The annual onset of hysteria between Halloween and Thanksgiving, so what would you call it?
I have a motley crew of photos this week. Not much more to be said about them.
My anthology for the week is The Best American Poetry 2003
, published by Scribner Poetry.
And speaking of a motley crew of photos, I will be doing a Pics and Poems event at the IAMA Coffeehouse on Friday, November 7th, from 7 to 9 p.m.. I'll be showing a bunch of my photos and will read a few of my new and/or otherwise unpublished poems beginning about 7:30.
If you happen to be in the area, IAMA is at the entrance to the Pearl, on the corner of Broadway and Pearl.
Here's the rest.
from Haiku Mind
products of love
Open Door Blues
Marcos McPeek Villatoro
When I Die
there is no light like the sunlight here
Thomas R. Smith
Bucky Ditched Me
After Your Death
strange looking group
On Being Asked to Discuss Poetic Theory
a little night music
Pigeons Flying in Formation
join the song
For Nazim Hikmet in the Old Prison, now a Four Seasons Hotel
I start this week with a poem inspired by performances at a mariachi festival I went to last week. I'll let the poem explain.
Picture on the left, me with some of the photos I'll be showing at my "pics and poems" event at IAMA coffeehouse, next Friday, Nov. 7th 7 to 9 p.m.
Las Tesoros (the treasures)
as solo performers,international stars
of Latin music for generations, now together, first
as a quartet, now, on this night, with the passing of one, a trio,
the youngest in her 78th year, the oldest, 90.
and the one in between in her eighties
seeming so frail as they walk onto the stage
I worry they will fall,
break a hip,
or some other such turn that plagues the old
but as each, alone, then the three
begin to sing, age slips away
and all the fire and romance and passion
of mariachi unfolds and, unfolding, fills the plaza
from hotel balconies
all around the plaza, people watch and listen,
but most touch, most important,
the young people sitting cross-legged
at the foot of the stage, listening...
the torch is passed,
the flame carried on to new generations
The first poet this week from The Best American Poetry 2003
is Richard Howard
. The poet
was born in Ohio in 1929 and at the time the book was published was teaching
in the writing division of the School of the Arts at Columbia
The poem was first published in The New Yorker
Her dealer,who handled successful artists,
was a successful dealer,
and his Christmas party, too, was a success:
we all knew it, for weren't we all there?
And the successful artist
being handled in her eight decade knew it
too, although she was so old and had been so
unsuccessful for so long
that she seemed to pay no mind to anyone.
She sat quite still,, her rosy scalp glistening
through her rather thin white hair,
and gave no sign of hearing, or ignoring,
any of our successful conversations.
Above the chair she sat in
(like a furnished bone) loomed the decorative
focus of the long room which had been handled
by a successful designer
of skeletal interiors: a Roman male,
oversize and barely under-overweight,
every muscle equally
successful - classically nude but not
in the least naked as any man would be.
And as the talk continued
Alice Neel leaned back and looked up into
the forking limbs above her head, a pure
pelvic arch indeed denuded
of the usual embellishment, so that
all that met her eye was a shadowed empty
socket, the mere embouchure
where once unstinting paraphernalia
must have lodged. "Very fragile things, penises,"
she mused, and for a moment
no one succeeded in saying a word.
From November, 2007, enjoying the on-set of seasons changing.
a black cloud
a scattering of
spot the red brick
from a parade
sky are hidden
and you can
of an old
I start this week of library poems with little bites of poetry, haiku collected by Patricia Donegan and arranged by Donegan to illustrate 108 different subjects.
The book is Haiku Mind,
published by Shambhala in 2008. No translator is given for those poems not originally in English.
2. Sky Mind
To see Void vast infinite
look out the window
into the blue sky
by Allen Ginsberg
(In the Japanese tradition, this is Ginsberg's "death poem" written about a week before he died.)
I kill an ant...
and realize my three children
by Shuson Kato
(the greatest principle of haiku according to haiku master, Teijo Nakamura - "Be honest to
yourself; and write what is there.")
16. Co-emergent Wisdom
after the rain
bomb craters filled
by John Brandi
(from the Buddhist, "good and bad, happy and sad, all thoughts vanish into emptiness like the
imprint of a bird in the sky.")
through thin clothes
to naked skin
by Hisjado Sugita
(a mythological reference to a princess who was known for her beautiful skin said to shin
through her clothes)
42. Children's Innocence
shown a flower
the small baby
opens its mouth
(reference to Buddha's "flower sermon" given to all his disciples, in which he just held up
a single flower without saying a word)
79. Tao of Intimacy
The sun glitters
on the path
of a snail
by Robert Aitken
(written in Kobe, Japan, during the summer of 1944 while in a Japanese internment camp
108. For Peace
raging seas -
lying over Sado island
the Milky Way
by Basho Matsuo
(written by the poet while on Sado Island, in his time, a preserve for the exiled)
This poem from last week was inspired by a poem by one of my House of 30 mates.
products of love
thinking about how we are all
products of love -
love of a mother for her child,
the product of the love of a mother and a father
for each other and the love of those who bred and bore them,
and those before and before and before, an ever branching tree of love
from the past and the past past the past, to time long forgotten
to any memory except to the memory of the great mother
who bred us and bore us and fed us, all of ever and always all,
the creator and sustainer of the transient lives of her children,
all of every and always all...
even the one whose ancient bone was recently found, a tiny speck
of DNA still hidden in its marrow, the genes of someone so ancient soon
to be known in her most intimate state for the first time, this ancient someone,
one of a long line of mothers stretching forward and impossibly back...
what will the new-known truths of this mother
tell us about the truths of the first mother,
she who lives still with us and within us,
she who whispers her love for us in every passing
Next from the anthology of best poems, this piece by Stephen Dunn
. Born in New York state in 1939, Dunn teaches creative writing at Richard Stockton College of News Jersey.
The poem was first published in Brilliant Corners
Open Door Blues
The male wild turkey in the field
is all puffed up and unfurled.
Pecking at the ground, absorbed,
the female doesn't seem to care,
no sex, she seems to be saying,
before food. He looks the fool.
Cool air since you've been gone.
I haven't touched the heat, yet
the baseboard heaters are pinging
an atonal song. Balanced on its
haunches, your rocking chair
isn't rocking anymore. It can't,
alone, be fully what it is.I've
given it every one of its thoughts.
It thinks you will not return.
The creature that's burrowed
inside the wall, probably a squirrel,
is chewing something with bones.
Every time I kick the spot,
it stops, but not for long.
It-seems to believe it can't be hurt.
I've left the door open. The flies
know. The wasps soon will.
Here's another moody November piece from 2007.
fog on Apache
lost in overcast
splash and pool
on the path
as it always
we are the
This poem from my library is by Marcos McPeek Villatoro
. It is from his book, They Say that I Am Two
, published by Arte Publico Press in 1997. It is a bilingual book, each poem both in English and Spanish.
Villatoro is author of six novels, two collections of poetry, a memoir and was producer/director of a documentary, Tamale Road, a Memoir from El Salvador
. Born in 1962, he graduated from the Masters Program in English Literature at the University of Iowa.
When I Die
When I die,
please sneak into the box
a copy of
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Place it upon my chest.
Put a fifth of Johnnie Walker Red
snug in one arm.
You can slip my grandmother's rosary
in a coat pocket
and a photo of my lady
between my fingers.
Thus I'll be ready
to strut around, boasting about beauty;
to finger, finally,the little black beads;
and to thumb through the book on
the forgotten borders between
life and death.
Then, in the afternoons, I will
crack the seal,
and offer a round to anyone interested.
While the glasses click together,
we'll split our sides laughing
over the smiling dead
that continue kissing the earth.
It truly was a beautiful day. To those of you who might consider coming here. Do it mid-October to mid-November, mid-March to mid-April. Try to avoid at all costs August and January. Those months, go anywhere else instead.
there is no other light like the sunlight here
there is no other light
like sunlight here
at 9 a.m. on a late October
so bright -
it all the world a stage
and every day a play upon it
then this day's presentation
a story of radiance
a story of the glow in heaven,
all the saints arrayed
in their purity through days
of eternal glory lit
by all the brilliant stars
that surround it,
a celestial backdrop
that is the reward for
the greatest of all virtues -
forever shining light
of all the jealous
Next from this week's "Best American Poetry" anthology a piece by Bruce Bond
, a tribute to jazz great Art Tatum. Born in
California in 1954, Bond received a masters degree in music performance
and worked for years as a classical and jazz guitarist before earning a
Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver in 1987.
The poem was first published in The Paris Review
No stranger to the faith of eyes
asleep under the surgeon's lancet,
to time gambled with every try
that slit the foam of cataracts
where they pearled, he understood
the powers of sun to make us
loyal, what it is to shadow
twilight on the eye's horizon.
Then it came: the crumpling blow
that made desire final, the day
a neighbor blackjacked and robbed him,
flooding the blotter of his gaze.
And as the wounded eye welled up
with blindness, the other followed
blind, the night an ocular cup
of flashlight dwindled down the path
in his head, over pianos
as he saw them there, glazed in pitch.
Soon he grew into living proof
that darkness deepens the wind's ear.
It quickened what his hands were made of,
all those notes mapping the faces
of chords, touching the phantom shapes.
Finesse, yes, bu not the mere lace
of fancy; more a conversation
among losses, each prick of light
dissolving in its constellation.
Once he sat by a radio,
listening to a dead friend, and played
along on the air piano.
As if his fingertips had eyes
gazing into the music beneath
the music, dark, mute, buried alive.
is what the Greeks called it, pride so excessive it leads to defiance of the gods.
The fella in this poem is still on TV, his third series, each one worse than one that came before.
I can see
in the loft
across the street
for a new owner
it's for that
who had some
he was God's
to the movies
only to discover
after a string of
really bad movies
that he had heard wrong,
that he was really
God's gift to bad TV
so he's back now
in a third-rate
that's a rip-off
of a second-rate
that's a rip-off
of the series
he thought he
was too good for
Next from my library, I have two short poems by Thomas R. Smith
. the poems are from his book, Horse of Earth
, published by Holy Cow! Press in 1994. Smith is a poet, teacher, writer and editor based in western Wisconsin.
for Melanie Richards
The loon glides above the lake at sunset,
sharp wings creasing the over-brimming light.
Hers is a life lived best offshore,
of perfect landings and difficult departures.
Riding low among waves, she wallops
her watery runway taking flight, her voice
pitched to the quavery frequencies of adolescence,
a beginner every time. Aloft, she steadies,
her black neck tapering after an airy quick
never to be possessed, touched only by what changes,
found again in each ungainly ascent.
Across the channel of the Minnesota River,
a long shiver passes through the body of a pine grove.
Scaly ice shelves up along the waterline,
the walker beside it easily lost in the great silent day of spring.
I walk with you on a sandy path on the island.
In the maple trunks a slender sweetness rises and falls.
The nights are still cold. Maple sap boils dark and heavy.
I catch the clear drops,almost flavorless, on a torn branch in
Beautiful eyes at breakfast - no better way to start the day.
dark and dense,
reminding me of a Russian folk song,
, which actually means "Dark Eyes,"
the eyes becoming ebony in an American song of the sixties
I don't exactly remember the English version,
but a beautiful song
in Russian,, and I think of it every time
I see the young woman in the morning, having
breakfast with her boyfriend,
dark and dense and intense
and in their ebony depths, life-light
so vital and vivid she could grow wildflowers
in the deepest coal mine...
eyes that promise secrets even as they tell
is the next poet from this week's anthology. Born in 1942 in Chicago, Dybek is both a poet and fiction writer. He earned an MFA from Iowa Writer's Workshop and taught for more than 30 years at Western Michigan University where he remains an Adjunct Professor of English.
First publication of the poem was in Tin House.
In a dream journal kept as an experiment,
evidence of a life that went
on without him while he slept, salvaged
fragments that might yield revelations
about the past or future, he found himself
recording nights they spent together.
On a page of frozen landscape
across which he towed his father,
now shrunk into a child, on a sled
meant to transport a dead battery
was the August night she'd wiped
their sweat with unbound hair.
Rowing a turbulent sea of doors,
he woke to tingle of wings, a bat
brushing the wind chime in her room,
and hovering lips alighting along
the length of his body. He was lost
on a shore where clarinets were
driftwood, and sunrise a camisole
slipped from her shoulder. Each time
she came,she cried; erect nipples
tasting of tears, earlobes familiar
with their taste of pearls.
The mortgage of his soul was down
to a dollar but where to pay it off?
Baby, she said, we're practicing
kissing interruptus. To save the world
from humankind,, a desperate cabal
of cetaceans merged the psychic power
of their enormous brains.
His hand print still emblazoned
on her ass as she stepped into the shower.
Prisoners of war,assigned a classroom
in which to await decapitation,
sat passively at fifth-grade desks
while he paced wishing for a gun.
and when the executioners rushed in
it was another night in which the choice
was death or starting from the dream.
3 A.M. He lay listening to her breath,
wondering should he gently wake her
with his tongue, or let her sleep.
Here's another piece from November 2007. The nap herein seems like a really good idea. I was up at four thirty this morning, in my backyard welcoming the new day. I could use a nap.
a lot to do
but slept it through
of Sunday afternoon
and a happy kind
that makes you want
to turn over
and pick them up
but it never
they are like
clouds of sweet
in the air,
once the wind
they are lost
and gone forever
The next two poems are by Heather Sellers
, from her book Drinking Girls and Their Dresses
. The book was published by Ahsahta Press, Boise State University, in 2002.
I'm eating apples now but thinking of oranges
sticky peels like tongues in our palms.
I'm dreaming bougainvillea and hibiscus dreams.
I think I'm pink and buggy still.
But I live in Detroit and the park across the street
has orange arms reaching down, and brushing.
It's over. The leaves are salty. I make the bed
to keep it quiet, to keep it
pressing its skin and sandy smells.
I'm ready. October is all one yesterday,
is a milky gray cloud with frayed edges
moving fast in the north sky.
Bucky Ditched Me
Bucky ditched me starboard.
Sea-green Irish eyes and only two
Lies. I love you, and I love you.
Bucky ditched me in the grass.
Into the blue dishes and pine needles,
ditched me for Angela Ball,
for Charlie X, for a sail, for a sky.
I said sorry, I said sweets.
I said Bucky ditch me right here
Right now. Say my hair is beautiful
is your Sleeping chains. Say anything.
I'm old. I'm sad. When Bucky held
me, sea cold arms. I leaped. I thought
she leapt for joy. When I was her.
An observational from last week, except this time I'm not watching people but my dog, Bella, instead. I was surprised from reaction to the poem that some people were surprised to learn dogs, along with a lot of other animals, hoard food just like squirrels. As for Bella, she is always picking up stray food bits (and I don't think I want to know what else) when we are on our walks. If she's hungry, she eats whatever it is (again, I don't want to know). If not she buries it for future eating. Her problem is I've never seen her actually find anything she buried earlier.
she finds something on the ground,
looks like maybe half
a hot dog bun,
and picks it up and takes it over beside a tree
and digs a little hole and drops it in
and pushes dirt over the hole with her nose,
then pats the dirt down, again with her nose,
and reviews her work and apparently
decides it is not sufficiently covered, leaving
it vulnerable to theft by any stray dog
just passing by, so she digs it up
and covers it again,digging the hole
and covering it with her nose and patting
the dirt down with her nose, does the whole
think again, and, again,still not satisfied,
does it again and then again and then, once more
until finally satisfied and we walk away
as she brushes the dirt off her nose
with her paw...
such persistent devotion to perfection,
if I had it, I could have cured Ebola by now,
eliminated evil from the Middle-East
and the shadowed forests of East Texas,
and solved the mystery of hyper-warp drive
for inter-galactic travel, all
while writing two or three truly amazing
poems every year or
The next piece from the anthology is by Natasha Trethewey
. Born in 1966, Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her book Native Guard
Appointed U.S. Poet Laureate in 2012, she is also Poet Laureate of
Mississippi. She is professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory
University where she also directs the creative writing program.
The New England Review
first published the poem.
After Your Death
First, I emptied the closet of your clothes,
threw out the bowl of fruit,,bruised
from your touch, left empty in the jars
you brought for preserves. The next morning
birds rustled the fruit trees, and later
when I twisted a ripe fig loose from its stem,
I found a half-eaten, the other side
already rotting, or - like another I plucked
and split open - being taken from the inside:
a swarm of insects hollowing it. I'm too late,
again, another space emptied by loss.
Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill.
This is a coffee shop observational from about this time in 2007. It's the best thing about watching people, there's always a chance you'll be surprised.
strange looking group
for this middle-class
looking like extras
in a barrio
or maybe the real
or Mexican Mafia,
dudes all dressed out
and a pretty girl
with stars tattooed up
her long,lean legs
it looks like
when they pick up
their textbooks and clean
their table before they leave,
hear them talk about
going next door to
on their way out,
or low-riders in sight
From my library now, two poems by Evangelina Vigil
, from her book Thirty an' Seen a Lot
. The book was published by Arte Publico Press in 1985.
Vigil, born in 1949 in San Antonio where she grew up, is a poet, translator and television personality. She studied at St. Mary's University and the University of Texas at San Antonio and graduated from the University of Houston, where she still teaches.
my god how
did you do that
to me just now
said I'm coming
in and wiped out
all the world just
look at me what
have I become but
a bundle of nerves
can't even cry no tears
only cold tension
that not even the sun
This another from last week. I usually wake early, normally around 5, a little before or a little after. I like to go outside and feel the new day coming. On this morning the sky was crystal clear and the stars were out in force, more than I've seen in a very long time, even faint glimmers of those past what we normally see even on a normally clear night.
throwing my head so far back
I have to hold on to a fence post
so I won't fall over backwards,
enjoying the sky at 4:30 in the morning,
the sky so clear and dark, the stars
fill the ebony sky, so many stars, so
bright, stars unlike any I've seen
in years - a special morning,
special for reasons I don't know, except,
special to me this sight, these jewels,
these crown jewels of the new day
laid out on black velvet, diamonds
glittering in the pitch-dark well of the universe
promises, the stars are so many
and I am one, but how many others like me,
living deep into this vast crucible of fire, so many
like me watching me,leaning back, their heads
held so far back they hold onto a fence post
to keep from falling backward
like we across the incomprehensible far and away
hold on to each other
promises of a new day to come
for us both
From the best American poems of 2003 anthology, the next poem is by David Wagoner
. The poet was born in 1926 in Ohio and has published seventeen books of poetry and ten novels.
The poem was originally published in 88
On Being Asked to Discuss Poetic Theory
I know for a fact snow falls in the mountains.
I've stood there while it fell
On me and the temporarily bare stones.
I could see it falling into the broken baffles
Of granite, hovering on the edge
Of thawing or staying frozen, both joining
And withholding itself from its other self
At the confused beginning of spillways
And misdirected channels and transparently
Aimless pools while it gathered
And went less often in the wrong direction
And I've followed the water down (like it, with no need
To remember where I was or what I was)
And stood beside it's mouth on the ocean shore
And looked back at the source,
At that stark whiteness. If it all disappears
Behind clouds this winter, I can be certain
That where I climbed those steeper and steeper miles
Along its path to the end of trees,, to the end
Of crouching shrubs, to the last tendrils
And wild flower heads, the same snow is falling.
Last of my old poems this week, three of them, in a winter-onset mood.
full of turkey
and all the rest,
to do now,
else I knew
in this place
where I grew up
is either dead,
gone, or, in one
or two cases, in
jail - so I think
I'll just go to the
a good one
across the street
from the hotel,
no sex though
so we can
what this season
to a country station
on the radio
heard a guy singing
a sad song pretty
good song, in fact,
but the cello solo
surprised me a bit
guy's a good singer
though don't know
his name, sure'n
a little night music
a night to walk
low over lost
Last this week, two poems by Sarah Patton
, from her book The Joy of Old Horses
, published by Scopecraft Press in 1999.
I especially like these poems and was disappoint to find, when I did a little research on the poet, her obituary. Born in 1938, she died in 2003, in Kerrville, in the hills a little northwest of San Antonio where she lived. Widely published in journals and in a number of her own books, she graduated from North Texas State University and did graduate work at the University of Missouri and the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of Wisconsin.
Pigeons Flying in Formation
the sky opening
its clean envelope,
the ecru lace
inside the skin
of a tangerine...
will bear the weight
when these wings
page after page,
I pacify the tigers
of the years.
A wave speaks,
takes back what it said
and says it again.
the one-way ferry.
I must hold that
in my eyes.
don't know what
a purse of bones,
a bag of feathers,
trembling with ears
you all stone
and singing roots,
I slow in my savvy bones,
the way the chairs
and your eyes reflect me
as if sending me away.
have lived it all
and will stay
to live it again.
as will forsythia
already bearing yellow stars
on its arms.
probe the iron sky
for a fissure
I wrote this next thing a couple of weeks ago and don't remember ever using it here.
join the song
with the poetry
in a chorus
of life-ever affirmed
by a carpet of lights
to all from everywhere
join the song,
only to listen
This poem by Myra Shapiro
is last for the week from the anthology. The poet
was born in the Bronx in 1932 and has worked as a librarian and English
Her poem was first published in Rattapallax
For Nazim Hikmet in the Old Prison, Now a Four Seasons Hotel
It was from your prison I woke
to the muezzin calling at dawn.
From unbarred windows I saw
six minarets in a brightening sky,
the crescent moon beside Sophia
still there, absolutely
clear in March, the month
my mother always dies,
and I was rising
from fresh sheets to apricots and figs
delivered to our door.
It was your prison
and I couldn't change that.
My bed didn't for water
to thaw in the earthen jug,
it ran warm or cold
as I desired. To my touch.
I held your words next to me
...live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind -
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.
and when the day came
I walked out into the courtyard
flooded with sun
onto the old street, and I could turn
right or left. I couldn't help it -
walking on your footprints.
I go to the same restaurant for breakfast every morning. The food's okay, but that's not why I go there. I go there because, first, they open at 6 a.m. which fits right into my early morning schedule. They are not usually crowded the first hour or two in the morning, just enough to give me something interesting to watch. They have WiFi, naturally, but they also have a nice quiet booth in a corner right by an electric plug. Altogether, all my morning requirements are met, a great place to write my poem for the day.
Usually there's not a problem. But sometimes, like on the day I wrote this poem, their WiFi was not working and I couldn't get anyone to treat the problem with the urgency I though it demanded. They finally fixed it, after fifteen minutes of dead time, fifteen minutes of me staring at my dead computer.
I may have to start a search for a new place to have breakfast.
I hate dead time...
waiting for someone
to do what they're supposed to do
so that I can do what I've set out to do
makes me think
of all the little bits and parts of dead me
floating in dead space
a dead star
waiting for whatever congruence of events
will put the parts back together
into some new form,
with luck, some animate form,
not a rock or some other organized dead thing,
but something alive,
fish, fowl, baby with a toothless smile,
a tree in the forest, a rose on a trellis, a cricket
in a meadow lazing in the golden shade
of a sunflower, or even flames
on the surface of a star, that would be a kind of life,
burning,, which is what all life does
in the end...
I don't care
as long as it's just some escape from the dead time...
my escape from limbo...
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
As always, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of
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Kobo, brick and mortar retail booksellers all across America and abroad)
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
Sonyador - The Dreamer