It's an ALF World After All   Wednesday, February 11, 2015






This is kind of like a religious thing. I've never actually seen  ALF, but I know he exists because other people have told me so, even  providing pictures from ALF heaven.

The anthology of the week is Everywhere Is Someplace Else, a collection of work by eleven poets published by Plain View Press of Austin in 1998.

My poems, new and old, and poets  from my library, as usual, are hear for your reading pleasure.


Me
working out

Bridgeman Davis
Death by Sleep

Me
fellow travelers

from The Essential Koran
excerpts from various verses

Me
discovery's rapture

Polly Opsahl
Twenty-Eight Years

Me
a possibly, potentially,provisionally great  poem

Deveaux Baker
Sweeping the Bushes  

Me
fair warning 

Bradley Earle  Hoge
Red Dog

Me
patchy

Me
situational

Bonnie Buhler Smith
I am a cabbie who vindicates myself on the...

Me
the truth of stuff

Charles Levenstein
The News Song

Me
revelations

Francis Downing Hunter 
Disconnected at  Twenty-Five

Me
stupid  is...

Stanley Moss
A Guest in  Jerusalem
Near Machpelah/Hebron
The Gentle Things

Me
a cowboy should be  tough enough

Susan Bright
Enhuanna Wrote in Stone

Me
an unfocused eye

Charles  Simic
Barber College Shave  
The Street of Martyrs

Me
radio silence

Kalamu ya Salaam
The Past Predicts the Future

Me
banafanafofana

Octavio Paz
Dawn
Touch
Apparition

Me
a thousand birds fly up      


And a reminder  before we  proceed that I enjoy comments, either at the end of the post or via  email to me  at allen.itz@gmail.com.  

That address works also if you wish to get on or off my email list and if you have a poem or very short prose you'd like to submit to me for possible use here. If I like what you send I'll use it, as you send it. The entire staff of "Here and Now" is me and my dog Bella who sits  by my side to encourage me on (as  long as I  keep her snack bowl full), so I'm not in a position to edit or proof what you might send. 

Barely have time to do that for my own stuff (and some say I don't do even that too well, so your  probably better off doing it yourself). 
                  











Don't you just love it when a plan comes together.

Well, maybe not an actual plan.












working out

major accident,
I-10 and Huebner,
one exit down, commuter traffic at  a standstill
for an hour, moving now, but only at a grandma-pushing-her-walker-
down-the-church-aisle pace

I  will be going the other direction
after breakfast
and if I wasn't before, I am now...

a stop  for gas
on the way downtown
and an ATM withdrawal for the rest of the day
then
to the Pearl
where my welcoming  coffeehouse
awaits...

I'll  probably write a poem when I get there,
assuming this one doesn't
work out...

- who am I trying to kid? at what point in the last six years
did any five words I deposited on a page in a consecutive sequence
not constitute as far as I was concerned
a poem that worked out -

I'm a poem-a-day-poet  after  all,
and my production is high because my standards
are not

and  though I'm sorry about the auto accident
that started this whole thing,
I'm okay with how it all
worked
out








The first poem from the week's anthology is by Bridgeman Davis.

After  growing up in Alabama, Davis moved to Texas in 1981. She earned her BA degree from Trinity University in San Antonio and an M.Div. from Austin Presbyterian Theological. Seminary. At the time  the anthology was published, she was a professor at Huston-Tillotson College, serving part-time as chaplain for Hospice Austin and working on a Ph.D. in religion at Baylor University.








Death by Sleep

I know of a woman
who died of gang violence
in her sleep - a bullet
ripped past the safety bars,
landed in her  skull

A drive by bullet
gone astray, looking
for another target.
Bullets don't come
with names, though.

She died instantly,
the coroner said.
She never felt a thing.

But she did feel it,
felt coming
for years, felt
the horror growing
every day.

Waited for the bullet.
Expected it for her son.
Died, anticipating.











This is an old poem from February, 2010. From reading the poem it doesn't seem to me that it was a happy time, but a time when it's good to have friends to talk to. Unfortunately, all of the friends  mentioned here are gone, but not forgotten.











fellow travelers

it's like opening the gate
in the morning
and letting your brain
out for a run,
keeping up as best you can,
trying to keep out of the rose bushes
and other places
you prefer undiscovered
on any given day

like this,
having just completed my daily read
of the morning newspaper,
this could become a melancholy poem
if I let it
because I am a patriot
and what I see in the papers
is my country
in decline, the greed
and shallowness 
of its people, my people,
taking it down,
nowhere showing either will or capacity
to   change

but it is a bright
and beautiful morning
and I will not let this
become
a melancholy poem,
will set aside
the decline of my country
until the next morning's paper
and speak
instead
of how like a lonely man
I am - though I am not actually
a lonely man
because
I speak to my animals,
not because I expect them
to understand and
respond
but because creatures grow 
closer
when they hear the voice of others,
develop affinities and
empathises
that could never grow in silence

so I talk to my outside cats in the morning,
address them by name -

good morning, George, I say,
and you're looking good this morning, Billy Goat,
I say,
and Mama, dark and yellow-eyed Mama,
how cantankerous you are today,
always in such a foul mood,
can you not be pleasant even one morning a week,
and when they meow and talk back to me
I meow back,
my best effort at the accents of their feline lingo,
meow, I say, meow, meow, meow,
in various tones and pitches
and we spend a few minutes in each other's company...

and poor old battered Kitty Pride,
I speak to her every night
as she settles in beside me
and I scratch her head
and ask her,  please don't snore so loud tonight, Kitty,
I say, I need my sleep
for I have poems to write tomorrow
and she curls her head under her leg
and begins to snore
as I would expect, since it was the sound
of my voice
that soothed her, not any particular words
or requests...

and Reba, my beautiful, deaf Reba,
do I not stroke her head and whisper to her
when she whimpers in her sleep
and does she not, knowing, if not my voice,
the breath of my voice
and my touch
settle from her dreams into quiet sleep-breathing

yes,
my walk today could lead me
to melancholy and fearful places,
but I have my friends
and I'd rather walk with them,
setting aside such distractions as melancholy and despair
for the deeper bonds
between us,
we unlike-creatures
fellow-traveling,
sharing the voice and sounds of life








From my library this week, something different.

Over the course of the years I've been posting "Here and Now" I think I've used selections from most faith traditions there are or have been, except one.

So this month, I  present several verses from The Essential Koran - The Heart of Islam, subtitled "An Introductory Selection of Readings from the Qur'an," published by Castle Books in 1993, translated and presented by Thomas Cleary, best known for his translations of Buddhist and Taoist texts, including The Essential Tao, The Essential Confucius, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the bestselling The Art of War.

The verses I've chosen are from early in the text, presumable, as  arranged here from the Prophet's earliest  visions.  After reporting these visions to his wife, a Christian who  was also his employer, he was encouraged by her continue to pursue the visions and passing them on. Much like Jesus, the authorities became concerned and suspicious as his following grew and he was sheltered by his wife and her family and other Christian friends.

Cleary explains that translation of the text is difficult because of unique characteristics of the original language, difficulties he seeks to resolve in some specific ways. For example in these verses we read God's word sometimes as quoted in the text by the Prophet and sometimes as if spoken directly by God himself, in those instances referring to himself as "We."




from Verses 30-39

...And We said,
"Adam, live in the garden,
you and your wife,
and eat of it comfortably, as you wish .
But do not go near this tree,
for you would become abusive tyrants."

But then the Obsessor
made them  both
slip and fall from there,
and dislodged them
from the state they had been in.
And We said,
"Let you all descend
with enmity among you.

...Then Adam received instruction
from his Lord,
and God relented toward him;
for God is most  relenting,
most  merciful.


from Verse 62

Be they Muslims, Jews
Christians, or Sabians,
those who believe in God and the Last Day
and who do good
have their reward with their Lord.
They have nothing to fear,
and  they will not sorrow.


from Verse 83

Worship nothing  but God;
be good to your parents and relatives,
and to the orphan and the poor.
Speak nicely to  people,
be constant in prayer,
and giver charity.


from Verses 84-85

And when We took your promise
that you would not shed the blood of your own,
and would not drive your own from  their homes,
then you confirmed it,
as you yourself bear witness.

But the you yourselves
killed your own people,
and drove a group  from among you
out of their homes,
assisting efforts against them
win iniquity and enmity.


from Verse 87

We gave Moses the Book,
and caused messengers  to follow after him.
And we gave clear proofs
to Jesus son of Mary,
and We strengthen him
with the holy spirit.
Are you not haughty and arrogant
whenever  a messenger  comes to you
with what your selves do not desire?
Some you have branded liars,
others you have killed.


from Verses 115-117

To God belong the East and the West;
and wherever you turn,
there is the Face of God.
For  God is omnipresent, all-knowing.

Yet they say God has begotten a son.
Glory to God!
No, to God belongs all
in  the heavens and the earth;
everything is obedient to God.

God is the originator
of the heavens and the earth;
and whenever God decrees something,
God says to it, "Be!"
and it is.













A Sunday morning observational.













discovery's  rapture

Sunday morning,
at Barnes & Noble,where we  are just about every Sunday morning,
coffee,
newspapers,
new books to see which ones I'll steal with my Kindle as soon  as we're back outside...

a family, middle aged parents,
three children, ranging from 10 or so  to 6 or so,
all well-dressed, maybe for church, but not one of those elaborate,  dress-up churches
like the Methodist or Presbyterian, you know the ones
where men wear suits and women wear hats, but not like  the Catholic either
who'll take anyone no matter how bad they  smell, or one of the Pentecostals
where cleaning the tractor grease out from under your fingernails
constitutes dressing up  for church, no, somewhere in the middle, Baptist probably,
no frills, no fads or fancies, just the plain everyday salt of the earth people
like the Lord likes best of all...

but wait, I  got off track...

what I meant to say is that this was just a very normal-looking twenty-first century
family,  visiting a bookstore,the only thing unusual,
the wonder in which they seem to take in their surroundings, all of which
I  think  would seem very normal to most...

being mostly an observational poet, I watch  people and pick up small things,
sometimes imagining I have learned secrets about  people, sometimes
just making stuff up based on three  seconds of watching

this family first caught my attention when they walked past our table
and the oldest boy made a comment about what a huge bookstore it was,
seeming odd to me since it  isn't so huge, and I  don't  think
most ten-year-olds would notice even if it was huge and, if they did notice wouldn't comment on it,
but he was very excited, even more excited when he  saw the escalators, and then,later
when he saw the elevator, so struck that he blurted out in a near squeal how it was such a big bookstore
that it  even has it's own
elevator

and finally,  as I happened to be following the father into the men's  room, I almost ran into him
when he went to a dead stop, staring in palpable confusion, if not outright disbelief,
at the men's room sign which included the  helpful notice
that  there was a baby-changing station inside

it seemed for a minute as if he was near deciding not to go in, apparently seeing something
very alien  about a men's room with a baby-changing station inside, like,whatever was going on
in there it obviously could not be a real men's room and he wasn't sure about taking a  chance
on what might happen to him and his manliness if he went inside...

~~~

now it might be that I'm more attuned to tiny irregularities  in the normal flow of life
in the universe and it might seem I'm over-reacting to such tiny blips,
but life, to me, is a never-ending series of tiny blips that an acutely aware person
such as myself observe and sort,  wheat blips here,  chaff blips there, life as it  normally passes
on this  planet, so long home to me, here and life that can-only be leakage from an alien  
universe  there...

that is a bigger question and not  relevant to right here  right now...

what is relevant  to right here, right now, is how the whole confluence of observations reminds me
of when I was six or seven years  old and I opened my Red Ryder lunchbox at school
and discovered my  mother had sliced my sandwich diagonally
instead of across the middle,
making my  sandwich square  into two sandwich triangles
instead of the normal two rectangular sandwiches...

it was the first time I had ever seen  such a thing,
the first time my mother had ever done that, or at least,
the first time she had done it in my presence - she may have done it many times before,
but she was quite a bit older than me and maybe I just never knew about it...

I thought it was wonderful,
this crazy explosion of sandwich possibilities, so avant garde,
this diagonal sandwich slicing, and probably something rich people did,
being, with all their riches, well past  the point of humdrum rectangular sandwiches,
and on the first day of sandwich revelation, just looking into my lunch  box,
looking at those pointy-end sandwiches, just  looking at their pointy little corners,
sent me soaring into a fancy-pants world I could have barely  imagined before...

~~~

and I so hope the visit of  that  oh-so-regular-looking family brought to them
the same rapture  of discovery  as  triangular sandwiches
brought to
me












The next poet from the anthology is Polly Opsahl, at the time of the anthologies publication, a letter carrier and union activist and was active in the National Federation of State  Poetry Societies.










Twenty-Eight Years

A psychic tells Samantha she chose
the first twenty-eight years of her life,
before conception, selected parents,
brothers, sisters, playmates,
first boyfriend and even lover
likes she picks tomatoes at the grocery store.
She predetermined everything
for twenty-eight years.

Before she was born
Samantha chose Sonny Preston
to introduce her to sex
on a back road near Paris
when she was fifteen.
Bobby Thomas continued the lesson
in the back seat of his Duster
behind the Main Street Theater
until she became pregnant
at seventeen. She wanted hundreds
of eyes to follow her protruding belly
down high school hallways.

She followed her  chosen path
like Alice fell down the hole to Wonderland.
She accepted the pain and joy of childbirth
and the forever-ache of caring enough
to let her son go. At twenty-nine,
she consults her Magic 8-Ball
to decide what to have for dinner. 














This one is another from February, 2010.












a possibly, potentially, provisionally great poem

I don't know
what this poem
is going to be about

but I'm pretty sure it's gonna
turn out great

cause last night,
in my den, watching
Wheel of Fortune

I had this great
idea

and I said,
wow! that'a be a great
poem

I'll write it
tomorrow morning, I said

and Reba was all excited
about it
wagging her tail  and whatnot

so I'm thinking she thought
it was a good idea

except
since she went deaf
she's come to believe
that every time she sees
my lips move
I must be saying

"let's go for a walk"

and she gets all excited
wagging her tail and whatnot

so I wouldn't regard
her first  reaction that this was
gonna be

a great poem
as proof- positive
that it is actually

going to be a great
poem

we'll see
I guess, but the proof
is in the pudding
as they say

(and I don't know why
they say that because
I have no idea what
the heck
that means, proof,
pudding,
what exactly does
one have to do with
the other)

so,
questionably coherent
old saying
aside

I'm going to have to finish
this poem to see
whether it really is a good poem
or if Reba
just thought I was saying

"let's go for a walk"
as
usual

and I'm really looking forward
too finding out about whether this
is really a good poem
or just a poop
in the dark

but
we're going to  have to wait
until tomorrow
because I have run out of time
this morning

so I'll just have to finish
this potentially
possibly
provisionally great poem
tomorrow
and I need the extra time
anyway

to  remember
what the great idea  was
that caused Reba to get excited,
setting her to wagging her tail and whatnot

or not









 
From my bookshelf, this is a poem by Devreaux Baker from her book, Red Willow People, published in 2010 by Wild Ocean Press.

Baker, with several poetry collections of her own and appearances in many journals, taught poetry for many years as part of California's Poets in School Programs. With a MA degree in counseling, she now combines poetry and creative writing as a private therapist.









Sweeping the Bushes

Every morning when I walk  into town
I pass the homeless man sweeping the
pyracantha bushes.

He shakes all the leaves that have fallen
in the night from  the limbs of  cottonwoods

behind Beverly's Jewelry Store.

"this side is Native American jewelers,
and this other side,over here, is all the others",

She likes to  point this out
to all the tourists who stumble in
high on morning lattes.

The man works hard with his fingers
pulling out all the dead leaves,
but gently, so he looks like he could be

smoothing the hair of someone he loves.
I have come to count  on him being there,
combing out all that shy gold.

At first I thought he must be crazy,
one of the ones the State set free
in the month of Horses Standing

With Their Tails To The Wind.

But one day I saw shop owners paying him,
and I  realized he made a living
combing cottonwood leaves out of bushes.

He probably likes watching all that gold
gathering under his feet,
forming  a  blanket the color of mustard,

or fever, spreading out like yellow water
into a dance he does with  hands and leaves,

and only he knows the music of.













Some days a person just has to rant.













fair warning

somehow,
and I don't have a clue how,
my Facebook "friends" list has been taken over
by people who seem to have only recently
grown tired of running the asylum and decided
to escape instead, both right-wing nutzoids and left wing fleeblmaisters,
most generally harmless, often funny in their sincere simple-mindedness...

but there are a few, mostly on the right, who are odious in the extent
of their mental and moral malignancy, creatures,
unlike the knee-jerk left, like skunks who bring stink just by their presence,
and, most annoying, people who bring out the teacher/preacher in me,
people who make me want to educate and  counsel them, bring them back
from the loony tunes land they live in, but I know they are immune
to education and counseling, happy in their craziness like pigs in wallow,
lacking the better nature required for redemption and, worst of all,
how that lack and their failure to appreciate my efforts in their behalf
brings  out the snark in me...

entirely way-gone too frustrating, requiring remedial action, relief for my psyche,
a break-away, an escape from the mental miasma  they bring, and it's hard because,
even in my highest dudgeon, I am basically a polite person and am hesitant
when it comes to things like chastising obnoxious neighbors, even when they are being
beyond obnoxious and and in my own house, in my favorite recliner...

but in the end, it can't be helped,
it's time to clean
house

~~~

they have, hereby been warned











From this week's  anthology, this poem is by Bradley Earle Hoge, a stay-at-home dad for a three year old boy and a global change scientist at Rice University at the time the anthology was published. His fiction and poetry has appeared electronically and in the small press.










Red Dog

As I travel back home to a dark and bloody gerund,
I reminisce and Appalachian song:
             O will there be red dog in heaven,
(Is it on earth that heaven is found?)

Where will these red  roads through  Appalachia lead?
Will our future from the past its lessons read?
             O will there be red dog in heaven,
Or have the mountains truly begun to bleed?

Like the red dirt tinted tears in a wise man's eyes
Running down the crevices of his face's lines:
              O will there be red dog in heaven,
Or are the mountains' red roads blood from wise men's live?

Man constructs endless roads from strip mined land
Where Gaia had built the mountains by time's hand.
               O will there be red dog  in heaven.
And who is the greatest architect, earth or man?













 Another from February, 2010.













patchy

patchy fog
the radiofella said
which from here

looks like  it might mean
fog as  if
wearing a patch over both eyes

cause I can't see
diddly on the interstate
except for slipstreams

in the murk
signaling passage
of automobiles

which makes me kinda
nostalgic
for earlier days

living in  Corpus Christi
going down Ocean Drive
in the morning

on my way to work
downtown
stopping on Shoreline Drive

sometimes
if I was really  early
walking

out on one of the t-heads
to soak  up some
morning mist atmosphere

listening
hearing the small sounds
that seem to echo

in the  grey
the lisp  of small bay waves
quietly rubbing on concrete

and
one morning
a gull so close

like calling at my shoulder
so close
we are both surprised

when the  fog  shifts for a moment
and we see each other
near nose to beak

and other fog
I remember as well
the fog of Monday mornings

during my drinking years
dead man walking
like the movie was about me -

funny
how I remember all the mornings so clear
while the nights remain

as the radiofella says
patchy













This one written in a medicated haze, as I continue to battle the cedar fever.














situational

this life
is a situational thing...

in some quarters, at 6 feet,
I am tall, at least until, as happened last week in the bookstore,
I run into Tim Duncan looking for books
for his kids
and I realize that in the world of tall
I'm just another piece
of shortcake...

or,
a long time ago
when my situation was that I was young,
I outran the fastest guy on the
track team,
whereas, today,
in my latest situation of being old
I have trouble keeping up
with old ladies toddling
along in their foot-dragging hunched-over way
as they teeter down the
sidewalk...

or,
like,
I was thinking of taking the day off,
a sick day, a day of not  writing a poem
because I've been feeling bad for weeks
a situation which I think means I need to take
a day of extended
snooze...

and then I thought of all the people in the world
in their sick beds, people in pain, profound despair and depression
as their body seeks to keep hold on a life that, for many, will
end before sunset, their own settling beyond the horizon
as their bodies and minds and life slip beyond the clouds into the forever-fade of death,
and even those who suffer in lesser ways, children with
toothaches,  elders whose feet ache after a day shuffling their mortal coil
down lonely and inattentive streets, mothers who sit in welfare offices, sickly child
at their breast, while they, ill themselves, wait for the call
of state compassion, the frail, the frustrated, the diseased, those
whose relationships crash and burn with each clumsy attempt
at love and intimacy, students whose greatest effort fails and important
test, teachers whose greatest efforts produce only children
who  cannot read or write, children without breakfast, without
the covering of a warm coat in chill wind and freezing rain, standing
for the yellow school bus, late again today of all days, a frail old woman
with children who never visit, who dies in her bed and is not found
until she is nothing left but rags and bones...

a world for so many, a situation of hopelessness  and bleak despair...

and meanwhile,
my small suffering, like an actor with bad hair and drooping jowls,
no longer up  for the  lead parts,
but still,
there are places for those like me, willing to  settle
for lower billing and fading
light,
ready still to do my song and dance,
toss up a few words
like a slick-fingered juggler,
willing to drop a few balls along
the way...

it's that kind of situation for me
today









Having been a cab driver myself for a short while, here's a poet and a poem I
can identify with. The poet is Bonnie Buhler-Smith. She has been, in addition to cab driver, a television host and a video producer. A graduate of New York University, at the time of publication, she lived in New York state and had a daughter who had just completed her studies at Bernard College. At the time she was teaching creative writing and video  production in Westchester County as an artist in residence through the Westchester Arts Council. She lived with the Zapotec Indians in Oaxaca,  Mexico for three years in the 1970s.









I am a cabbie who vindicates myself on the

lounge-lizard language of the customers by writing madly
& drawing out the driving
as I'm driving.
       (It also occurs to me such derringdo - of writing while driving -
cures boredom
by taking on the challenges of
actually doing something)
so let me continue talking         but my HORN DON'T BLOW.
       So  if my horn don't blow
I sit inside my sit-calm
fantasy motel playing
pinball with the parkway
bouncing around, going and coming on the seat.
Why, underpasses in overdrive,
I  feel a great freedom coming
in driving a bomb for a living.
I can make a shit-box car do  al-most anything, and
if I am lonely I hop in
(who knows if I'm lonely and what's out here
if I need more money)
there's always more hours
to stretch out front and back
and money pouring in
taxi-ing along as the extra hand and foot,
a total space cadet.

Then with my lord typewriter          and my extra loud  mouth
            propelling me in my sleep

I  am free to draw the conclusions I  want,
court the four-leaf clovers beside the park benches,
as often as I see fit  to sit.
Besides, people don't read the ends of poems like this
so I have time on my hands, too.















Still in 2010, but stepping back a month to January.













the truth of stuff

as a poet

I'm a prose
writer
with a very short
attention
span

and
little commitment
to the whole truth
and nothing
but the truth

though
I do claim
to be seeking
a higher

ha!

so
I tell
these little
1-page
50-word stories
that are at least
partially
if not wholly
lies
exaggerations
and evasions

if
you
are by nature
someone who must
believe in the
truth
of stuff
because,
after
all,
there it is,
written
out
on
paper -
just believe
this -
all the good stuff
I tell about my
self
is true;
all the bad stuff
are flat-out
lies








Here's a poem from a new addition to my library, Poems of World War III, by my poet-friend Charles Levenstein. The book, his second poetry collection, was published by Lulu Press in 2006.

In addition to the work he does now as a poet, writer and editor, Chuck is also Professor Emeritus of Work  Environment Policy a University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has a Ph.D. in economics from M.I.T. and a masters degree in physiology and occupational health from Harvard School of Public Health. He continues to edit and appear in various peer-reviewed journals.




The News Song

 No longer read the newspapers,
Make the news:

No longer write the poems,
Make the life:

No longer make the breakfast,
Be the food:

The war  was not the war
     They said it was for,
Perhaps they were misinformed
     Or it was for some other  four
     Reasons, good or bad,
Most likely not on a moral scale,
     Like cats smelling each other
     Or whales sieving plankton.

The war of wrong reasons,
     Or of no  reasons at all,
     Simply in the nature of things,
Was victorious, reportedly, however,
     Perhaps is not quite over
     Since casualties mount
And not just among defenders
     Of museums and oil fields
But everyday in random villages
A few young Americans or Brits, no
Others from the coalition
Of the willing, like Poles
That I can remember. No word
     Of Halliburton or Bechten
Casualties.
A few Iraqis of course.

Meanwhile, the reports from Kabul
     Are gunshots, bizarre  warlords
     And  Empire troops go at it
In shifting mountains of alliance
     And misalliance, plate
     Tectonics sending one up, one down.
Doesn't someone actually want
     To  build a pipeline to move
     Something or other from there

To places where serious money can be made?

No longer read the newspapers,
Make the news.

No longer write the poems,
Make the life.

No longer make the breakfast,
Be the food.















Such a revelation when the unseen obvious is suddenly seen.












revelations

driving downtown
on Bandera Road early in the morning,
the central city towers, as seen from the heights,
are cloud-draped at their base,  skyscraper facsimiles
made for the big parade, party balloons
set free by an inattentive child,
pinatas hanging from a tree to high to see, waiting
for the first mighty swing of a birthday
broomstick...

the sun centered
like a sniper's scope on the road
as it goes east,rises and falls behind
gentle sloping hills rolling toward new day's business...

a thousand times in twenty years
I have driven this road, west to east,
east to west, and I never noticed the hills fading slowly
toward the east,
so low as to be unnoticeable
until the sun  traces
a path  of light and dark up and down
the soft rise and fall...

it confounds me sometimes, the obvious things
I for so  long don't see

but  such delight when for  the first time
a pattern of  obvious  beauty,
in this case, black and white like
and opening-closing eye,
so long obscure is for the first time
unveiled










Next from the anthology, a poem by Frances Downing Hunter.

The poet received her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and teaches English at Arkansas State University. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journal and she has published on book of her own  poems, The Sanguine Sunrise.










Disconnected at Twenty-Five

     and back in the closet  lays
     from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,
     translated by Edward Fitzgerald

I've got six months,  he whispered to no one,
fingering the rabbit's foot swiveling
on his key chain, luckless for him
as for the rabbit dismembered.
Senses reeling, senses receding,
he felt lightheaded, deadheaded
like a late chrysanthemum
yellowing on a winter grave.
No totem, this gift of a dark stranger
leaving him the death's head on the post.
Death mask of an ugly duckling
tabled before swanhood,  his song
sung too soon, like Halloween in  July.
Rattling on, he had no in way out:
like  shotgunned, car  crashed, overdosed.
No choice multiple choices - hot chocolate,
death cups, death traps, death wishes.
Drugs for pain only, no recreation.
He was  finished with tipping, tripping.
Failing a little blood work
the final test, passing, raising rates.
For now the watch,waiting for the deadline
dawdling, feet dangling, body limber
like a lost  marionette
forgotten in the closet
no strings attached, cord cut. 














Back to February, 2010.











stupid is...

I've done some stupid things
in  my life and

even knowing they were stupid
I often did them anyway

cause
I didn't know how  to stop -

and that leaves me
with, perhaps, more compassion

for adulterers and drunks
and chiselers

and all the standard
ner'do'wells

that populate our lives
and the morning newspaper -

it's just a bunch of stupid
things they did

cause they didn't know
how to stop

is the way I  think about it,
though I lose my patience  pretty quick

when,  after
getting away with stupid for a while

they begin to thinking
they don't  need to  stop,

thinking all their adultering
and stealing and whatnot was

just fine cause they were so special
and the rules

don't apply to them
and if they did

it couldn't  be stupid
anyway

and at that point
we're past stupid and into

delusion
requiring intervention

which they never see coming,
the stupidest part

of the stupid things they do
cause they should'a known

everyone always gets caught
in the end








Next from my bookshelves, poems by Stanley Moss from his book, God Breaketh Not All Men's Hearts Alike, a book of new and collected poems published by Seven Stories Press in 2011.

Moss,  born in  1925, is a poet, publisher and art dealer. He was educated at  Trinity College  and Yale University and published his first collection of poetry, The Wrong  Angel, in 1966 and has published 5 more in the years since, including this week's anthology, the most recent. Making his living  as a private art dealer, he also founded in Sheep Meadow Press in 1977, specializing in international poets in translation.






A Guest in Jerusalem

On the grape and oranges you gave me on a white plate: worry,
in the kitchen, day worry, in the bedroom, right worry
about a child getting killed; worry in the everyday gardens
of Jerusalem, on geraniums  and roses from the time they bloom
in December, long as they live.  In the desert wind
playing over the hair on a child's head and arms, worry.
In  the morning you put a soiled or clean shirt of worry,
drink its tea, eat its bread and honey. I wish you the luxury
of worrying about about aging or money, instead of a child getting killed,
that no  mother or father should know the sorrow
that comes when there is nothing to worry about  anymore.



Near Machpelah/Hebron

It  was not a dream: a poet
led me down into the earth
where the sea in another age
had hollowed out a mountain.
He led me into a cave of marble  cloud:
colossal backs,  shoulders, thighs of reclining Gods.
Just above us a battlefield four thousand years old,
some olive trees and wild floseres.
I cannot believe these Gods need
more than  an occasional  lizard
or the sacrifice of a  dove that comes to them
through jags and crevices.
Madness to think the Gods
are invisible, in us, and worth fighting for
- if they want anything, I suppose,
it is for the sea to come back again.



The Gentle Things

I have had enough of Gods
And disasters;
The gentle things,
All loved ones survive,
Water survives in water,
Love in love.

I  lie! The dead stain
Only themselves,
The wolf tears at the world,
Says, nothing is:
And the wolf is not the wind,
Is death's fingernail.

Dampness to dampness,
Had  I been given
Only life's issue,
Not the song, or the silence
After the singing,
I should be content.












Rambling on again.

It's true, most often I start a piece not knowing where I'm going. or  worse,  ending a piece not knowing where I've been.












a cowboy should be tough enough

did it  again,
dressed for yesterday's weather,
Hawaiian shirt, black with big red flowers
of probably Hawaiian origin,
looking,
it seemed to me as I studied it in the mirror this morning,
very much like a cowboy shirt
(except for the missing
fringe)

close enough to a cowboy shirt
to remind me  that the rodeo is just around the corner,
the first signs of  it, the cowboy breakfast this morning (for the 37the year),
soft tacos and coffee for 75,000 people, very few of whom
are actual cowboys, except this  once a year when they get up at 4 a.m.
and  put on their cowboy hats and  cowboy boots and fight heavy cowboy traffic
to the big parking lot over by Freeman Coliseum, while, at the same time, approaching now
from all over South Texas and other cowboy lands to the west and north and even east
a few Cajun bayou cowboys, trail riders, a gathering of bank clerks, school teachers, grocery clerks
and the grizzled  fella from down the street and occasional actual cowboys and cowgirls
all bundled up against the cold, moseying in on their horses from from days and nights on the trail,
pots and kettles clattering on the sides of their chuck wagons, and sometime soon, following them,
the cattle drive down Houston Street through the middle of downtown,
longhorns a-hoofing it between the tourists and locals in cowboy hats for the occasion,
which seems to have some kind of secret launching date  because
I always want to take pictures of it but somehow never know about it until it's over
and I'm thinking I ought to be doing that a right now, right after I cross the"ts" and dot the "i"
on this little ramble, all like this ramble, another dodge my dog would say to avoid
going for a walk in 50 degree weather in my Hawaiian shirt,
and I'm thinking, because cowboys are supposed to be tough and not deterred
when it comes time to herd their herd, that maybe I should reorient
by thinking and based on  similarity of appearance, come to understand
that a cowboy shirt is just an Hawaiian shirt with fringe benefits
and conversely maybe I should think of this Hawaiian shirt as just a cowboy shirt de-fringed
and that should make me cowboy-tough enough to, as befits my kind,
go walk my  dog...











This an interesting piece from the anthology, introducing me to one of the ancients I had never heard of. The author of the poem is Susan Bright, author of 14 poetry collections and the editor of Plain View Pres, publisher of the anthology. Described by those who knew her as a "force of nature," the Austin poet, published and environment activist died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 65.











Enheduanna Wrote on Stone

     Born ca. 2300 BC, Enheduanna was a moon priestess, daughter of King Sagon of Agade who reigned over the word's first empire, extending from the Mediterranean to Persia. Enheduanna is the first writer, male or female, in history whose name and work have been preserved. Her personal history survives in highly political poems. We have a stone  disk which contains a detailed likeness of the high priestess, revealing her particular features and dress, flanked by three of her retainers. The poetry has been preserved on cuneiform tablets.
      Quotations that follow are taken from adaptions in Aliki and Willis Barnstone of "The Exaltation of Inanna." 


Enheduanna wrote on  stone.

The first poet  in recorded history was a woman
who wrote political poetry, a woman who gathered symbols,
mysterious  and strange for us to see, a woman
who cut stone glyphs in order to catch thought -
cut stone words to throw at the goddess -
How dull and heavy the medium, sculpture
to chase fleet passages of mind, heartbeat -

     Like a dragon you have filled the land with venom.
     Like thunder when you roar over the earth,
     trees and plants fall before .
     You are a flood descending from a mountain,
     O primary one,
     Moon Goddess Inanna of heaven and earth!
     Your fire blows about and drops  on our nation.

     Lady mounted on a beast,
     An gives you qualities, holy commands,
     but you decide.
     You are in all our great  rites.
     Who can understand me?

Enheduanna wrote on stone,
questions about divinity and human suffering,
questions about the vibrant green of spring,
the black green of thunder, the violent green
of torrent, mountain emptying into ocean,
wars so violent even plants tremble -

     Storms lend you winds,  destroyer of the lands.
     For you the rivers rise high with blood
     and the people have nothing to drink.
     The army of the mountain goes to you captive
     of its own accord.

Your stone words fall out of history, pour and tumble,
rough and fierce, into my life.

It has always been so.
I have been singing this song for so long my tongue grows thick,
numb, cold and sullen, snake hair, stone face, over and over,
since there were words
we have used them to unmask savage gods.

     You have lifted your foot and left
     their barn of fertility.
     The woman of the city no longer speak of love
     with their husbands.
     At  night they do not make love.
     They are no  loner naked before them,
     revealing intimate treasures.

Words are fast now, fast words:
Words: Deny the violent gods.
Words: Leap through the fire of your soul.
Words: Conquest kills passion.

Words are fast now-
fly from river to  sky, continent to ocean, parent  to child,
page to heart. In an instant, the entire world  can change
its mind. Everything is possible, planets converge, populations
emerge, change, revolt but it doesn't do any good -

We worship violent gods.
Enheduanna wrote on stone.
That is what she said.
She said we worship violent gods.

(The poet mentioned this disc in the introduction of her poem and I was curious enough to look it up.) 















 From January,  2010, so good old wisdom of  the  aged.














an unfocused eye

been thinking
of my birthday
coming up next month

reading
all the medical news
thinking

with everything going on,
if I can make it another
ten years

I can probably hold on
for another thirty
or forty...

and what would that
be like,
sitting here at 6:30 a.m.

at a hundred and ten,
having my breakfast,
eggs, burnt bacon, dry toast

wondering
if I would be bored enough
by then to call the game

on my own,
blow out the candle
and light the fire -

I
don't think so
because it  seems the older

I get
the less bored I become,
not that I was bored before

as intent on the world then
as I am now,
but less driven now

to  be an actor in every play,
more content now
to watch

or
not
as the feeling moves me

and it is wonderful how much more
there is to be seen
through the unfocused eye...

so here's my advice
if you,
like me want

to live to one hundred and ten -
ignore the forest
and see the trees in all their multiplicity

take your eye
off
the ball

and just enjoy the game
as it
so widely passes








The next-last  poem from  my library this week is by Charles Simic. The poem is taken from his book Jackstraws, published by Harcourt in 1999.

Simic was born in 1938 in Belgrade, Serbia, then  part  of  Yugoslavia. He immigrated the the United States with this  family when he was sixteen years old, coming to this country with childhood memories of his-years as a displaced person in war-torn Europe shaping much of his world-view. He grew up in Chicago and received his B.A. from New York University and is now Professor Emeritus of American literature and creative writing at University of New Hampshire. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and winner of the award in 1990. In 2007, he was  appointed fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States.






Barber College Shave

In my head thrown back as in a nose bleed,
There are, of course,
A dozen or so replicas of myself,
Much reduced, wearing Halloween  masks.

The sit at the same long table
Debating with conspiratorial air
The baffling question of my true identity,
The contradictory evidence

Like a quick shuffle of smutty postcards:
Here he is hanging someone's pink  panties
On a gravestone, smoking a cigar in a saloon
In Amarillo, reading  philosophy at  night,

Asking he executioner how the chair works...
What the hell is going on here, I shouted,
As which the apprentice barber rushed over
And threw a steaming hot towel over my eyes.



The Street of Martyrs

Catherine, whose neck was broken
On a steering wheel of a Buick  convertible
While milk gushed from her breasts.
Max the giant who mouth is a black cavern
Since his tongue was amputated.
Barbara, whose father kept her in a closet
So no man could see her.
The  All-American shortstop whose coffin
He says, will be a matchbox.

They stop  strangers on the street
To warn them about sick and injured bugs
They may be stepping on.
If they meet anyone with very large  ears,
They try to hang their crutches on them.
When it snows, they walk in circles
Making snowflakes sizzle on the tip of their tongues.













 Another case of finding  something grander than ever expected.













radio silence

for the first year and a half
of my military service I was in training

for the two years after
I spent my shifts
sitting at a large radio console
listening,
trying to ferret out the secrets
of the Soviet air force

mostly
this meant
trying to dig out meaning
from tiny Russian voices buried
in rumpled beds of static

I learned that some of the voices on the radio
get trapped in higher ionosphere
and bounce within that band
for years, old voices from years past
still circling the globe

but that most  voices
pass on through the atmosphere
and sail off into the void, traveling to the stars,
the human voice another bit of static
for alien ears...

such a lesser static
we are
than what we hear, the sound of the
big bang continuing its expansion, waves
of such distant origin traveling
past and through us all the days of our  lives,
such a joyous and holy sound,
but how I cursed it
as I sought human meaning
through its crunch and crackle, not understanding
at the time that I was listening to
the universe singing
its birth
song

~~~

so silent and dead would be the universe
without
it










The last poem from this week's anthology is by Kalamu ya Salaam, a  New Orleans writer, editor and arts producer. In addition to his seven books of poetry, his poetry, essays and fiction are widely published in anthologies and journals. At the time of this anthology's publication, he also  produced weekly programs for an FM station in New Orleans.

I never heard of the poet before, but I'll be looking for his books.









the past predicts the future

                       (for narvalee)

when you get closer to yr relatives
you will be surprised

at how black they are,
they feel

the fit and familiarity of their emotions in the twilight
how much of yr pain they understand
with a knowing smile, and how much of their pain
you never knew, thus you frown
embarrassed by yr ignorance
and turn to yester-world
altared on the mantle piece:

ancestral photographs, amazingly graceful figures
whose dominant features are boldly ironic eyes
which seemingly float effortless just above the surface
of the cream colored paper, inscriptions in unfading black  ink
on the reverse me & shane, dec. 1934

a small, soft purple, velvet box enshrining a plain gold ring
a  slip of torn paper from another era unthrown-away
seven quickly scribbled numerals, the abracadabra key
to  a birth, a midnight move  to another town, or even
a pledge cut short by accidental death, oh it's just a number,
the slow, quiet response to yr investigation

so you pick up a pencil gilded with the name off 1947 religious
convention attended and delicately place it down beside
an 87 year old hand mirror (you resist the impulse
to look at your reflection, afraid that you might see
unfulfilled family aspirations), this mirror is atop
a piece of lace, pressed folded, ancient  matriarchal adornment

you will be surprised to learn,
as the years go on, everything
yr people say sounds like something
you wondered about it sitting in the car
the other day in the hospital parking lot  before the visit,
before the treatment

especially if you are intelligent
paid more than $10 an hour
carry credit card rather than cash
and climb  aboard a flying machine more than three times a year

you will surprised that although you live in some other city
there is a spot with yr familial name
blind embossed and hand engraved in the heart-home
of people you seldom see, surprised
that much of yr life had already been accurately predicted
by an aunt who knew you before you were born, i.e.

when yr mother
and father were courting, staying out later than curfew
and clutching dreams tightly in the naked embrace
of yr conception











Now, the last old poem of the week, written in January, 2010.

Except for quick trips to Mexican border towns, all my out-of-country travel in the past had been on military orders so I had never had a passport of my own. A trip to in early in 2010 required a passport which in turn required a passport picture, which in turn lead to this poem.











bananafanafofana

I had
a passport picture
taken today

a good double-duty
deal -
after the border agents
take a look at the  picture
and arrest me as
a terrorist
the very same picture
can be used
again
when they book me into
that Cuba place
Guacamole
or whatever...

Dee took me down
to WalMart
and set  me down on
the passport-picture-taking
stool and I don't even know
why I need a passport
but I guess she'll tell me
when we get wherever we're going

and I don't really care,
as long  as it's a civilized country
with coffeehouses and
internet and dependable WIFI
so that being there won't interrupt
my life, which I enjoy,
too much by the way,
to be running off  to weird
places like Upper Slobania
or Botswanna or some
bananafanafofana
republic in South America,
and I don't care how tasty their
bananas are cause
I don't even like bananas
except with Corn Flakes
and I  expect nobody in those
bananafanafofana countries
has Corn Flakes
except maybe the president
and most of those guys
would probably rather shoot you
than share their Corn Flakes,
so where would that leave me? will,
with bananas and no Corn Flakes,
that's where

and the dude just cannot abide
such a  tilt-a-wheel
existence as
that










He was here  last week, and here he is again, Mexican poet  and 1990 Nobel Prize winner, Octavio Paz, with three short poems. Last week, his poems were  taken from an anthology. This week, their taken from his own book, Configurations,  published by New Directions in 1971. Although a number of translators worked on the book, these three poems were translated by Charles Tomlinson.










Dawn

Cold  rapid hands
Draw back one by one
the bandages of dark
I open my eyes
                        Still
I am living
                 At the centre
Of a wound still fresh



Touch

My hands
Open the curtains of your being
Clothe you in a further nudity
Uncover the bodies of your body
My hands
Invent another body for your body



Apparition

If man is dust
Those who go through the plain
Are men













This is my last new poem for this week and my first for February.














a thousand birds fly up

a thousand birds
fly up from surrounding trees
in a synchronous cloud
that rolls against the sun, a black tide
crashing against dawn's golden shore,
then turn like a wave
retreating
to the west's still dark
night, failing once again in their campaign
against the brilliance
that defeats each day the dark...

and the day breaks again,
another one,
new
but already tested,
and now it's our turn
to test ourselves
against winter's declining
hours of light...

we advance
as the birds beat their wings in
retreat








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