The Way West: Half-Way to the Pacific   Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interstate 10 begins in Jacksonville, Florida, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, then crosses the continental United States to end at the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles. San Antonio is a bit more than half-way in that journey from great ocean to great ocean and Fredericksburg Road in San Antonio was the path to that western route before I-10 was completed. Its was the way west from here.

Now I-10 is a four to six lane divided expressway with posted speed limits of 80 miles per hour. The first time I drove from Fort Stockton (about half way to El Paso) to San Antonio, that section of the interstate was not yet done. It was half of a 12 hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a small, two lane highway with twisting curves and ups and downs around and over rough hills. It was a fun all-night drive for a young guy, but for this old guy, the interstate is now a better way to go.

The road, which begins downtown and and extends to the far northwest side, can be read like a history book of the city's growth and change in the last fifty years.

I had  intended to follow the road from downtown to where it reconnects to I-10. But got only to Loop 410, the city's first around-the-city loop. When the loop was first finished in the late sixties, there wasn't much of the city after you crossed it. Now it is only about half way to the beginning of the edge of the outer suburbs. I decided to end my picture-taking at the Loop, since all of the new stuff from that point is mostly modern and mostly dull, any-city stuff with hardly anything that says "San Antonio."

I also intended to go for hyper-real black and white photos. I dropped that idea after looking around and realizing that, in San Antonio, hyper-real is hyper-color. It is part of the city's heritage.

That long explanation of the photos done, I move on to the poetry.

Like last week, I'm dropping my usual anthology posts and instead featuring poems by my poet-friend Gary Blankenship. Gary has a new book out, The Poetic States and a drop of sunshine, which I took a several poems from a  couple of weeks ago. That book was published by Writers & Lovers Studio. You can get more  information on that book a http;//

But I'm not going to that book this week. Instead, I'm going back to Gary's first book, A River Transformed: Wang Wei's River Wang poems as Inspiration, a work of  poetry and scholarship.

As it happens, I wrote the foreword to the book  and in that foreword I said of Gary that there is a calm and contemplative center to everything he writes and that it is this characteristic that seems to have led him to Wang's original work and that makes him so well-suited to translate the essences of that work into modern forms.

I don't know if the book is still available. If it is I'm sure you can get information on how to get a copy by emailing Gary,

 Plus the normal course of events, poets from my library and stuff from me, new and old.

Lining  up now for your entertainment

Neena at  Lens Crafters

Gary Blankenship
V: After Wang Wei's Lily Magnolia Enclosure (6) - Among Fishermen

Sunday soiree

Bruce Weigl
The Thing (Part One)
The Thing  (Part Two)

labor day

Gary Blankenship 
XI: After Wang Wei's Huazi Ridge (2) - Between  Ridges and Canyons  

throw in a hole in the ground   

Helena Mesa
Stasis at  Fifteen
Mechanics of Early Autumn

a yellow day

Gary Blankenship
VI: After Wang Wei's Jinzhu Ridge (4) - Standing Before a Teacher 

what's the big idea

Virginia Cerenio

a sign of seasons changing

Gary Blankenship
XVII: After Wang Wei's Waves of Willow Trees (12) - What Isn't, Is Forgotten

Ignacio V. - rest in peace

Gerard Malanga
Brazini's Daughter
Sonnet to Edgar Allen Poe   

it could be worse

Gary Blankenship
XX: After Wang Wei's Pepper Tree Garden (20) - The Last Step  

songs of the furthermost  seas

Meg Keaney
A Therapist Invites Me to Visit My Inner Child  

       nimbus moon         


This poem refers to the first bright spot in a  week where I felt up  to  this incident like left-over spit. I'm hoping this is the beginning of  something better than it's  been.

Neena at Lens Crafters

a community college
taking care of the basics
before going on to dental tech school

a little large
for the glamor magazines,
country girl large,
but substantial,
a woman to hold on to you
and be held

the first impression
not her size, but
her dark eyes
and  a wide  smile reaching
all  the way to those  bright orbs

then her hands,
fingers long and strong
and capable, beautiful in their
dexterity as she  maneuvers
 the little screws
that hold my eyeglasses together

and  we talk
as she works and I pose
for the various
measurements and adjustments...

thirty minutes,
so different
from the drudge
that usually moves you through
such required processes...

thirty minutes
that  seem like less than half  so long...


her beautiful  hands
and capable  fingers, no ring, no sign of  attachment,
somewhere out there in the world,
a lucky someone
who does not know yet the treasure
that will come
in time


This is my first poem this week by Gary Blankenship from his book "A River Transformed

V: After Wang Wei's Lily Magnolia Enclosure (6) - Among Fishermen

Otters gather wrapped in ropes of kelp,
always watchful for kit and purse seine.
Seabirds follow one another into the waves,
feathers brightened by glacial glow.

In milky rivers quick with a season's  melt,
red and silver, blind, swim towards home -
a distant stream beyond fish weir
and the expert flick of paw and wrist.

I heave a pink lure and lime green egg.
The pole bends - caught in the willows;
a kingfisher, flushed,rockets towards the sea.
Your eyes laugh as you cast a barbless hook.

The summer pack ice is far from shore;
gray calves and beluga pass undisturbed.


A cast  of  Sunday morning diners at my breakfast restaurant, very early before the after-church crowd takes over.

Sunday soiree


a child,
a girl no more than
6 years old


i'm sorry

it fourteen  different

does a child,
a girl no  more than
6 years old

know how to  say
i'm sorry
fourteen different

does a child
know that many different
ways to say
i'm  sorry


they come in
but i don't notice them
until they sit,
back to  me, in the  booth
in front of me

he is
i'd say  in his early 40s
early convert  to  the
club of gray-haired gentlemen

his companion
short hair,
his son,
9-10 years old,
i thought,
until they began to  cuddle

what a


i saw
Lizbeth Salander
at the  kolache

small small

long dark hair
tight jeans
defining tight
kick-ass  butt
determined chin
intense eyes

i had imagined her
to be


short  story writer
has a new book  of stories

great review
in  today's paper

and i remember
him telling me about how
Twain and Dickens
used to write  glowing reviews
of their own books
under made-up names

and i wonder
about my next book


two very large
sit in front of me

the one furthest
from me
orders  first

four eggs over easy
from  his died,
wheat toast,

the other guy -
just oatmeal and
sourdough toast

a pale  shadow
of his former self
coming soon


sick old man
and grouchy old woman

at  the  table next to me
on Sundays

oxygen  pack
by his side tubed
to his  nose

eats his scrambled eggs
has toast and coffee

emphysema -

i know the signs of it

my father died of it
30 years  ago

prisoner of his  house
and later
his bed in the last  years

i  think
of how different
his last years would  have
been if there had been
little oxygen packs
with tubes to his  nose
in those days

and how glad  i am
my mother
wasn't a grumpgrump


Dee Dee

friendly Dee Dee

and hurt her  leg

two week off
came back limping

pained and limping
for another two weeks

rocketing from table
to table

trays balanced
on both hands

watch out


Dee Dee

Rocket-Girl DeeDee

First of the poems from my library this week,  here are two by Bruce Weigl. The poems are from his book, The Unraveling Strangeness, published by Grove Press in 2002.

Born in 1949, Weigl joined the army shortly after he turned 18 and served on year in Vietnam where he earned a Bronze Star.  Beginning at  Lorain County Community College after separation from the military,  he went on to earn a BA from Oberlin College, an  MA from the University of New Hampshire and a PhD from the University of Utah. After teaching at Penn State for many years, he returned to Lorain Community College as the institutions first Distinguished Professor.

The Thing
(Part One)

I've stayed up  nights
waiting for that
thing I could  hear
pacing in the thicket

of cruel thorns
until the black sky
tells it that it's time
to come and get me.

Few are as faithful as I  am
in their waiting.
I even imagine

I can see the thing
standing in the dim
streetlight wash
in the shape of  one of the lost,

one of the unloved,
forced to wander the lonely dark.
I have waited up
all night so many times for him

that I have blurred the boundaries
of good sense,
and still the thing never comes;
it  always never comes.

The Thing
(Part Two)

I was
nostalgic,  remembering
the days of Freud,
when we still had

hope that we could drive the bad cells
out with clever talk and good intentions,
all for a  c-note  an  hour. We believed
we could fix a bad thing

inside a man those days;
we hadn't yet
run out of others to blame
for the mad blood we left in our wake

like a twisted offering
through the thousand years,
the pious self in us
curled up in fear

away from the unforgiving.
I was dozing  and dreaming on the
rented veranda's rented
sofa in the cross-fire troubled sun.

A mentioned above  a really lousy week, the weather is godawful and my mood  fit  to match it. Actually this could have been any day in the past  weeks. I only titled it labor  day because that's when I  wrote it.

But, considering the position of labor in these days of anti-worker, anti-middle class dominance, it kind of  fits for labor  day too.

labor day

awoke late
tired and dispirited
from dreams
of days  long and  fruitless
like a train on a circular track,
round and round  we go, no sign
of  ever stopping anywhere,
just more of the same


hope and
faith, twin horsemen
of  a morning's rosy glow -
no good one
without the other,
each alone like a horse
with a broken leg,
because the horse knows
what it's like to run free
in a summer


sour morning...

dreams of soured dreams,
faithless dreamers


Here's another "Wang Wei" inspired poem by  Gary Blankenship.

XI: After Wang Wei's Huazi  Ridge (2) - Between Ridges, Canyons

A raptor  soars above empty lands,
species unidentifiable -
a speck against the clear desert sky -
lands empty except for tower, post and pole
along distant ridges and the march
of house and trailer up ever steeper slopes.

Talons, unfettered, dive towards prey
only he and turkey vultures can see.
I watch,  uncertain of the difference
between hawk, falcon and rook.
Our lunch sits untouched,  iced tea
visited by hornets - or is it wasps?

Magpies squabble over the remnants
of a dead crow in an open fire ant nest.


Here's a poem  from about this time in 2010.

throw in a hole in the ground

thinking about all the people
who don't know their ass  from a hole

in the ground and thinking how I'd like
to write a poem that wasn't about

that and thinking about
how I don't know  how

to do  that, don't know how to write
a brain-free poem...

maybe start with random phrases
and images

throw  in the kitchen sink;
throw in a  cat in the kitchen

sink; throw in a wet cat
in the kitchen sink,

throw in
a  pissed-off wet cat

fully extended claws

scratching at the porcelain;
throw  in a porcelain

(why the hell not - gets

me away from the
pissed-off cat);

throw in a porcelain

in a bus station restroom;
throw in a bus  station lobby,

people sleeping, people talking,
babies crying,  old men coughing,

spitting, farting in plastic chairs,
pinball machines  clattering

and whistling and clanging
and pin-balling

kathunka kathunka kathunka
pin balls bouncing off the rubbers

thacka thacka thacka
pinball scoring

whanga whanga whanga
thunk - free game

off concrete walls

echoes echoes echoes...

stone wall echoes

throw in a rock band
guitars and drums echoing

in a tiny room
of sweaty people jumping,

Saturday night
on 6th street; throw in sweaty people

on the 4tyh of July,

dancing, jumping,
a little drunk  some, mostly

drunk others, having a
good time mostly not  remembered

but why the hell not

there'll be another tomorrow
after tomorrow

for most of us
odds are for you and me

me anyway maybe who knows -

throw in a box;
throw me in the box

throw in a hole in the ground;
throw in people who don't know

their ass
from my hole in the ground

and I'm back where  I


Next from  my library, two short poems by Helena Mesa. The poems are from her book, Horse Dance Underwater, published in 2009 by Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh to Cuban  parents, Mesa has a BA from Indiana University, and MFA from the University of Maryland and a PhD from the University of Houston. Currently she is an associate professor of English at Albion College.

Stasis at Fifteen

Mid-August,  a steady heat hemlocks.
Boats float on water too deep for crabbing
and when you dive, ripples broaden
but the boats  remain still. In the distance a radio
cites today's  news,  same as yesterday's -
another hijacked tourist, another heat record.
What's changed? At eight, the want to  flee
At ten, the restlessness for something else?

Dusk, row to the canal's mouth where
stillness ends in a darkness too large
for hands to steer.  There,salt laps the air,
a gauze rag that scratches cheeks and gags
the buoys' clangs. Stop. Tie down each oar.
What you want will  come, swallow you whole.

Mechanics of Early Autumn

Migrant workers pick late tomatoes,
the rows,  half-tidy, the last before the men
pack and move on, leaving beehives
half-fallen from a tractor,combs  empty.
Lilac fails yellowing grass. Steeples finger
the hammocked sky, insignificant rebellions
you would say, simple details like cracks in a mug
cast as sadness. Glaze cracks, china chips,
the day is not unraveling.  And still
on the drive, leaves raise their silver hems
to walk through puddles not yet formed.


This one not so sour as pissed. Local politicians folded on an issue of importance to the city in the face of right wing  pressure. No guts, not the way to make a great city.

More of a howl than a poem. Two kinds of drought,combined.

 a yellow day

a yellow day

yellow sun
yellow light
yellow grass
yellow politicians

(but that's another story)


Here is Gary again from his first book

VI: After Wang Wei's  Jinzhu Ridge (4) - Standing before a Teacher

Brush to  ink, ink to paper
paper given to fire,  green flames  released.
The teacher spoke, "As empty as a barkless tree,
hollow as bones that strike a bamboo  drum."

Masked and hooded birds,  specks to the eye
disturb the branches of trembling aspens.
The wind divides a waterfall;
water dissolves rock and grass beyond tomorrow.

Why have we taken this narrow road
with its  unpredictable turns,
quick drops and impossible climbs?
When we stop, do you expect to rest?

Children at play in wet red clay
laugh at how their pies taste without almonds.


Run across a lot of big ideas in my time, none of them worth remembering for too long.

what's the big idea

was on the verge
of thinking big thoughts
this morning -

about the seemingly
oxymoronic idea

that young men
are often more willing 
to die for a cause

than old men, who,
practically speaking
have fewer years to  lose,

but it is that which
makes them

for the more rare  a thing is
the more precious
it becomes

and an  old man
with only a few years left
will kill for every living

moment of it
but will not die
for any cause but his own

survival - it  is  age
that makes cowards
of us all...

but that reminds me
of a Nash Rambler station wagon
I bought back when I  was in college -

made it six blocks
from  where I  bought it
before the engine froze up -

a pile  of crap
is what it was, just like most
so-called "big ideas"

except  that the Rambler
was a pile of crap
on wheels

while most  big ideas,
though they could use
a good  set of training wheels,

have no wheels at all,
they just sit there and stink...

it should be hung up on a flagpole
written in fancy letters -

"if you ain't Einstein,
don't fuck around with big ideas
cause you ain't got it in you" -

reminds me of Bill Moyers,
fairly good preacher, politician
and journalist, with his Southern Baptist

voice on TV
talking well over his own head,
like he'd never seen  that  Eastwood movie,

Clint saying,
"a man's got to know his  limitations,"
but it seems,  just like Moyers,

none of us know  that,  which seems
so  simple,
and so we end up, like in

Cool Hand Luke with a "failyorrr
to communcate"
saying things  we didn't mean to say

to others
hearing something  else

and our big ideas
mostly end up
big  embarrassments

like this whole business
of young men  being more willing
to  die

while old men are willing
to  kill

so  could you just forget
you ever  heard that
from me

and  pretend this  poem
was about frogs in a pond
or  birds in a tree

or  bears in the woods
what bears do in the woods,

something simple  like that,
not remotely pretending to be a "big idea"

it's just

Again from my library, this time a poem by  Virginia Cerenio, from her book Trespassing Innocence. The book was published in 1989 by Kearny Street Workshop Press. I couldn't find much about the poet on the web beyond the short bio on the back of the book. According to that, Cerenio is a second generation Filipino-American, living in San Francisco and a member of the Bay Area Philipino Writers.

The picture on the right is the only one I could find.


the blossoms fall on the concrete
a false spring, too early the fruit trees bloom
like all of us fooled into a sense of hope
the sensitive ones run away
to okinawa          to mindanao
still the children cry
in paradise
their little bellies like clay jars
waiting to be filled
so fragile         so easy to break
how sad these growing things:
the young blossoms,       the tender hearts
the little children
struggle against the world that made them.


Momentary flash of optimism.

a sign of seasons changing

a sign of seasons
changing -

night surrenders
day's encroachment
on midnight's domain advances

crows for months
in the dark until a new  season  and
and earlier sun
reveals his  hidden

and he calls  his bright welcome,
the parts of him found
and reunited


Another of Gary's poems inspired by one of Wang Wei.

XVII: After Wang Wei's Waves of Willow Trees (12)  - What Isn't, Is  Forgotten

There are no castles  on our horizons;
no ramparts to fly banners and warn
seabirds we have  fled and do  not follow!

Footsteps lead  towards  smoke ad home.
We look back to the sea as if to recall
who was left behind unharvested.

Your hair floats unlike kelp at low tide,
fingers grasp unlike roots in soft sand,
your limbs as white as split driftwood.

I cannot see what you are, only what your aren't.
You are flesh,blood and  bone,  but I see
shell, beach and surf as the moon turns orange.

Around and around, a toy boat floats;
and old man argues its sail was ever blue.


I wrote this poem in September,  2010, which tells the full extent of our relationship. The fact  is, I'm  sorry to say, I don't remember what Iggy looked like, or  even where we met.

Ignacio V. - rest in peace

I met Iggy
a couple  of months ago

didn't know him well,
but we had some good  coffee
shop discussions about writing...

a novelist,
very happy that
at 70,000 words,
he was nearing the end
of his latest...

but mostly he wanted to talk
about poetry - wanting to
try something different, some-
that called for a new
set of skills unlike those he had
practiced as a novelist...

he asked me to critique
some of his efforts
and I said I would...

his weakness as a poet
was that of a novelist,
double,triple modifiers,
the kind of thing you might
expect  of someone who writes
70,000 words without finishing,

and a tendency to explain
things in twice as many words
as he could have used to show them
to more immediate effect,

but each new poem he brought me
was  better, trimmer, more direct
and visual, imagery
rather than  exposition expanded
like sentences drug along by a chain


I read  Iggy's obituary yesterday,
dead at 60, seven years
than me, and I feel little  guilty,
as  we all do  when someone dies
who we had come  to avoid,
as I began to avoid
him in the end, his demand for
tutoring, his presentation
of a new  poem for me to read
every time we met, becoming  tiresome,
like homework arriving  at a time
when you'd rather read the paper
or write your own poem...

and I  felt bad that I had never,
and probably will never,
read any of his books, and I feel bad
thinking of that last novel, 70,000 words
and no ending, 70,000 words
hung  forever incomplete...

and I  felt bad about how  pleased I was
to write poetry, knowing that,  thought
I don't  expect to ever  write an opus,
whatever I  do write will be done
when I'm done...

and I feel bad
that Iggy would hate this poem,
violating, as it  does, all  the rules
I told him about - all but the rule
we never got around
to talking about - the rule that no rule
should  ever stand in the way of what
a poet sees or how he wants to
express it,
the rule  of no rule, the most  important
rule of

I wish I had mentioned  that one...

 Next from my library, two poems by   Gerard Malanga. The poems  are from his book, No Respect - New and Selected Poems 1964-2000,  published in 2001 by Black Sparrow Press.

Born in  the Bronx in 1943, Malanga, a poet, photographer, filmmaker, curator and archivist worked with Andy Warhol during his most creative period from 1963-1970.

Barzini's Daughter

"You should have seen me papa
In  my gym class falling to the floor.
I was so graceless, but I am fast learning.
I have to touch things and then draw the line.
I want to go to New York to model enough to study
Acting seriously and everything else too.
I want to go over the hill  today and look around me
At the landscape and the sea.
I want you to come with me papa
If you're no busy.

It's autumn, it's winter.
You look for yourself, the way you looked
As a child,in the "4 for a quarter" photos
Taken today. The light flashing behind  your head
Pressed against my left shoulder
And a still-portrait emerges.
The landscape inserted behind us
The clouds fairly bright in the late afternoon.

Sonnet to Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe,
I lived only three blocks from your home
on a street on a hill
a small field once,
beside the little white cottage
I stood in front of your
green-painted gate age four
when my father unconsciously cast
my fate with a little box camera.
I've come this far to Rome
closing in the opposite
distance and my father's 1920 American dream
traveling by steamer via Naples-New York,
not knowing his cause.


I don't believe in gods, but that doesn't mean they're not good  for a joke or two.

it could be worse

it rained
within two  blocks
in every direction of my house

no  rain fell at
not even a snivel
of it

it  seems that God
has an issue
with something going on
in my house

I do not believe it can  be
my fault,
I am not one of
His tribe
and do not acknowledge His existence
it  would seem to be impossible for me to have crossed
his exceedingly persnickety
of believers

that  only leaves my wife,
who is one of  those
and who obviously screw-up
vis a vis
all-powerful grumpiness

I don't know what it  is  she did
and she won't admit
to doing anything
but I don't believe it
I am a man of  logic
as explained above
it is obvious
she must have done
since someone did
and it wasn't

and whatever it  was,
she needs to fix
my  petunias
are on their last  legs,
dying from lack of the gentle
of rain,
of His Vindictive
response to whatever she did...


it could be worse
I suppose...

it may be that everything of a vegetative nature
is dying,
but at least no one's been turned
into  a pillar of salt


This is my last poem this week by Gary Blankenship, from his book, A River Transformed: Wang  Wei's River Wang  Poems as  Inspiration.

XX: After Wang Wei's Pepper Tree Garden (20) - The Last Step

The celebrations finished, bottles tossed,
boas docked and market shuttered -
the village gates bolted
against the careless wreck of a new moon.

Beyond the hills, red deer graze new moss,
fox kits roll in the soft  dirt near their den.
The villagers sleep by the moon's light
as monkey's steal tomorrow's quiet.

We unpack - books, souvenirs, glass goddesses.
You cannot find the high boots that need new soles.
Luggage stowed, we settle in like morning
as I wait for day to light the mountain road.

A truck has broken down at the crossing.
From a bus, a passenger may have waved good-bye.


This poem is from September, 2010. As I remember, it was inspired by a discovery that whales from all across the seas  will  sometimes sing the same songs together.

songs of the furthermost seas

a song
sung over and over

a long singer

all  of his kind
singing the same
song across a wide
ocean, sometimes
singing the same song

singing leviathan songs

it seems
for the joy
of the singing

the slaughter


but, Christ,  the
hunters say

what the hell good
is an animal
if you can't have
the pleasure
of killing

The last poem from my library this week is by  Meg Kearney, from her book An Unkindness of Ravens. The book was published in 2001 by BOA Editions,  Ltd.

Kearney is founding director of the Solstice Low-Residence Program in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College. Before that she was Associate Director of the National Book Foundation, sponsor of the National Book Award.

A Therapist Invites Me to Visit My Inner Child

I dread going back to see that girl
after her first day of kindergarten.
She is sitting on the front porch
of the green house on the hill
in her braids, freckles, and new plaid
dress. What should I not say?
The living-room drapes are drawn;
front door is closed against the afternoon
sun. The girl's socks are muddy. Her
pockets sag with diamonds she discovered
in the creek bed on the way home.
When Mother wakes from her nap,
the girl plans to give them to her.
She will stand by the couch
and pour into her mother's hands
diamonds that sparkle like ice in glass.
Then her mother might be happy.
The girl is singing "Three Little Angels,"
waiting for those curtains to open.
I want to explain that once they dry
the diamonds will be dull and gray.
I want her to  stop singing that song.
I want to say her pockets are full of stones.


Last this week from me, a late-night/early-morning  sight.

nimbus moon

so bright thin clouds
appear to pass
behind it

thicker clouds come
to  swallow it
like a cat swallows a small bird

dark cloud
laced around by a halo
of bright half

morning sky,

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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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