who sang for us following my reading. A great honor for me and treat for me and all in attendance.


   
 






                                                 







 Here's my first  new poem for the week, written on the fourth.














city of slow water and beautiful women

San Antonio women,
long legs
like liquid cinnamon
flowing,
muscles flexing as they
stroll the Riverwalk, languid like
the soft-shell turtles resting
mid-stream,
triangular  heads
breaking
the mirror  surface
of dark  green water

placid afternoon
on the river's Museum  Reach,
great pecan trees
atwitch with squirrels
playing frantic games of chase up and down
wide trunks,  across, tree to tree, full-leafed branches
that overhang the river's  flow, blanketing the rumble
of cars and VIA buses
crossing the St. Mary's Street Bridge,
the summer heat  of  the city above near-forgotten
to  the river-walkers like me and Bela
and those San Antonio women, long legs
under short summer dresses, like liquid  cinnamon
flowing,muscles flexing  as they walk
beside the quietly moving
water...

```

the city of cinnamon women,
city of multiple revolutions
and many flags, city
where history  like it's  green river
flows slowly through it, this city, already old
when the first July cannons
sounded
half a continent away,
celebrates again on this early July afternoon
with those who came  late
to it









                                                                           



First from this week's anthology, I have this  poem by  Robert Hayden. He was born in 1913 in the Paradise Valley ghetto of Detroit. Showing an early aptitude for the library, literature, and drama,  he graduated from Detroit City College and earned his Masters Degree at the University of Michigan.  His professional life was spent, first as a professor at Fisk University, then at the University of Michigan. He died in Ann Arbor in 1980.











Homage to the Empress of the Blues

Because there was a man somewhere in a candy-stripe silk shirt,
gracile and dangerous as a jaguar and because a woman moaned
for him in sixty-watt gloom and mourned him Faithless Love
Two timing Love Oh Love  O Careless Aggravating Love,

     She came out on the stage in yards pearls, emerging like
     a favorite scenic view, flashed her golden smile and sang

Because grey laths began somewhere to show from underneath
torn hurdygurdy lithographs of dollfaced heaven;
and because there were those who feared alarming fists of snow
on the door and those who feared the riot-squad of statistics,
She came out on the stage in ostrich feathers, beaded satin,
and shone that smile on us and sang.








                                                                         







Here's the first of my taxi cab poems, old poems that for some reason I pulled together in July of last year.













new story

I don't remember
the first day I drove a taxi
and I don't remember
the last, it was, still is
just a thing in my life...

for a long time I did not
drive a cab,
then for a few months
I did
and then did not
and have not now for many years
and never will again

it was something
I had fallen into
in the middle of a year
drifting  and lost,
desperate
for money, the only other civilian option,
driving a truck
for an ex-girlfriend's father...

returning
from a great
and ultimately failed
adventure, I went  back  to  school
in January,  1965, as bored
with it as I had been before
I  left, doing what I had to do
to keep my draft deferment,
facing a  summer
when I knew I had to make
some money so that I could
return to college
whether I wanted to or not,
there being  no   real
alternative
for a young man in 1965
but military service
which I did not
want...

so I drove a cab
barely making enough money
to drive my beat-up,
windowless
'49 Chevy
to work, not making
enough money to
return to school, facing
certain draft...

then an
opportunity -
a chance to work for a small
newspaper in a small
town further up  the coast,
but. after  just a few months
of  doing  that,
the draft notice I had  been
running from, one way or another
since  I was 18 years  old

until finally,
the reality of those war years
had caught up with me,  and, mid-January,  1966,
a month and a couple of days
before my 22nd  birthday,
I began military service
on a day I have not forgotten,
sleepy and tired after an  early morning
bus ride from Houston to Lackland Air  Force Base
in San Antonio
where I  met the Drill Instructor,
thin and stringy and tough
who in a South Carolina drawl
tagged me, standing out
as the oldest in a group
of  18 and 19 year-olds, as the
"big'un," and
"Big'un"
I  was for six weeks

a memorable day,
the day a new story
began...








                                                                     




First  this  week from my library, two poems by Donald Justice. The poems are from his book, Selected  Poems, published  in 1979 by Atheneum.















American Sketches

Crossing Kansas by Train

The telephone poles
Have been holding their
Arms out
A long time now
To birds
That will not
Settle there
But pass with
Strange cawings
Westward to
Where dark trees
Gather about a
Waterhole this
Is Kansas the
Mountains start here
Just behind
The closed eyes
Of a farmer's
Sons asleep
In their work clothes


Poem to be Read at 3 A.M.

Excepting the diner
On the  outskirts
The town of Ladora
At 3 A.M.
Was dark but
For my headlights
and up in
One second-story room
A single light
Where someone
Was sick or
Perhaps reading
As I drove past
At seventy
Not thinking
This poem
Is for whoever
Had the light on

                          for William Carlos Williams








                                                           








Here's a nostalgia poem from last week.














Summer, 1952

summer,
1952, Saturdays, a farmer
down the road, not a very good farmer,
but that didn't make much difference, good  farmer
or bad farmer, the  life was the same,
work all year to pay off the crop loan at the bank
so can borrow again enough to work all the next year
to pay off the new loan,crops  many times
rotting in the  field because the cost  of picking
more than the price of selling

like most farmers, good or  bad, this one
had other skills...

a round little man,five  five, maybe five six,
300 pounds, a champion
spaghetti-maker,  big chunks of diced round steak
in his tomato-and-other-secret-things sauce,
better, for me at least
than if he had been a school bus driver
like a lot of other farmers who took some time
mornings and afternoons to  make living money
while his failing crops ate up his bank
loan, trying to make a living on sixty  acres...

Saturdays, summer,
1952,
the  farmer and his family and my family
eating plates and plates of his spaghetti
under the chinaberry tree in his front yard, too
hot to eat in the house, air conditioning
a future thing, except maybe for  a few people
too rich for me to know, but the watermelon  cooling
in a wash tub  full of well water, kids taking shifts
turning  the crank on an ice cream maker, enough
air  conditioning for me,  especially when dinner was over
and shadows lengthened and, we, soaked in mosquito repellent,
ran barefoot between cotton rows, chasing lightning
bugs, cupping them  in our small hands, marvels
off nature in our palms,  feeling them buck and click
their bodies...

it was a very good summer and, at eight years of age,
I was a  happy child...

~~~

the farm  failed
and the little fat  farmer died of a  well-earned heart attack
two years  later; the farmer's wife moved into town
in a small house with a  large yard
that I mowed for $5 twice a month until I left town
ten years later

but before then...

Saturdays, summer, 1952, an eight-year-old boy - what
did II know...








The next poem from the anthology is by Gwendolyn Brooks. Born in Kansas in 1917, the poet was still living when the anthology was published, though she died six years later in 2000. She grew up in Chicago, attending school and college and publishing her first book there. In all, she published 30 books, including a novel and autobiography.








A Song in the Front Yard

I stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful tings.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine
How they don't have to go in at  a quarter to nine.
My mother,  she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last  winter  he sold  our back gate).

But  I say it's fine.  Honest, I do.
And I'd  like to be  a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings  of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.









                                                          







Two  more poems, stories from my cab driving days, 1965.















the driver

younger
than the rest
and the only white guy,
the other drivers
never had much to say to me,
except one,
an older man
who had been driving
his yellow cab for the company
for  twenty years or more,
long enough so that he could remember
when a man could make a reasonable living
at it

now it was just a place to go,
sit,
read magazines,
doing it so long...doing it so long
it was like he was tethered
to  the  bumper of his cab,
couldn't imagine what he would do
if he didn't  do  this

those of us like me who, some six months later
found ourselves
participating in military service
after receiving  our own
personalized
invitation
from the Uncle who knew us  so well,
had a name for those who continued to serve
after they no longer had to,
"lifers" is what we called them,
and my driver friend
was  a lifer in the taxi driving business,
knowing the drill  better
than anyone else,
frightened
late in his life
of being the one  all over again
who
didn't



the dispatcher


the dispatcher
was one of the nicest fellas
I've ever known

a precise looking man,
always sharp,
freshly ironed, razor-creased
khakis and short-sleeve shirts,
brown loafers, shined,
a short ride from bald,such hair as he had,
carefully oiled and  parted,
long thin fingers
and nails well attended,
usually smoking,
flicking his ashes into an ashtray
with a careful tap
of his index
finger

a gay guy, except
in 1965 homosexuals
hadn't gone gay yet, not
in South Texas, at least,
so what he was
in South Texas
in 1965 was a queer,
an identification
in the common vernacular
that he, being not one to promote discord,
probably wouldn't
dispute

he was a  dentist
from some place back east,
with a family,
he told me one night
on  a 2 to 2 shift,
before the bars closed
and dead-end drunks fell out on the sidewalks
waiting for a ride
and it was still quiet...

he had a prospering practice
he said,
and a picture-perfect  family
until caught out
being queer
(the exact circumstance of that
never asked, never told)
and as a result, lost
his  practice
and his family  and, on the road
ended up in deep South Texas, just a few miles
from the Rio Grande and the border

he didn't know how he ended up where he was
he told me
but liked it and had stayed going on
ten years at the time we were talking

he was,
as I said a really terrific guy
and I was pleased to call him a friend,
even if  for just the short time
I worked with him

~~~

turned out
about ten years later I ran into him
again...

the taxi company went out of business
when the owner  died
and he was a veteran (Korea) and as was my job,
I was trying to  help him find work

and for some reason, I don't  remember what,
I needed to visit him at his house
as I often did home visits with my clients...

we were both older,
me, not so green as I was before, and he, a little  balder
and a little grayer with what hair he had
left...

he was living with a young Mexican guy,
half-naked,
skinny as a stick,
pipe-cleaner

arms
and bony chicken chest,
long greasy hair hanging over his eyes

a hustler on the prowl who had found himself
a bird's nest on the ground,
living there with my long unseen friend,
sharp eyes behind his hair watching me with barely concealed
hate, afraid of competition, of a threat to the easy life
he had gathered for himself there
with the older man,  and the truth is my first instinct
was to gather him up and kick  him out on the street
for being such a sleaze
and for taking advantage of one of the nicest men
I had ever known, but what can you do
when shadows conceal
deep need
and the choice to live as one wants
is so repressed
and so captive to hate and fear
that one has to live  with his need
as best he can...

I was  truly happy to see my friend
and would have enjoyed a chance to sit and talk with him  again
but couldn't with the barely-literate companion
of this so-literate man
watching,
thinking already of the revenge he would take
as soon  as I left...

so I left,  feeling very sad for my friend
and all other who lived in such circumstances of denial,
never for them the life they wanted,
those who could never find the the fulfilling life
that is our natural  birthright, finding happiness
only in the shadows
instead...

I gave him a referral to a job
at a convenience
store
and I would see him every once in a while
when I  stopped in to buy  cigarettes,
seeing him,
this oh so sad man,
so happy
so see
me








                                                                                





The next poem from my library is by Wendy Barker. It is from her book, Way of Whiteness, published by Wings Press in 2000.














Liquid Poem

It is not true that water has no  color,
Nor  that milk is white.

During the years I nursed our son,
sometimes when I leaned over you in love

the milk let down and rained
warm over your chest, rippling your hair.

From how far inside it had  come.
We could never describe its translucent

clarity,  fluidity, digestible sweetness.
And the cologne in this bottle

is lighter than even a petal of jasmine,
easier to smooth

across the inside of my elbow
than anything I know except your mouth.








 
                                                                    







Here's another from last week.















ride the tiger

early clouds
turned to wide-open sky
as the sun rising
burns
away the night cramps
of  dead memories and lost dreams

a new  day,
old swept away
in the dark processing
of midnight shadows and the sighs of  slow-hobo winds

the old day
surrenders its night, back broken
by the crack of an orange
horizon, the bright new tiger
stretches,gathers together the hours
of  its dominion, metes them out to us
with the lick of her red tongue,
sharp extension of  bright
claws...


~~~


welcome...

ride the tiger  as you must,
until the next  dark  sends her slinking
back  to her shadow den










Etheridge Knight, born in 1931, made his name in 1968 with publication of his first collection, Poems  from  Prison, a collection recalling his eight years in prison for a robbery he  committed in 1960. His second book, which included both his own work and the work of fellow  prisoners, first appeared in Italy, then in the United States in 1970 as Black Voices from Prison. His work established him  as one of the  major poets of the "Black Arts Movement" with roots in the civil rights movement, the work of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam and the black power movement. Knight died in 1991. This piece of sly fun is from the week's anthology.







Dark Prophecy: I Sing of Shine

And,  yeah, brothers
while white/america sings about the unsink-
able molly brown
(who  was hustling the titanic
when it went down)
I  sing to thee of Shine
the stoker who was hip  enough to flee  the  fucking ship
and let the white folks drown
with screams on their lips
(jumped his black ass into the dark sea, Shine did,
broke free from the straining steel).
Yeah, I sing to  thee of Shine
and how  the millionaire banker stood on the deck
and pulled from his pockets a million dollar check
saying Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all the money a black boy needs -
how Shine looked up at the money and then at the sea
and said jump in mothafucka and swim like me -
And Shine swam on - Shine swam on -
and how the banker's daughter ran naked on the deck
with her pink tits trembling and her pants round her neck
screaming Shine Shine save poor me
and I'll give you all  the  pussy a black boy needs -
how Shine said now pussy is good and that's no jive
but you got to swim and not fuck to say alive -
And Shine swam on Shine  swam on -
How Shine swam past a preacher afloating on a board
crying save me nigger Shine in the name of the Lord -
and how the preacher grabbed Shine's arm and broke his stroke -
how Shine pulled his shank and cut the preacher's throat -
And Shine Swam on - Shine swam on -
And when the news hit shore that the titanic had sunk
Shine was up in Harlem damn near drunk








                                                                     







Here are  three more stories from my several months as a cabbie. It,  at the time at  least, was a job where it didn't  take long to see a  lot.















the scrawny, pint-sized drunk guy

2 AM
the time when the bar sweep out all the barflies
before they close

this  particular barfly
was  a scrawny
pint-sized
guy
and very drunk

the belligerence
often associated with each of those conditions
multiplied exponentially
by the current
presence
of the others

I could tell
even before he got into the back
of my cab he was
an
asshole
flagship at high mast

he mumbled something
I couldn't understand as he got in
and I turned around
to ask him to say it again
and noticed he had
a  knife,
a switch-blade eight-nine inches long
with the blade out

this dickhead is trying to rob me,
I  thought,
and I'd have given him everything
in the cash box,
but in the box was not just the cab company's
money
but my 33 percent commission as well,
six dollars and thirty-eight cents,
my hard-earned  reward
at the end of a twelve-hour shift

I kept track of my cut as the day progressed
and there was no way that scrawny,
pint-sized
drunk
was going to get any of it...

but
heroics not required
as the guy, very, very drunk, like I said,
so  drunk
he dropped his knife
in the space between the front and backseats
and in the process of trying to get it
back, wedged himself between the seats

"well, hell,"
I heard him  say
as I  opened the back  door
and tossed him  out on the street

then drove back to the
garage,
my shift over
for  that very long day...

~~~

but I kept the  knife,
sold it the next day for $2.00
to a large, happy-faced guy who I was assured
would do no evil with it

the $2.00 good news for me,increasing my take
for  the long day before
to
$8.38,
enough extra
in those  days for a pack of cigarettes
and a beer
which I could nurse
thinking of all the stories I was going to get
out of my god-awful
job



The Mr. and Mrs.

I
don't know
what they did
with the rest of their
lives
but on Thursday
and  Fridays
they went dancing
and drinking

I'd pick them up at 8
at their hillside split-level
on the north side
and take them downtown,
always to the Glass Hat,
a  posh place
with patio dancing
on top of the Crystal Building
at Tyler and 1st,
and then pick them up
again
at 1:30, they being too classy
to hang  around
until they got thrown out
on the sidewalk
at 2

and I'd take them
home,
both always drunk
and sometimes
scratched,
traces of blood
on the side of their mouth,  a
multicolored kaleidoscopic array
of new and old  bruises and
all the way home
to their  house on the north side
they'd either  be making out
near to the  point of fully-dressed fucking
or they would be hitting
each other, first her
then him, then her,, then
him...

and I'd  sneak a peek
in my rear view
to make sure they weren't
doing any serious damage, but
never interfered cause
bottom-line
they tipped better
than anyone else I ever
carried, and besides,
I caught  them looking back at me
once
when I was checking on them
in the mirror
and got a strong sense
they were getting
an extra kick out of my
watching...

a weird kind of club
they had for themselves,  it seemed,
some kind of very strange
kiss-kiss, slap-slap arrangement
but I was a cab driver,  accustomed,
even after just a short time,
to all kinds of unusual arrangements
between all kinds of people,
stuff I could spend the rest of my life
trying to understand
but never will

my job,
to give them a ride,
however  they wanted to
ride
it...




a shy Mexican girl

I would get  the call
to pick her  up several  times a week

always behind Chacho's Bar
on Harrison

a beautiful, ebony-eyed girl
all done-up, didn't look like a whore

at  all, always a 75 cent fare
to the Valley Hi Motel she worked

in small, one-room cottages
beneath high palm trees

blowing
in wet, coastal winds...

cottages by a twisting turning driveway
of circles and switchbacks

and small-pebble gravel
crunching  indiscreetly beneath my tires...

a a 75 -cent ride from Chacho's with a dime for me,
then a call back 45 minutes later,  for  pick up

and drive back to the alley behind the  bar
where I had  picked her  up, a shy Mexican girl

in a town not  that large, protecting her reputation
even though it's  certain everyone

in the bar  knew
what she did for a living...

and so it went
until one night the alley behind the bar

wasn't deserted as it usually was,
but crowded with men, drive on, she said

as I slowed down,
but it was too late, all the men's eyes

were on me  and the cab, and especially her,
not looking like a whore at  all, til

now, as she stepped out of  the cab
and walked between the men

as they parted
to let her  pass, knowing

as she walked that what is known quietly
changes when it is  known  out loud

~~~

the last  I saw -
her walking through Chacho's back  door

hips swinging in her tight dress
like they never did before

looking like a whore
advertising

~~~

maybe she started doing tricks at the bar
with no longer a need to be discreet...

maybe she went home and quit the business,
found a job slinging hash at  a local beanery...

maybe one, maybe
the other, I only know

she never  called for  me again








                                                                         
I wrote a rant-poem a couple of days ago that I'll probably never post here. It  was about the politician/draft dodgers who never hesitate to start wars for other people  to fight and die in. The next poet from my library, Siegfried Sassoon, one of the poet survivors of the "Great War," could tell them a thing  or two. But the thing or two he could tell them they would, as always, refuse to hear.









Supreme Sacrifice

  I told her our Battalion'd got aknock.
"Six officers were killed; a hopeless show!"
Her tired eyes half-confessed she'd felt the shock
Of ugly war brought home. And then a slow
Spiritual brightness stole across her face...
But they are safe and happy now," she said
   I thought "The world's a silly sort of place
   When people think it's pleasant to be dead."
   I thought, "How cheery the brave troops would be
   If Sergeant-Majors taught Theosophy"

2 June 19117


The Effect

The effect of our bombardment was terrific. One man told me he
had never seen so many dead before. War Correspondent.

He'd never seen so many dead before."
They sprawled in yellow daylight while he swore
And gasped and lugged his everlasting load
Of bombs along what once had been a road.
"How peaceful are the dead."
Who put that silly gag in someone's head?

"He'd never seen so many dead before."
The lilting words danced up and down his brain,
While corpses jumped and capered in the rain.
No, no: he wouldn't count them any more...
The dead have done with pain:
They've choked; they can't come back to life again.

When Dick was killed last week he looked like that,
Flapping along the fire-step like a fish,
After the blazing crump had knocked him flat...
"How many dead? As many as you ever wish.
Don't count 'em: they're too many.
Who'll buy my nice fresh corpses, two a penny?"

Summer 1917








 
                                                                    








Considering alternatives, last week.














thinking I could be a monk

sometimes
I think about joining a monastery

imagine a monk's quiet life,
a little room
with a little bed
and a little desk and a computer
with Internet access
and a  little  window where
I could look  out
on green forested hills,
where deer  tiptoe quietly
between great trees
a'swarm with chasing squirrels
and birds of every song
and color and pitch

and I could spend
hours in the little room
doing my little
poems
and then,  part of every day,
I could  enjoy the outside, cultivate  peas
and corn
and peace  of mind, time spent

rearranging colored rocks
in the garden,
visualizing a new and better  world
while swimming naked
in a clear sylvan
pool with a grassy knoll
on the  side
where I could lie
bare under the  one true god,
the sun that shines
with bright benevolence
on us all,
working a regular shift
with sister moon
who brings with her passage
whispers of night sprites
that caress,
preparing the shadows
for soft mountain
breezes that open  each day
with breaths of
rebirth

~~~

it's the religious thing
that deters me,
the expectation that time will be spent
in prayer, kneeling, paying hourly
obeisance to ecclesiastical authority
and theological philosophies that do  not
fit  me...

but,
given the rest of the life
I imagine,
I think I might be able to accessorize
my attitudes,
fake
such piety as is
required
with smiles and
bless-your-brothers to all that stoop with me
over the miracle  of peas and  corn
growing
in the garden...

as long as I'm not required
to sing

such unholy racket
would for certain break my
cover...








                                                                              


Next from the anthology,  I have this piece by Audre Lorde, a poet whose work I've used often in "Here and Now."










For the Record
                  in memory of Eleanor Bumpers

Call out the colored girls
and the ones who call themselves Black
and the ones who hate the word nigger
and the ones who are very pale

Who will  count the big fleshy women
the grandmother weighing 22 stone
with the rusty braids
and a gap-toothed scowl
who wasn't afraid of Armageddon
the first shotgun blast tore her right arm off
the one with the butcher knife
the second blew out her heart
through the back of her chest
and I am going to keep writing it down
how they carried her body out of the house
dress torn    up around her waist
uncovered
past tenants and neighborhood children
a mountain of Black Woman
and I am going to keep telling this
if it kills me
and it might in ways I am
learning

The next day Indira Gandhi
was shot down in her garden
and I wonder what these two 67-year-old
colored girls
are saying to each other now
planning their return
and they weren't even
sisters.









                                                                       








Two more cabbie-days stories.














the all-beat-up guy and his friend

courtesy
of  a night in a  Mexican  jail
he was
about the most beat-up guy
I've ever seen walking, except
he wasn't really walking,
just hanging on to his friend
who shuffled him across
the Brownsville-Matamoros bridge

his friend had crossed the river
to get him out of jail
and back on American soil,
and now -
"hospital,"  he said, "nearest, quickest,
wherever it is"

so I put the yellow Chevy
in high gear
and we headed down the road,
the two of  them in back of
my cab, the friend  holding the all-beat-up fella
from falling over in the seat,
both eyes swollen shut, his face a bloody pulp,
his hands swollen  like  they had been broken,
a mumbling wreck
as close to dying as anyone
I ever carried...

I dropped them off at the hospital
then went for my next call,
a couple of little  old ladies from out  on West  Monroe
who  needed to go  to
the supermarket
for their weekly $15 worth  of grocery shopping...

got 35 cents from the old ladies, plus a nickel tip

a buck seventy five from the all-beat-up fella
and his friend,
no tip...

don't know what the beat-up fella  did
to get so beat up, pissed someone off really bad
for sure, but I think he probably
deserved it

probably didn't tip them
either



the shrimper

he was a large man

middle-aged and  gray,
bulky,
slow moving,
as those for whom
the deck is never
still,
large, hard-used hands,
knotty veins
and calloused,  fingers stiff
from bad weather,
his face cracked and broken
from sun and salt spray...

he would spend
weeks on his little boat,
fishing, then return to harbor for a week,
sleeping at his mother's  house
when he slept
(he hated her, he said.
whore, bitch, a whoring  bitch, he said,
waiting  for her  to die  so he could  have the house to himself)

he was  loud, boastful, contentious,
prone to getting into bar
fights
and mostly losing
from what  I  could see
when I  picked him up late at  night
during weeks he was  ashore,
his face a swollen mass of blood and bruise,
pints clanking in his  coat pockets,
something to keep  him going
with the bars closing,something
that could keep him drinking,
sleeping under a tree
in a park until the  bars opened again
in the morning, pickled pig feet and maybe a hard boiled egg
from glass jars on bar, breakfast, often lunch and sometimes
dinner, no matter as long
as  he could keep the whiskey flowing...

usually too drunk to know
when he was being rolled,  he was always
broke when I  picked him  up
at the end of his week ashore, money spent, lost, stolen,
everything he  had but his  boat, gone,
the earnings of weeks  of hard, dangerous toil
gone, his refuge again,  the boat
and the rolling waves
of the Gulf of
Mexico,
and his catch
enough
in time for another lost week...

he was not a happy ma,
not a good man, and never  a man to make a friend,
a victim,
his own self-destructing  victim.








                                                                               




Last this week from my library, the title poem by William Stobb, from his book Absentia. The book was published in 2011 by Penguin Poets.










Absentia

"Did I tell you? I think I did.
I liked your speech at the conference.
Kind of a walk-by on the steps outside:
Hey I liked your speech now we're astronauts
drifting apart through deep space -
I liked your speeeeeeeech."
It reminded me of feelings
I had when M.'s baby died.
Those big eyes, remember?
 They wash through my mind.
Long lashes long absence.
A whole  life can you imagine
of absence? The Laotian boy in your speech.
Did he really run away
to fight in the secret army
then meet his mother at Safeway in Sheboygan?
It made me breathe in that sobby way,
I had a hard time sitting quietly.
Hearing you. Seeing you on a  stage.
I  couldn't make myself stay.

Can we try again in the spring?
I hope you're feeling the world
appreciates you adequately.
I appreciate you so much
I can's see you. Isn't it funny
saying "the world" all the time like we know?
Mostly I know things that can't quite
seem to happen."










                                                                   








Some  thoughts on how it might end.













the end of all things

in all the usual stories
the end of all
is seen
as a universal contraction,
a collapse into fire
and fury of colliding stars,
the end spectacular
as  befits the final days
of the power and the glory
of all that is...

my own guess is the opposite,
the all of it all
like a clock running down,
the forces of all the turning universal
gears slowing into entropy
as the closed system of our universe declines,
reaching static equilibrium,
the assumed eternal crescendo of expansion
stilled  by the  decay of  time and  space
as things brought together by force that constructed all that is
begins to drift apart, atom from atom, the great circles
and cycles of creation cease, star-fires dim,
molecules disassemble,  protons and neutrons
and quarks and all the other tin components
of reality unhinge and lose their grasp
of the fabric of what makes all that has been made,
cracks in time,  a dimension unwound,
the end quiet and unnoticed by the others,
the temporary neighbors
we never see
residing behind the fences of other times,
other spaces, other dimensions...

all we are born to  know
returning to unknown,
like an old man, winding down
to a final and inevitable
end








                                                                    


Last from the week's anthology, two poems by Rita Dove, another poet whose work I use often.









Turning Thirty, I Contemplate Students Bicycling Home

This is the weather of change
and clear  light.  This is
weather on its B side,
askew, that propels
the legs of young men
in tight jeans wheeling
though tired, wise
spring. Crickets too
awake in choirs
out of sight, although
I imagine we see
the same thing
for a long way.

This, then, weather
to start over.
Evening rustles
her skirts of sulky
organza. skin
prickles, defining
what is and shall not be...

How private
the complaints
of these
green hills.


Canary

                       for Michael S.  Harper

Billie Holiday's burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

(Now you're cooking, drummer to bass,
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you want to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege
has been to sharpen love  in the service of myth.

If you can't be free, be a mystery.








                                                      







  I've posted this poem before, but it's a good story and  a  good  conclusion to my week of old taxi cab stories.














the night I got chased out of Mexico

this
is a story
about the night
I  got  chased  out of
Mexico
by a posse
of  Mexican taxi  cabs

I was a young guy
just old enough at 21
to get a taxi license
and I was driving
cab
on the Texas side
of the border

I  picked  up  a fare
outside
one of the hotels
who wanted
to  go to Mexico
and I said
hell yes
because  it was  about
25 miles
and at  35 cents
for the first mile
and 10 cents a mile
thereafter
it was a pretty good
pay-off
of which I'd get
a third
which never was
a helluva a lot
most nights
but better for a
trip
like this

so we headed out
down  77
to Matamoros
through Brownsville
and across the bridge
from where I knew
how to get two places
boys' town
about which we
will speak no more
and the Central  Plaza
which was close
to the Mercado
and lots  of good
nightclubs
good food
music
and floor shows
with sometimes
naked women
and that's where
the fella I was
carrying
wanted to  go
so we  went there
and I dropped
him off  at the plaza
and while he  paid me
I noticed all
the Mexican cabbies
giving me the eye
and I noticed
when I left
some of those
Mexican cabs
started following
behind
and then I  noticed
I had ten to fifteen
Mexican cabs
riding  my back
bumper
and I said to myself
of shit
I fucked up
and the way
they were following
close and honking
it looked pretty clear
that they were
pissed
about whatever
it was I did
so I took off
for the  bridge
as fast as I could
trying to remember
as  I flew
which of the many
one-way streets
in Matamoros
were going my way
and which were going
to either get me lost
or back to the plaza
where more trouble
was sure to be
waiting
and when I  reached
the  bridge
I tossed my 8 cents
to cross
to the Mexican
border guard
without
hardly stopping

~~~

when I  got back
my dispatcher
told me the rules -
cabs don't cross
borders,
fares are  dropped
at the bridge
where they can
walk across
and get a local
cab
so
I  really felt dumb
and never did that
again
though one time
I  did pick up a guy
at the bridge
who had been in
jail
in Matamoros
for three days
and was beat
all to shit
and bleeding and
barely conscious

so I took him to a
hospital
and never got close
to the  border
again

but that's another
story








 
                                                      








Early morning coffeehouse scene.














this very year

the pretty girl
lets loose  her  long, dark hair,
smiles,
straight white teeth
gleaming
like beacons
in the early light

her companion, the
blind girl,
caresses her free blowing hair  with
soft and  perceptive fingers...

friends
down from Austin
for an event at The Pearl,
having daybreak coffee
under an orange
umbrella

Friday, July 11,
this very year of our cool
and peaceful
mornings








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.



I mention it every week and it's  still true, I'm Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:




Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Copia, Garner's, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, eBookPie, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando and Kobo (and, through Kobo,  brick and mortar retail booksellers all across America and abroad)



´╗┐Poetry
New Days & New Ways
 Places and Spaces



Always to the Light






Goes Around Comes Around





Pushing Clouds Against the Wind





And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio




Seven Beats a Second






Short Stories



Sonyador - The Dreamer





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