Third Horse in a Two-Horse Race   Wednesday, February 26, 2014







My anthology this week is The Essential Haiku, a selection of haiku by the three greatest masters of the form, Basho, Buson, & Issa. The book was published in 1994 by The Ecco Press, with translations by Robert Hass.

To add to these classic masters, I also have a few haiku by a current master of the old forms, my friend, Gary Blankenship. I have also included a few of my own less-masterful haiku.

I finally replaced my stolen camera, but it was about half way through preparing this post. So, I have some very old photos, plus a few try-outs from the new camera, mostly from an old industrial area on the near west side of the city, an area so far barely touched by the fine hand of urban renewal. Also have a nice picture of a bison, one of the first pictures I took with the new camera as we did a little country drive-around last weekend.

You know the rest of the story, poetry from my library as well as new and old stuff from me.

Here they are:


Me
about my red shoes

Kobayashi Issa
Four Haiku

Me
why do we eat cows but we do not eat dogs

Alice Walker
Compulsory Chapel 
The Kiss

Me
it  was our garden too

Yosa Buson
Four Haiku

Jane Hirshfield  
Tamara Stands in Straw
A Story      

Me
the moon last night
another day

Matsuo Basho
Four Haiku

Me
a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

Paula Rankin
Miracles
Weathering

Me
for two unnamed

Gary Blankenship  
Eight Haiku

Me 
and a good morning to you too, buckaroo

Daniel Donaghy
Elegy for T.L.

Me
all quiet on the moor

Me
Five Haiku 

Me
around the lake

Daisy Zamora
Hand Mirror
Beloved Voices
Blanca Arauz 

Me
it's their gift








      




 First for the week












about my red shoes

   bought me some red tennis shoes
last week
at a tent sale in a supermarket parking lot

Addiddas,
they told me,  though  I'll admit
the fourth "d" seems a little suspicious to me
but they're right and
pretty red
anyway and I'm a regular dude
flashing my red shoes down
the street - fire-
walking down the sidewalk,
each sizzling step a proclamation,
saying to the world, hey, look at these
red red shoes

and I'm talking red here,
red as the red sporty Studebaker
(Golden Hawk, or some such)
I wanted my father to buy when I was sixteen,
long and low and sporty and red red
red,
but my father, always so practical said,
not for a family of four,
he said, and I though why not just buy the car
for me and I'll drive off to wild and exciting
long and low and red-red sporty car
places
and you'll only have  to find a car for three,
that's what I thought, which I thought was pretty practical
but didn't say it because
dad's practicality didn't come with any aspect
of irony or compassion for the desperate needs of a horny
sixteen-year-old seeing in such a long and low and red
sporty Studebaker a promise of  certain  success
in the love and hot dirty sex department
so he ended up buying a
clunky
ugly
ugly
blue
certainly not red
red
Plymouth instead
Blue Buzzard, I called it, absolutely not a repository
of love and dirty sex and slow
as a three-legged turtle
with a hernia
besides...

---

and today
I sit here in my comfortable little
coffee and breakfast nest
feet stretched out, admiring my red Addiddas tennies
and the way they set a warm blaze
to my feet, thinking they're almost the best thing
ever, except for that long and low and red sporty Studebaker
I never had and for which I'd trade my fire-walking
red red tennies
in an Addiddas minute







                               



First  from this weeks haiku anthology of the three masters, I have four pieces by Kobayashi Issa. Born in 1763, Issa died in 1827.









   Visiting the graves,
the old dog
   leads the way.

---

   In a dream
my daughter lifts a melon
   to her soft cheek

---

   Autumn evening -
it's no light thing
   being born a man

---

   In the thicket's shade
a woman by herself
   singing the rice-planting song









                    




From February, 2010, a philosophical excursion.












why do we eat cows but we do not eat dogs?

why do we eat cows
but we do not eat
dogs?

is it because we've seen
the thrashing legs
and heard the muted yelps
of dogs dreaming
while never have we seen
a dreaming cow?

is it because we see a likeness
to our preferred self in the dog, in
it's spirit and curiosity and
sense of fun
and play;
never seeing the same
in a cow, no cow playing chase,
tugging on an old sock, no cow
gamboling in its field?

is it because
dogs fight when attacked
while cows go quietly
to  slaughter?

is it because a dog
will protect us,
while a cow will never even notice
we are in danger
and wouldn't do anything about it
if they did?

is it because
when we look into the eyes
of a dog
we see a recognition of ourselves
while the cow's eyes
show us only a reflection?

is it because we think dogs
are smarter
than cows, their fiercely
active minds,
always alert and ready to
jump on anything
that attracts their attention?
is it because their attention
can be attracted,
unlike cows who live in a docile,
placid world, a zen world
where they ride the waves

of the eternal one, the ultimate
Buddhist  of the fields,
having found the serenity
of grass and sky while
all else fades? - could this be why
in some places
dogs  are eaten and cows revered?

these are some of the questions
that plague me
whenever I think about
the practice of vegetarianism,
the principle reason why
I strive
to  think of the practice of
vegetarianism
as seldom
as
possible








                                             




First from my library this week, I have two poems by Alice Walker from her  book , Once, published in 1987 by The Woman's Press.












Compulsory Chapel

i
A quiet afternoon
the speaker
dull
the New Testament
washed out
Through the widow
a lonely
              blue jay
makes noisy song.

ii
The speaker crashes
on
through his speech
All eyes are
upon him
Over his left
ear
the thick hair
is beginning
to slip.

iii
I would not mind
        if I were

                      a sinner,

but as it is
- let me assure you -
I sleep alone


The Kiss

i was kissed once
by a beautiful man
all blond and
                      czech
riding through bratislava
on a motor bike
screeching "don't yew let me fall off heah naow!"

the funny part was
he spoke english
and setting me gallantly
on my feet
kissed me for
not anyhow looking
like aunt jemima.








                                                    


 From last week, a little more  serious poem than the first one.

We see this more and more, animals moving back into our back yards from where we thought we had banned them years ago. I don't mind the raccoons, but word is black bears from Mexico are migrating north and getting closer  all the time.










it was our garden too

   it was  our garden, too,
say the beasts
as they come down from the mountains,
through the forests,
over the hills,
across the deserts,
gather at the river
as it flows past
time,
and time again

it was our garden
too,
they cry,
and look what you've done,
our garden,  too,
and look what you've done,
they cry

our garden, too,
and look what you've done,
they sing
in a might growling, snarling roaring, quaking
chorus,
and now your time is through,
and now your time is through...

you time is through,
the sing and sing and sing,
their voices filling the void of our filth,
the poison and destruction
we leave behind, their song echoing amid
sounds of rebirth,
as the cacophony of us begins
to fade and
die








                           


From the haiku anthology, the second great master, Yosa Buson. Buson, known in his day as both a poet and an artist, lived from 1716 to 1783. (The illustration to the left is a self-portrait.)










   Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
   above the withered fields.

---

   Cover my head
or my feet?
   the winter quilt.

---

   A bat flies
in moonlight
   above the plum blossoms.

---

   A moored boat;
where
   did the spring go?








                                             
 Next from my library, two  poems by Jane Hirshfield. The poems are from her book, Of Gravity & Angels. The book was published Wesleyan University Press in 1988.








Tamara Stands in Straw

and dreams her long-necked, sweet-grass reveries
and shifts her weight in the patient way
of horses in the cold.
She will be a long time in this stall,
through the entire season of grass
she will have alfalfa, timthy,
an eight-foot, spare enclosure keeping her dry
on hooves held closed with polymer and wire.
This tall barn covers her strangely,
a mare who's never been kept in;
a worn-out structure roofed with tin,
it magnifies the rain.
I am to stay with her for several hours,
to keep her on her feet till the plaster sets.
The stable-owner sends a thermos of tea
and  drink slowly,
taking in its heat
in the faint warmth of the barn;
while the mare dreams and wakes and drinks
and returns to her hay and then her dreaming,
while darknesstighte3nsto the single space off horse
and night sounds of iron scud against the concrete
through all  the layered softness of straw.



A Story

A woman tells me
the story of a small wild bird,
beautiful on her window sill, dead three days.
How he daughter came suddenly running,
"It's moving, Mommy, he's alive."
And when she went, it was.
The emerald wing-feathers stirred, the throat
seemed to beat  again with pulse.
Closer then, she saw how the true life lifted
under the wings. Turned her face
so her daughter would  not see, though she would see.








                          

 Here's another from last week. As I say in the poem, what with cold and cedar fever, I haven't spent much time outside at night for the past several weeks. Cedar fever back with a vengeance, but cold gone, at least for a while, so I went outside and looked at the night sky. Moon and stars still there, giving no evidence of having missed me.











the moon last night

   the moon last night
big
and bright

first time I've seen it in a while,
having been hiding inside by the fireplace
through last week's cold nights

I assume
it's been there all along
and if it missed me
I have received
no
notice off it

this morning
reminded that it was there in the dark sky
all these nights
despite
my inattention, I assume
that it remains
somewhere
behind fog covering equally
the city and the sky
and the cows and rabbits and deer
and ancient gentlemen or ladies
pushing their walkers
before me if there be such
before me

I'll drive slow
just
in case
and hope I'm not over by those
impatient to  get where they're going
(not Sunday Services, I bet)
and not of sufficient imagination
to entertain any suspicion that there might be something
ahead
unexpected or unfamiliar
aimed at
re-arranging the circumstances
of their life...

it's the weather, brings out the different character
of us - the moon
encourages the crazy, while the fog
just eggs on  the most basic
stupid
that  lurks
until the next
obscure
and unsettled day descends
upon us



Two foggy days in a row last  week.  So naturally, the way I work every day, responding to whatever is in front of me, two fog poems in a row.


another day

   growing up  near the coast,
living
for fifteen years
right on the coast,
fog
seems to me an unexceptional way to start the day

like today,
the morning wrapped in thick mist
lying lightly on the ground,
shifting and moving in the slightest breeze,
mysterious, secrets waiting
to be seen,
morning like a book  waiting to be opened

each foggy morning a new day to be discovered,
all the mysteries of the last day's shifting uncertainties
returned,  waiting, like the morning's new book
waiting for an appreciative reader...

i wait this morning for the fog to clear,
to  pack away its mysteries and reveal the new and unread day
that waits behind the gray shade of early obscurity

I wait,
rarely disappointed when the curtain is  lifted
to  another day...

another day being my continuing ambition,
each one more precious than the last
in this life that grows shorter
with each blind cover...

---

another day open to me
welcomed and
welcoming








                                    

 
Last from the haiku anthology, four pieces by the third master, Matsuo Basho. The earliest of the three masters, Basho was born in 1644 and died in 1694.










   Midfield,
attached to nothing,
   the skylark singing.

---

   Clear water -
a tiny crab
   crawling up my leg.

---

   The winter sun -
on the horse's back
   my frozen shadow.

---

   First snow
falling
   on the half-finished bridge.








                                

We spent a few days at Lake Tahoe in 2010. I drove, 500 plus miles San Antonio to El Paso, clip a little edge of New Mexico, across Arizona and Nevada (some fierce winter weather in Nevada). Dee flew to Reno where I picked her up. After our visit at Lake Tahoe was done, we drove back together, to  California, then  along Interstate 10 back to San Antonio. I don't know how Dee liked her  plane  ride, but I loved my drive, even the scary part through the Nevada snow storm.









a storm crosses Lake Tahoe

   fifteen inches of snow in Reno
yesterday
none here at  Lake Tahoe

until now

the day,
bright and clear in the morning
and we  drive some number of miles
around the lake, taking pictures
along the way

a change begins now

from my tenth floor window
I watch snow clouds
cross the north mountains,
then begin a slow
drift across the water toward us

the "little cat feet"
whisper
over cold water

the wind below
picks up,
stirs up little storms
of dust
as the larger storm
draws near

first flurries
drift
past  my window








Next, here are two short poems by Paula Rankin. The poems are from her book, Augers, published in 1981 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press.

The poet died in 1997 at age 53 after a long battle with lung disease. I can't find a photo of here anywhere. Every once in a while I find a poet, even one with multiple books, like Rankin, who seem to have made a determination never to be photographed.







Miracles

Because I want to believe,
I stare at the procession
of those who come to be healed:
they lay afflictions at his feet
like addresses obscene callers dial from
when we, the as-yet-afflicted,
bed down for the night.

Everything is here that is needed:
river for total immersion, oil
for anointing, copperheads for the faithful

and he demons whose number is legion,
who have been through this before;
they quake in their human apartments,
steeling themselves for the shock
of raw air and the hunt of old wounds
for new flesh to lie down in.


Weathering

January: the dark comes down,
the air brittle with predictions.
I will not be going out:  leg in a cast,
I am trying to keep
to  safe, small places

trying not to think
of the cow walking dumbly up the embankment onto the highway
or the child found under the bridge
or the nursing home in east Nashville
where the wiring is faulty.

I am trying to be very quiet.
Perhaps I will go
unnoticed.

Then I hear my small son
singing into the darkness
as he slides down the driveway
home.








                                




I address the next piece to those among us who believe they, in their arrogance,  have the right and the power to forever interfere in the deepest and most personal affairs of the human heart.











for two unnamed

love is a fragile blossom
too rare
and delicate
to deny when it blooms

it is to be celebrated,
not  denied,
celebrated for oneself and others,
for to deny either for self or others
is to deny our own
most gentle
spirits...

---

though it is fragile,
love is also  hearty and persistent
following its own guiding
stars

not subject
to the whims of kings and princes
and Russian czars, who,
though they can ban it,
cannot stop it
any more than their edicts can stop
the wind that blows across fields
in summer,
the waves at night whispering
softly on sandy beaches,
the stars that shine, or the moon
that passes over us night after night

for love, all
love,
is as natural as all the other beauty and solace
nature provides to ease our passage
through this world and our live

for nature has decided it is our nature
to love and be loved,
our nature,
not to bow to censure
and the dictates
of jealous authority, such dark souls
in high or low places who live
in the misery
of their own unnatural and loveless
lives

poor dreary spirits - the love they cannot find
for themselves
cannot be denied to others...

they should as well shout  at the winds
that will forever blow

undeterred








                                




Having presented to you the old haiku masters, here's a modern master, my friend from Washington state, Gary Blankenship.











   brushstrokes lightly touch
the parchment
   the impression of an idea

---

   once a month she remembered
the first time
on the playground in the snow

---

   a shelf full of baseball caps
my favorite
   free at the dollar store

---

   I thought I remembered
what I forgot
   but I forgot I remembered

---

   sunflowers along the fence
peek
   at her sunbathing

---

   a cat with a mouthful
of feathers
   attacked by crows

---

   down the basement stairs
centipedes
   a spider on the light cord

---

   near abandoned homesteads
a scream
   relax it's only a cougar








                     




Here's another old poem, again from February, 2010.












and a good morning to you, too, buckaroo

   the Spurs
lost to the Lakers last night

I just noticed my vehicle inspection sticker
expired a month ago

and Sarah Palin
is still gettin' away with it -

on the other hand
the sun is shining

bright and fresh
and yellow as fresh cream

and a chilled north breeze
blows a hint of far mountains

and I haven't had a hangover
in more than 30 years

so good morning
to you, too,

buckaroo -

I'm feeling pretty damn good
this morning -

considering.








                                           



The next poem is by Daniel Donaghy, from his book,  Street Fighting Poems. The book was  published in 2005 by BkMk Press of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.











Elegy for T.L.

The El's catwalk called to us
while we passed quarts

of Schaefer's someone stole.
Fifty feet up, it stretched
beyond our broken places
in both directions.

I was second to make it to  the top.
I stared at your dark form

and streetlights even with our heads,
saw you tightroping the catwalk

straight out of your life
toward the houses of the rich.

You didn't once look down.
You didn't hold the rail.

The only sounds our feet
shuffling the metal walk.

You feel so quietly
no one else knew you were gone.








                                   




I going to finish this week with two new dog poem from last week. Here's the first one.












all quiet on the moor

   a real Baskerville
morning,
thick and soupy
along the ridge,  crossing
the new footbridge over Apache Creek
like pushing through a wet curtain hanging
limp and still

my golden hound has not a care
about such as fog, it being no match
for her black, twitch nose
and furred, at-attention
ears

no fear
she says to me her head up
and her eyes
cut to face me full  on

nothing out there
I can't
handle,  she says

just stay close...









                        




Having reviewed the masters from the haiku anthology and a modern master, my friend Gary  Blankenship, here several of my own.

I don't remember if these were intended to be actual haiku as properly defined and I don't feel like counting syllables this late in the game, so I'll just claim them to be haiku  at least in spirit. They were published in 2004 in Liquid Muse, an on-line journal of short verse.















    cloudless sky
after summer rain
   air neon bright

---

   fly high little gull
challenge the limitless sky
   surf on wet gulf winds

---

   summer morning dew
rivulets on sun-stained glass
   blue through water falls

---

   summer clouds glower
trembling leaves in sunlight shimmer
   waiting winds whisper

---

   tall grass burns brown
in fearsome summer sun
   cactus blooms bask








                              




Here's another poem from our days in Lake Tahoe. My last poem this week from February, 2010.












around the lake

rain
snow
ankle-deep
slush puddles
and sidewalks

mountains
on the other side
of the lake
as well as those
hanging above us
hidden
by the clouds
that settle over us

in our South Texas home,
a city-wide emergency
would have been declared
hours ago, but here,
people walk on the sidewalks,
cars drive on the streets,
skiers line up to take a lift to
a mountain top
whose existence must,
under these conditions,
be taken on faith

yellow school buses
pass
snow chains  clanking

Reba and I go for a walk
at lakeside
in a park I found yesterday

we are not the first
to break the snow, little
duck tracks, triangles
divided by a line
from point to base,
and tracks of some bird
of a larger sort, tridents
in the snow

a white sailboat sits
offshore
half hidden  in the
snow

there yesterday
as well...








The last poet this week from my library is the very interesting poet and revolutionary Daisy Zamora. Born in 1950 in Nicaragua to a wealthy and prominent family, she came joined in the fight against the dictator  Samoza in the 1970s, joining the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1973. Exiled for a period, she returned to become a combatant in the Sandinista revolution. Later, in 1979 during the final Sandinista offensive, she became the voice and program director for the clandestine Radio Sandino. After the revolution was won, she was appointed vice minister for culture in the new Sandinista government. During this period and after, she authored five books of poetry in Spanish, including this one, which, in my edition, is published in both Spanish and English. Translator for the book was Barbara Paschke.





Hand Mirror

After so many years
my grandmother Ilse returns
with her astonished
dark and melancholy eyes,
and glances
       - Slender Narcissus -
at her small silver pool,
her magic oval,
her moon of cut glass,
occupying this face
more and more hers
                         and less mine


Beloved Voices

That afternoon when you called Maria Mercedes
I discovered in your voice the voice of your father
whom I never knew

There was a moment
when you spoke with that voice that wasn't yours.

A voice
              echo of another voice
that your older sister, Gladys,
               would remember
or your mother (if she were living)
would have recognized immediately.


Blanca Arauz

I met her at the beginning of the war,
we became close;
drinking coffee and talking all afternoon
and sometimes all night
                        until dawn
we realized we thought alike.

A single body. The same ideas.
                         We were like two lamps
- besides the Coleman lantern
that lit up the whitewashed planks of the telegraph office -
even though we weren't together,
even though we spent five years apart,
she in San Rafael, I in these mountains.

Two  lights seeking each other, sending signals,
                         calling out
across the marshes, through the night and trees
         to illuminate one another.









                      



And here's the second of my dog poems to end the week.












 it's their  gift

   the squirrel,
hanging on the tree trunk
at about dog-head level,
looks at the dog

the dog looks at the squirrel

I  look at both of them,
waiting who  will break first

finally,
the squirrel says, "fuck this,"
and scrambles up the
tree

the dog looks up the tree,
looks at me,
looks, again,
up the tree, looks again,
at me,,  says, "well,  hell," with her eyes,
along with some dog cuss-words
not fit to be repeated
anywhere outside a dog pound

such a proper lady
for such un-lady-like language

she hangs her head,
embarrassed
about the squirrel and tricks
and disrespect to  the canine-kind, embarrassed at her own
gullibility, embarrassed not least
by her awful cussing...

she turns and heads off down the trail...

"we'll not speak of this again," she says

such a truly embarrassed and chastened
dog -

but it is temporary...

"let's go find a good tree and pee on it," she says,
having clearly put the morning
up to now behind
her,  moving
on,as dogs do...

it is their gift











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Three Blocks Down, and To the Left   Wednesday, February 19, 2014






Finally got a new camera, so maybe next week or the week after I'll have some new photos. In the meantime, I've got what I've got.

A little different this week in that, instead of my standard anthology of the week, I have Issue IV 2000 of Poetry International, a publication of San Diego State University.

The rest is my library and me, which, all together, comes to this:


Me
the silence between the ticks and the tocks

Geraldine Connolly
Ecstasy

Me
a doubter's prayer

Jimmy Santiago Baca
from Martin
from Meditations on the South Valley
  
Me
the silence of a moment

Marge Piercy 
In second growth woods

Me
big news in the astrophysical world

Ani Defranco 
platforms
camping  

Me
look, please, at my beautiful pearls

Sarah Maclay
Winter
Still Life

Me
Happy Valentine's Day


Chelsey Minnis
from Poemland

Me
the truthful fictions of our unremembered realities

Robert Arroyo, Jr. 
Closure

Me
Mitch and Lena are getting married

Me
approaching my birthday

Amir  Or
Drowning, he breathes live water
Evening Prayer #2

Me
my place

James Galvin
Winter Solstice Moon at Full Perigee

Me
                     ebony eyes                      








                                



Here it is, first for the week.











the silence between the ticks and the tocks

   intended
to  read at my coffeehouse
last night,
open mike, which I don't usually do,
but the folks there
are good to  me so I felt like it was time
to pay some dues

intended
to read  from my book, final  edit completed,
but not yet published

looked forward to the music, guitar, and piano
and sad Mexican love ballads
sung in the glorious, expressive voice of our hostess,
Dr. Rachael Cruz, Maestra de Conciones
and dispenser of fine coffees

soft  warmth of music in the cold night, an evening
of retreat and resurrection
of  better natures
lost, huddling somewhere  dark
form the  cold...

all that I intended...

but I did not intend to sit down in my easy chair
for a nap at 4 and not wake up till
midnight...

it's about getting old,
chances to bask in beauty and warmth
diminishing as the life-clock continues
its running down, the silence between the ticks and the tocks
growing longer, chances lost
to memory cracked and leaking like a rusty pail,
or just plain,  constant weariness
stealing hours and life-affirming experience
from every day








                                                



Here's my first  poem this week  from Poetry International, IV  2000. The  poem is by Geraldine Connolly.











Ecstasy

Sated limbs on a sawdust floor,
rolling bodies in the window's mirror.
I am so tired of all this ecstasy:
Here come my black thoughts

like a winter storm ready to cover
passion with a blanket of ice.
What good has it done
to adore the constellations,
and wake up singing
with unleashed thoughts?

Dark time with his sharp  sickle
keeps  on cutting the wheat stalks,
the crows dissemble and
Father Death continues
falling in love, every night
a fresh face catching his eye.









                                  



Here's the first of my old poems from February, 2009.











a doubter's prayer

   dear most unlikely
heavenly father,
god of fear and weak
minds, hear my prayer

if you exist
and actually care
about stuff like us, please
bring us peace and protect us
from harm in the world you may
or may not have created

your creations,
should you be willing to accept
such responsibility,
are in disarray - your stock market,
to take just one example, is in deepest
doo-doo, as are your banks, your big box
retail stores, your automobile manufacturers,
your farmers, your ranchers and your purveyors
of overpriced goods in upscale niche markets

not only that,
but your most worthy of all claimed creations,
me,
is getting old and fat and exceedingly
absent-minded

it's all in the toilet,
as you should very well know
if you really are the all-seeing eye
your PR flacks proclaim you to be, which,
quite frankly, brings into deep doubt
your status as a be-all-end-all master builder

so just in case you actually are king of all this creation,
I would humbly (if reluctantly) pray
that you get back on the job and fix this mess
your creation has slipped into

I pray you make it so, just like the Star Trek guy
who, I have to say, has a  much more likely
back story than your own...








                                                                     
 I begin from  my library this week with selections from two  long autobiographical poems by Jimmy Santiago Baca from his book, Martin & Meditations on the South Valley. The book was published by New Directions in 1987.








from Martin

II

I gave myself to the highway
like a bell-rope in the wind
searching for a hand.

In arizona,
fieldworkers' porch-lights
shimmered turquoise
in the distant cardboard  farm towns.

The highway was a black seed split
petals of darkness blossomed from,
black matted hair of night rain
hung down over.

Everything hoped for in my life
was a rock closed road,
where I had left my identity,
                               and my family.

Nights turn into days
with the steady swath of a mason's trowel,
and silence sticks to my heart like dried mortar.
I imagine my man-hand
will build a good life,
and through the miles I dream myself
a different man,

                                   sprung from the innocent child
                                   in Corrales,  picking apples
                                   under aging branches, I tug
                                   and shake, as apples crunch through the air
                                   onto the tractor matted grass.
                                   I shoulder my gunny sack to the truck
                                   and Don Carlos heaves it up, appling
                                   on apples.

                                   Catholic holidays
                                   Franciscan nuns bussed us
                                   to Jemez mountain peaks,
                                   the yellow bus gagged
                                   around tree tangled curves
                                   and looming walls of stone,
                                   canyon depths flashed mesquite
                                   enfolding green hills between green hills
                                   until at mountaintop, I summed
                                   layers and layers of distant dustland drift,
                                  as the bus gear grudged and nuns nagged
                                  us to sing prayers, until we jolted
                                  down a dirt road to the sunny picnic grounds

                                  ******



from Meditations on the South Valley

XVII

I love the wind
when it blows through my barrio.
It hisses its snake love
down calles de polvo,
and cracks egg-shell skins
of abandoned homes.
Stray dogs find shelter
along the river,
where great cottonwoods rattle
like old covered wagons,
stuck in stagnant waterholes.
Days when the wind blows
full of sand and grit,
men and women make decisions
that change their whole lives.
Windy days in the barrio
give birth to divorce papers
and squalling separation. The wind tells us
what others refuse to tell us,
informing men and women of a secret,
that they move away to hide from.

*****
                                         







                                           


A nice benefit of the "poem-a-day" discipline is that you can take an idea and, over a period of consecutive day,  work on different ways to play it. Like this, still with memory, no  longer  specific memories but the whole idea of memories.









the silence of a moment

    knowing again
the first cool  day of autumn,
the first north wind  that
fiercely blows,
the rain that came and came
and came some more
on a bright summer day
turned dark and stormy,water rising
in creeks long dry, deer leaping
across a narrow mountain road,
a mountain, your first, tall and rugged
against a blue sky, storm
gathering behind that  same mountain
a month  later, snow  clouds
over-flowing its crest like a melted marshmallow
on  a stick, dripping with a sizzle into the remembers
of a low-burning campfire, rocking, a baby in my arms,
my baby sleeping on my shoulder,
my father at my wedding when I though he might not  come,
sitting by the aisle in a black  pew double-thumbs up
as my bride and I pass, married, officially
together
on the first of many days to come, so  many
memories,  so many years,
so much life to
crowd one man's memory so much to
remember...

random memories that come and  go
in the silence of a  moment,
flickers,
flames that have so long burned,
fires  that, like all  of lifeline's burning, will
someday
burst their last spark and be
gone








                                                     



Next from Poetry International, Marge Piercy.









In second growth woods

Stone walls dividing the trees
seem random, marking no  border.
I sit on a flatish granite slab
white cold seeps up into me.

Digging I startle a wine red
salamander. Millipedes scuttle,
vanish into tiny caves.
I touch the moss soft and springy

as pubic hair. It is blooming
with little heads. This  wall
was built to mark pasture
from pasture or from field.

Someone dug these stones,
pried them out,  rolled
and wrestled them into place,
stared, studied, fitted:

a solution to a practical problem,
disposal and boundary. Yet
now it is natural as the birches
around it and older.

By persisting this wall
has become nature. I
wish I  could  occupy space
as discretely, mildly.









                                                   



 Again, from February, 2009.












big news in the astrophysical world

   big news
in the astrophysical world
is the massive explosion some
12.2 billion light years
from our own little howdy-doody home
from whence
we oft-time claim a place
as bit-time-Charlies
in the heavenly order of things,
even though, being only
8 light minutes from our own star
we call the sun
and 12 light minutes from the furthermost

named object to circle that sun
with us, it is a very small neighborhood
we live in, a very small neighborhood
where, with all our searching and seeking,
we have yet to reach
even our own
front
gate

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
and though he had circled the world;
such ignorance is to us denied and we
are better for it...
for it
lets us see
our true place, tiny bits of carbon base
in a vastness we can quantify
but not imagine,
little carbon dandies
important only in our doings
with our little carbon
fellows

frankly,
my dear,
the rest of all that is
doesn't give a damn








                                                 


Next from my library, two short poems by Ani Difranco, from her book, Verses, published by Righteous Babe with 7 Stories Press in 2007.











platforms

life knocked me off my platforms
so i pulled out my first pair of boots
bought on the street at astor place
before new york was run by suits

and i suited up for the long walk
back to myself
closer to the ground now
with sorrow
and stealth



camping

i love myself when i am camping
because i can walk across a river
on a log
like i am strutting down a runway
i love myself when i am camping
because i can take a dull knife

to a bag of suffering vegetables
and which one flame make a meal
that ain't half bad
i love myself when i am camping
because i can find a way
where there is no trail
because i'm not afraid of spiders
or mud up to my knees
or mice or bees
and because 
there are
no mirrors









                               



Again, more on memory.











look, please, at my beautiful pearls
 
   memories 
are like pearls,
beautiful only to those who hold them,
their splendor invisible
to  most  others, look.
we might say as we show them
arrayed on a golden chain,
look at my beauties
we cry to others
who see only black and dusty
lumps of coal on a string of brown packing twine

and we do not understand

our life in memories,  our story, the wonder
of "me" - how can others not see
that wonder, how can others not love
my moments as I love
and remember
them?

how can I cherish
these memories, such a life
that means nothing
to others?

perhaps
all has not been
as I imagined, perhaps
I can imagine
better, become a star
on the memory
circuit,
candidate for the applause
my imagined life
so rightfully and richly
deserves








                                   

Here are two poems by Sarah Maclay, Poetry International.

It seems I was able to confirm after some effort that the poet was not the same Sarah Maclay, zookeeper, who, at the age of 24, was  mauled to death by a tiger last year. But I'm not entirely sure about it.













Winter

In clear, unsparing air, hill lights
glitter, not the warmth
but as though they are hiding something

behind them, cold.
The lights seem to move a little
the way things swim on the road.

Tree branches get cut to stubs
as though it's best

to face the cold denuded
without hands or leaves. clubbed

like Breughel beggars' legs,
it's amazing they breathe.

Tooth laid flat on the night
reflecting  just a slice of shine:

the moon is slung like a fang.
My breasts could burst
from the weight of sap.

I lift the lid on the mail slot,
hoping for some kind of sign.


Still Life

He is standing with his fists on the sink,
glancing down, and then into the mirror
where I'm standing. In the corner
near the door, there is light
coming in from the  window
of his room, cold as march.
He sees me with my coat on.









                                     



 Valentine poem, of a sort, 2009.











happy Valentine's Day

it's 
the day before Valentine's Day
and I'm trying to work up
a huff
about holidays invented by greeting card companies
but the more  think about it the more
I recognize that most of our holidays were invented
by greeting card companies
and most of them
encourage
behavior
that should be encouraged anyway
like
you know
saying I love you once a year 
to your significant other
or thanks mom and dad for putting up with me
during the most obnoxious phases
of my life
and sucking up to your boss or your secretary
once a year
is worth doing even if you don't buy some ridiculously
expensive 
card
to do it with

besides
however we may get impatient
with these greeting card holidays
it is at least true
that they are usually a lot cheaper
than most of the holidays invented by the
priests and magicians particular
to your faith








The next poem is by Chelsey Minnis. It's from her book, Poemland, published by Wave Books in 2009. 

Actually, these seem more like poem-fragments to me. The poet's structure of her work is difficult to properly present here, sometimes hard to figure out what's part of what.








Excuse me, but I am very tired...

Excuse me, but I am very tired so I have to lie down and fall asleep
in the trash...

And it is like riding around in a clown car...

I wish I could take away your rooster-like sadness...

Yes, baby, yes! I don't know anything at all...


This  is so smart...

This is so smart that I can't think of it...

I can only think of orange-colored emotional rage... 

While blood  trickles down my chin...

I should  hit you with my bandaged hands!



This is a man with a beautiful brow...

This is a man with a beautiful brow...

And it makes me rock back too far in my  chair and fall over...

And it makes me loosen my necktie...

It makes me cough and look embarrassed...

It is a gorgeous man with sour breath who talks too much and
burns my panties in a bonfire...

Ugh, he is handsome...


This poem is a wish-killer...

This poem is a wish-killer...

It's like trying to smash the two-way window...

And trying  to get broke by writing...

this is like telling someone wearing a gorilla sit you don't
really love them...


A  poem is all  that's left...

A poem is all that's left  of my lost loneliness...

It is like a window that looks into a swimming pool...

Or an empty gun indentation in velvet...

And a baby gazelle  given as a gift...








                                     



More memory, including some really interesting scientific speculation I heard about on NPR.










the truthful fictions of our  unremembered realities

  we never forget
anything...

I read  that...

every moment, every shape and color
or smell or movement, every event
of our life permanently
coded in that bubbling bowl
of oatmeal we call our brain,
only trapped in the shadows, usually unable
to break through the unconscious
curtain that separates it from conscious
memory...

but sometimes a moment
of our life
slips
beneath the curtain
and for that moment, a time long past
is clear and present - for me,
a golden-haired little girl on a red tricycle
on the sidewalk in front
of our house on Monroe Street, the house we  left
when I was two years old, that moment
in bright Texas  sunshine
as if I was
in that second again, these
long ago memories
that jump out like a flash in a dark room,
sometimes stay, most often
go, maybe to return in another black night,
maybe lost and never to return...

how tricky is this memory thing, some even saying now
that there is a genetic component to it,  the shards
of long-past times and places
embedded in genes handed down
through generations,
flashes of insight coming from a source
unknown to us in our own life,
irrational fears hanging on to us from  a time and life
when there were good reasons
to be afraid, fairy stories, garbled versions
off truthful things that frightened those whose genes
still inform us...

   we write our stories
and store them in libraries
on shelves we label "fiction"
the only difference in them from the shelves
we call "non-fiction," the currency
of our memory

and

meanwhile
the sun rises outside my window
on another day
another soon-forgot but forever-kept shard
in my genetic profile








                                                     

This piece by Robert Arroyo, Jr. is my next poem from Poetry International.

I couldn't find a picture of the poet, so here's the cover of one of his books.










Closure

Most any month will do, December,
month my mother passed, is particularly
attractive. With the wreath decorating the front door

and the promise of a gift heave season, my dying
could get lost in all the giving and receiving.
June, month Christine and I marred, gateway

to summer, to memories of baseball
on Hobart's hard asphalt and my father's whistle
calling me home, is also ripe

for the taking. August, when the heat makes even
palm trees droop; February and its promise
of hearts; October with its sweet ending; all good.

But perhaps April would be best,
when the earth, for a moment, forgets its people.
When the cloud jowled sky begets rain

that begets the greening of Sepulveda Pass,
and I can clearly see
'downtown's high rises cutting into the sky

from my balcony window, I could easily slip
from this flesh, into the spirit
world of those who've passed too soon

and kiss my mother, Tio Sal,Tia Margaret,
Steve Beamen, David Choi, Jesus Arras
tell them all they've missed.









                                          


February, 2009, a story of a couple of coffee shop acquaintances. They moved to another part of the city after the wedding, so haven't seen them in years. Wonder how it turned out.










Mitch and Lena are getting married

   they told  us this morning
when we  saw them at Borders

in December
in Las Vegas, halfway
between her folks her
and his family in Oregon

his was the traditional approach,
getting her parents' permission before
he asked her -

I did the same
except I asked Dee first
since I needed her to translate -


I was just thinking about the two of them  yesterday,
how Mitch used to come in
Saturday and Sunday mornings
with a different woman every couple of months
and how, since he and Lena got together
they seem to have stuck
and how Mitch seemed happier with this consistency
than he had ever been with the revolving door

I was talking to them after they gave us the news,
congratulating Mitch, offering the bride-to-be
my best wishes, warning Mitch that
a December wedding meant that by no later than February 15th
he should expect Lena to start trying to change
all the things about him he thought she liked
during all the time they had gone together
and he might as  well not fight it
because  knew from experience she would win
in the end
and if she was really good
he wouldn't notice until it was all over and
done

that's when Dee punched me in the ribs
and told me to go back to our table which I did
without further comment,
showing as  did what an excellent student I was after 32 years
of daily
obedience training

I hope Mitch was paying attention
so he could see how it's done

save himself a lot of trouble
later








                                              




Memories and birthdays, can't do the second without the first.










approaching my birthday

   less than two weeks,
always a big deal at our house
because of the way it falls,
a week after my son's birthday
and a day before our wedding anniversary,
a combined celebration
that brings out the bar-b-que brisket
and the beans and the rice and
the potato salad and the creamed corn
(O, that creamed  corn from Rudy's)
and all the relatives in the
vicinity, dinner for
twelve, break out the card tables

---

   my son will be 31and our anniversary
number 38...

my birthday, the 70th...

birthdays,
the mile markers
that lay out the perimeters of our  lives...

at 20 we begin to fold and put away
the child we were and the childish things
that preoccupied us,  30 reminds us
that grown-up  s serious if we haven't already
figured that out,  40 is when it all begins
to  feel  irreversible and 50, a break, a lark,
one last  chance to  pretend that all s
still as it was, even as we edge  into 60,
the age of acceptance,  the path is laid out,
clear where it's going, though still
we  imagine  the climb to be smoother
than it is likely to be...

70 - I don't know yet...

I know that when I was young, 70 was considered
quite old, at least  seen that way
by outside eyes, and though I thought I knew then
how it looked to those inside,
I'm less sure now

I know that at 70 I will be 5 years older
than my father when he died,
and 8 years older than my brother
when his time came - thought it didn't
seem that way to me at the time,
as  I look back now, I can only be sad
they died  so young...

in the meantime,
it comes in less than two  weeks,
the day I will begin  my 71st
year

I wonder so
how
that will turn out to be...

this curiosity
I so value in my life,
even  curious now  as to how long
before that is lost with all the rest
and what it will be like
when it's gone too








                                                   



My last two pieces from Poetry International are by Amir Or, with translation from Hebrew by Lisa Katz.











Drowning, he breathes live water

My Narcissus, in the end you got used to it, you grew gills
at the sides of your throat, and sliding down down

you stretched between reeds and the echo became a wave
and the reflection a place, and you looked and looked and looked

at the water's sky       and jumped
out - back to me

And the thunder turned back into silence, the water - into a screen,
and the eye to marble. You turned back into me.

The echo became a voice, and the reflection a face,
and you were relieved.

Come
Sit.


Evening  Prayer #2

This me who's quiet only when not oozing,
who isn't a face or a limb, who isn't

anything but a wound, a finger that used to be and is not
at the edge of the Siamese stump between us -

this me who oozes only what he drinks,
that has no leaf, no fruit, but rises anyway -

enormous stump at the edge of the chasm
opening to a sea, its cliffs, its prey here among us, bitter, pitiable

no shade, no breast, not comfort, endless thirst,
the me who's left outside the garden, worthless, despised -

This me who's not me, who isn't you -
what should we do with him? - let's not.








                                                  

Here you go, the last old poem for the week, this one, like the rest, from February, 2009. I think this might have been back when My Space was a thing. I think it's supposed to be a little play on that.












my space

this is my space

you may join
me
if you want

loitering
is allowed
and skateboarding

occasional
spitting on the sidewalk
and dirty words

if it makes you feel
better

unkind thoughts
are okay here, too,
all thought, in face

from the banal
to the most revolutionary

sweet

and

sappy

even the most
hopelessly

romantic
can find their place
here,

dark pessimists,
pie-in-the sky
idealists,

purveyors
of broad vistas,
investigators of the kernel

of creation
in a housefly's heart,
all have a place in this place

it's my place
after all

you can join me
if you wish

but if you don't like thinking
like a free-range
chicken

and if you
 try to make us
live
within
the narrow corridors
of your pinched
heart

best
you just go
away

trespassers
will be violated








                                      





Next from my library, James Galvin, from his  collection X : Poems. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press  in 2003.












Winter Solstice Full Moon at Perigee

Being in love isn't  about being happy.
Here's a good idea: let's live some more.

After bad things happen we always  live
A little more. Good timing, bad timing,

The people  against me were probably right:
You can't step in front of the same bus twice.

From here  on out,  honesty's its own
Intelligence, which may or may not involve

Philosophy. Try to understand
the world, and leave the mind to darkness  where

It  thrives. Werner Herzog, for example  says
The mind is  a room,better dimly lit

For livable ambiance,  some lively music
For habitability - than floodlit,  mute

For self-knowledge - a bogus notion, anyway.
According to the quarterback from Cedar

Rapids,  Iowa, Jesus is a
Football fan, without whose intervention

The Rams could not have won the Super Bowl.
Aren't you ashamed at refusing love

Like an hors d'oeuvre (outside the work - which was?).
Love's not love until it's lost, and then

You write a corbantic poem about it.
That's what you think.What I think - what do I think?

I think the house we lived in wept itself
All the way down. I think forgiveness mirrors

Facetious animals art play: horseplay.
Horse sense, more what we  aspire to -

Remains the province of the horses, now?

(It occurred to me after I finished transcribing this that I may have used the poem before. But it's a good poem, worthy of repeat if that's  what it I've done.)








                                                  



So, for my last poem this week,  I leave the memory thing behind and return to an observational.









ebony eyes

   it was her eyes
beneath her fur hat
I recognized...

deep, dark
almost black eyes,
and beneath the dusk of her eyes.
shadows,
dark smudges,
eyes like wells of  bottomless  sorrow,
like in the sad  Russian song,

 Ochi chyornye (Ebony Eyes)

Dark and burning eyes, Dark as midnight skies
Full of passion flam, full of lovingly game
Oh how I'm in love with you, oh how afraid I am of you
Days when I met your made me sad and blue

a bruised angel
despairing
for the love  she's seen turn to ash
in morning light...

even beneath that furry hat
set low over her flawless brow,
I know her ebony eyes
and am reminded
how a single flame can light
the dark












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The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet