Color Crunches   Wednesday, May 06, 2015

No anthology this week, just an extra bunch of my very old poems published in the late 1990s and early 2000s before I started reserving  my stuff for my own use in books and here.

Photos, old stuff, playing with color.

Here's who's here.

creature of habit

Wayne Scheer 
A Passing Thought

git along little dogie
where things went wrong

Stephen Berg
Apache chants and prayers

another early morning storm

James Laughlin
Motet: Ave Verum Corpus
The New Young Doctor
Some People Think
The Voyeur 
The Daze of Love

dark chocolate
summer night

Pablo Neruda
I Have Gone Marking

any minute now

the shape of things that are

Gregory Corso
European Thoughts - 1959

celebrate the day

through the hundred meter lens

storm warning
Harbor Bridge

Paul Guest
My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

everything  for everyone,  all the time

when nighthawks fly in memories dark

did you ever watch a pigeon walk?  
what's better than cold chocolate milk?

Sharon Olds
Five-Year-Old Boy


in the last days of March     

lying in the grass on a Sunday afternoon
north wind on a southern beach

Lucille Lang Day
710 Ashbury, 1967

consider this

for you & me
State of the Union, 2004
welcome home the warrior safe and whole

Maxine Kumin
Taking the Lambs to Market

the streets are clear  

We had really great weather last week, a couple of days of rain (which we very badly need) followed by several days of clear, blue skies and temperatures ranging  from high 40s to low 50s in the morning  and highs  during the days in the 60s and 70s,  really ridiculous weather for South Texas this close to summer. But I  haven't  heard anyone complain.

creature of habit

illuminates my bedroom,
a flash,bright enough to wake me,
then the booming crash
of a strike half a block away,
like the roar of artillery
and crashing bombs, Gotterdammerung
calling, half  a block away,
the rage of the storm given sight and sound

I turn over and slide into half-sleep,
the rumble of the storm and the lightning
bursts and the rain hitting like pellets
against my window, like a lullaby in my dry room
in a world that outside is soaked, tree limbs
drooping from the  pounding of the rain
and the thrashing of the wind, a morning

 I sleep late,until the rain has stopped,
take Bella for a short walk, then a drive
for breakfast, two eggs, one biscuit, and
two sausage patties, one for me
and one for Bella, along with half the biscuit...

and, still sleeping, hung over from storm-sleep,
wanting more, decide to take the day off,
laze around the house all day,waiting for the storm's
second act, black, rolling clouds
layered over the red

west of us now,on the edge of the
hill country, coming this way on a line
along hwy 90,  passing over Hondo,
Uvalde, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, D'Hannis,
dry little towns, getting maybe
more wet than they
wanted -
red  and yellow on the radar,
even a few little patches
of purple...

it's going to be a good one
and I decide to write a poem
before it  gets here,
even though I wasn't going to,
it being a designated
day off as of the first lightning
flash, the first thunder crash,
the first  rain on my
the choice of sleep instead
of  daily duties...

but a creature of habit,
wet or dry,
good  weather or bad,
even this, just has to  be

Here's a poem by my poet friend and housemate on Blueline's "House of 30," Wayne Scheer.

Wayne has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He's published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and on line, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories ( His short story  Zen and the Art of House Painting has been made into a short film, (http://vimeo. com/18491827). Wayne lives in Atlanta with his  wife and can be  contacted at

A Passing Thought

Behold the common cockroach
huddled in a corner
antennae twitching
waiting patiently
for a safe moment
to devour a  crumb
just inches away.

Time is of no importance
it's brain void of  thought
relying purely on instinct
responding only
to the need to eat  and mate
and fear of being crushed
survival  its sole concern.

Behold the common human
boldly traversing its domain
able to take whatever it wants
and make whatever it imagines
its complex brain
always thinking, planning,  remembering
the apex of evolution.

Cockroaches have survived
over 300 million years
humans about 200,000
Stephen Hawkins predicts
humans not likely to survive
another 1,000 years
partly because of their brain's
refusal to accept reality.

And yet, no human would willingly
trade places with a cockroach -

Just an observation made by a human
whiling away the time
between eating, sleeping and fucking.

A number of poems were published in Eclectica in the early 2000s. Here are  several of them. Most of these, but not all, also appeared later in my book,  Seven Beats a Second.


I dream
of a glass house,
brightly lit,
a beacon amid
broad-trunked trees
in a dark forest,
velvet cushions
of brown and green
piled high
on all the floors

I am split in two,
one of me inside,
on the cushions,
and the other outside
peering in

there is something
we must tell our-self,
we think, something
we must  know

and we begin to shout
inside and out
but the glass is thick
and  swallows all sound

frantic now

beware,we shout


git along little dogie

soft and blond
as sun-bleached  tassels
on summer corn,
hanging all the way down
to a sassy little ass
snuggled up in blue denim
tight enough to send Mr. Rogers
through the neighborhood
heidee ho heidee hee

that was Lily Dee, best thing
about a little shit kicker bar
on the south side of San Angelo
where me and Toby shot pool
when we ran short of cash

me oh my,
what a treat
was Lily Dee!

gave the cowboys
something to think about
on those hot July nights
sweating alone
in their bunkhouse bed

git along little  dogie...
goddamn it
get along...

where things went wrong

gets more screwy
every day

and I don't like it

I liked it better
when I didn't have to play dodge'em
on the highway
with all the beam-me-up-Scotties
with cellphones in their ear...

I  liked it better
when the crazy person on the sidewalk
talking to the  air
really was a crazy person talking to the air
and not some dweeb yuppie
talking to his dweebette girlfriend
on some kind of phone thing too small
for me to even  see...

I liked it better when men were hard
and women were soft and cars had fins
and the president was smarter  than the
average dumb-ass drunk at the corner bar...

I  liked it better
when Desi loved Lucy
and Gorgeous  George was the meanest  guy
in TV wrestling...

I liked it better
when a microwave
what what your girlfriend did
when she was across the room with her parents...

I liked it better
when I was young

a real up-and-comer

and the pretty girl on the park bench
was waiting for me

The next poet is Stephen Berg, known both for his own work and for his translation. His book, The Steel Cricket, Versions 1958-1997, includes both. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 1997.

Born in 1934, Berg died last year. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, the University of Indiana and the University of  Iowa where he earned his BA degree. Winner of many awards and honors, he taught at Princeton and Haverford University and served as professor of humanities at the  University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

From  his book this week, I using Berg's translations of some Apache chants and prayers.


which flower
should I believe in
born here
O first one
which gift
in the place where both sides are


with ropes of  flowers
our  flowers are braided together
beautiful is your word
you breathe it here O first one


so many wings come here
dripping honey
and speak here
in your house Oh


it is so hard
to live like this
no happiness on the earth
for me


only with our flowers can we find  pleasure
only with our songs does our sadness dissolve


do you exist do your really exist
sometimes I have gone looking for you
Oh for whom do you live
do you exist do you really exist
this is what we say
don't break our hearts again


on the edge of war near the bonfire
we taste knowledge


I am going to guard the mountain
in a place of sadness
you breathe
you cry
I bring together my god songs
I breathe
I cry


Oh nothing will cut down the flower of war
there it is on the edges of the river
here it is opening its petals
flower of the tiger flower of the shield
dust rises over the bells


I am nothing more than a singer
flower is my heat
I give you my song
everything I was is here
my fan my feathers my scents
my bent cane flower of paper
in the house of sea moss
in the house of light

Like I said earlier, it was a great week, the best of rain and the best of sunshine.

another early morning storm

another early morning storm
pounds the house
as the sun begins its push
through the overcast sky, lightning,
thunder, heavy rain and light hail
moving  west to east, passes
and continues it's blow toward
the high whispering pines of East Texas...

and here,
the sun breaks through
and puddles deep and broad
reflect bright sun and blue sky

such green
all around, life bursting,
the wet birth
of late spring and peremptory relief
before the summer
lays its sweltering blanket

Here are several short poems by James Laughlin from his book  The Secret Room. The book was published  by New Directions first in 1993, then re-published annually until my edition in 1997, the year of the poet's death at age 97. A poet, Laughlin was also founder of New Directions Publishing, financed by inherited family wealth which allowed him to comfortably follow his poet and literary interests throughout his long life.

Motet: Ave Verum Corpus

My mother could not wait to go
To Jesus. Her poor, sad life
Was made for that, to  go to
Waiting Jesus.

Jesus loved her that she knew,
There was no doubt about it.
Up there above, somewhere among
The twinkling stars, there was
A place of no more tears where
He was waiting for her, blood-
Stained in palms and side, he
Was waiting.

The New Young Doctor

at the clinic is fresh
out of medical school
and hospital internship.
He's up to date on all
the new cures he reads
about in the journals.
Some of the old fogies
her in the village
won't go to him,but
I think he's great. At
my last check-up he
told me I'd probably
live to be a hundred
because I have such a
good pulse in my feet.

Some People Think

that poetry should be a-
dorned or complicated    I'm

not so sure    I think I'll
take the simple statement

in plain speech compress-
ed to brevity    I think that

will do all I want to do

The Voyeur

Pull up your skirt
just an inch or two

above your  knees
sit quietly where

I may watch you
from across the

room    I am old and
impotent but such

small  pleasure can
still give me delight.

The Daze of Love

Comes sometimes from
the blaze of light
when an asteroid
passes us too near.

There is also
the softer radiance
when we are separated
and sink into sleep
thinking of each other.

Here are two of several pieces published in a small on-line journal, Experimentia, in 2001. The long one was written in 2000, the short one in the 1960s while I was stationed in the military on Pakistan's northwest frontier, on a small, supposedly secret base not much wanted by the people of the area.

dark chocolate

she hoards anger
like sweet chocolate
in a brightly colored box

     saves it
          stores it

lets its dark flavor grow
in anticipation

a  secret remembered
on the back of her tongue

a secrete cache of  ire
released in quiet bites

      a nibble here
            a nibble there

and hurt
in random

     ! b ! u ! r ! s ! t ! s

pervades the air
around her

summer night

platt kerplatt  kerplatt
tennis ball sounds, far lit court
drunker than I thought

Next, a love poem by the best writer of love poems ever, Pablo Neruda. The poem is from his book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. A small book, it was published in 2004 by Penguin Books.

It is a bilingual book, original Spanish and on the facing page, English translation by W. S. Merwin.

I  Have Gone Marking

I have gone marking the atlas of your body
with crosses of fire.
My mouth went across a spider, trying to hide
In you, behind you,  timid,  driven by thirst.

Stories to tell you on the shore of evening,
sad and gentle doll, so that you should not be sad.
A swan, a tree, something far away and happy.
The season of grapes, the ripe and fruitful season.

I who lived in a harbor from which I loved you.
The solitude crossed with dream and with silence.
Penned up between the sea and sadness.
Soundless, delirious,  between two motionless gondoliers.

Between the lips and the voice goes dying.
Something with the wings of a bird, something of  anguish
    and  oblivion.
The way nets cannot hold water.
My toy doll, only a few drops are left trembling.
Even so, something sings in the furtive words.
Something sings, something climbs to my ravenous mouth.
Oh to be able to celebrate you with all the words of joy.

Sing, burn,flee, like a belfry at the hands of a madman.
My sad tenderness, what comes over you all at once?
When I have reached the most awesome and the coldest
my heart closes like a nocturnal flower.

What Starbucks is good for.

any minute now

I have taken to stopping
at Starbucks Sunday mornings,
an intermediate lay-over between breakfast
and meeting Dee at Barnes & Nobel for more coffee
and a free read of my favorite weekly magazines, "Rolling Stone,"
the "New Yorker," and "Film Comment" for  reviews
of little, off-the-beaten-path movies
I'm unlikely to ever see (the kind
that prefer to be called "films" and never
ever, ever to be called "picture shows"
like the Saturday matinees from
the old days, usually featuring
Roy and Dale and Gabby Hayes, and a smidgen of
Flash Gordon or Zorro or Rocket

as I've gravitated more and more to local coffeehouses
I've come to usually avoid Starbucks with their tiny tables
and dearth of electrical outlets except  under dire circumstances
like Sunday morning or holidays when they're the only place
where a poor but occasionally honest poet can go out
scavenging for  a place to coagulate the brain porridge enough
to extract from the bubbling ether a poem of note...

and I intend to get started on that any

The Green Tricycle and it's companion journal The Horsethief's Journal published a number of my pieces early on. I was very disappointed when their publisher decided to call it quits.

These two pieces were from The Green Tricycle. The first was written in the late 1960's, one of several written over the course of a solitary weekend at a cabin my aunt and uncle owned on Lake Travis near Austin. It was published in 1999. The second was published near the end of the journal's  life. I think it was one of the pieces inspired by  my regular reading of the Tuesday  Science Section in the New York Times.

The second poem is in my first book, Seven Beats a  Second; the first is not.


the mid-summer lake
heaves and rustles
like some great animal
in the gathering dark

under pins  of
white and yellow light
crickets chip
the soft stone of night

smoke and scents
of camp fires  rise

falls with the sun

the shape of things that are

all matter,
and that includes you and me
and the '49 Chrysler
upon whose soft cloth sheet
I first held in my hand the tender pink breast
of Sophie Gallanti, all of it, in its base nature,
is either a donut or a hole

everything, that is,
can be molded, without tearing  any part
or joining together any parts not already connected
into either a sphere or  a donut

that with sphereness at its heart
cannot be  made donut;
that  whose base  nature is donut
cannot into sphereness come

so spaghetti a sphere will always be,
while rigatoni
will always be the other

thus it was with Sophi and I, despite our so  propitious start

sphere she was,
rounded, certain, calm and complete,
while my donut nature struggled to  join our  unconnected parts

Gregory Corso is my next poet, with a poem from his book, MINDFIELD, published by Thunder Mouth Press in 1989.

Born in 1930, Corso was the youngest of the inner circle of the "beat generation." He died in 2001.

European Thoughts - 1959

If there was never a home to go to
there was always a home not to go to
Well I know when a child as a runaway
I slept on the subway
and it would always stop
at the station where the home I ran from was
That was the bitterest sorrow oh it was

How would it be if I
ran up to every man I encountered
and with a big smile said:
"Isn't  everything great!"
Or ran into a crowded restaurant and yelled:
"Bon Appetit!"

When the ladies of Germany at war's end
stood amid the rubble wondering their men
and the old poked in the rubble for their homes again
did they not see the many-legged swastika
nudge like a bug under the rubble
pregnant with peace?
It  seems German children were not spared
fifteen years later,  today,
the sorrow of the rubble.
There are other things written on the walls
Can Merde  shock  more than (swastika)
And things like U S GO HOME
are they really worse than MERDE?
And Greece was a marvelous  country

but of course I was not marvelous in it
because man is made to suffer in a happy place
when he has been happy all too happy
in an insufferable  place.

Like I was saying about the weather last  week...

celebrate the day

a thin swirling veil
of silky clouds
cloaks a nearly-filled
moon at midnight

by morning, the moon is
gone to the west and the clouds burned
away by the bright-risen  sun
presiding over a sky of blue
deep as the deepest ocean

and air bursting in the light
with life and hope and the  spirit
persistent Spring...

day after a week of rain,
fifty-five degrees at 8 a.m.,
a  day to pass
on any promised rapture
for there is no place to go
in purest heaven that
could be better
than  right here, right now,
on our own sinful

for it comes and then it goes
and this day is another day
that life has come to stay a little while

celebrate the day...

I mentioned before the inspiration I used to get from reading  the New York Times Tuesday science section. Some of the resulting poems, including the next two, ended up in Planet Magazine an on-line science fiction journal. I also used both in my book, Seven Beats a Second.


blood and gristle
forged from trash
of exploding stars,
fragile, short-lived, prone
to sag and corruption,
helpless at birth,
pitiful in unremitting decay

such a poor use our body seems
of the eternal  elements of creation

but lightning strikes within

tiny electrical jabs that jump
from receptor to  receptor,
creating art, imagining love,
finding courage, honor, theories
of their own origin, joy and laughter
to  mock the truth of their condition

so much more than we appear to be


offspring of unimaginable light
seeking an antidote to dark

This one, as telescopes grown larger and larger and their views of the universe become more and more distant.

through the hundred meter lens

we will see it all

the beginning
and the end before
the beginning
and beyond
to all beginnings
and endings
until finally
we will see it,
the face  of it/
who that started
all the marbles rolling
all  the dominoes falling
the god-awesome it
some call the
awesome god of all
maybe/maybe not
for it is what  it is
unchanging until before
the greedy eye of man
it will be  seen and known
no longer a question
for philosophers and mystics
but a paragraph
in a middle-school textbook
a thrill ride at a theme park
a comic illustration
on the side of
a second grader's lunch box

The Horsesthief's Journal was partial to some of my early longer piece, along with a number of poems about Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf  Coast where we lived for a number of years. Those poems  were intended for a long series which I never completed.

Here are a couple of poems  intended for  that  never-completed series.

storm warning

gray and white gulls
swirl overhead,
like a cloud,
blown in the wind
like smoke
from a cane field fire

the shipyard
across the bay
is hidden
by black clouds
of rain
lying across the water
like  crepe on a coffin

arcs between the clouds
and thunder echoes
against the bluff

I hear you in the driveway,
slamming the car door
like a crack
like a rifle in the dark

Harbor Bridge  is a high bridge across the ship channel that leads to the port, high enough to allow the freighters  and tankers to pass. I understand it is being replaced. I hope the new  bridge is as beautiful to cross in a late, dark night. It's the best view in town.

Harbor Bridge

As you cross the high, arched crest
of Harbor Bridge after sundown ,
the city is sketched before you
in lines of light flickering
through the humid air
of the dark Texas night.
On one side, the soft swells
of  Corpus Christi Bay lie in darkness,
broken in the distance
by he lights of Aransas Pass,
faintly shining, like ghosts
of the shipwrecked Spanish sailors
buried with their golden ships
beneath the gulf's silver  tide.
On the other side, chain-link fences
and bright security lights
dot the port like cages
of high intensity glare,reflecting
off the water and the dark hulls
berthed along the channel.
Beyond the  port,refinery row hugs
the river's soft  turns,
a glittering crown with thousands
of white lights that follow
the tangle of  twisting pipes,
lights that climb the fiery stacks
reaching into the sky
with fingers of red and blue  flame.

Straight ahead, the city unfolds
in a river of light, a luminous flow
pouring from the tops
of bay-front hotels,
through the downtown streets,
along the crowded seawall,
across the marina  and the quiet waters
of the protected inner gay,
then  south,like gleaming bubbles
in a moving tide,
along the tree-lined curve
of the shoreline's crescent arc.
Streetlights,  porch lights,
and the moving lights of cars,
drifting home on suburban streets,
spread the black horizon
like fallen stars.
The blue lights of Padre Island Drive,
glowing like fine gulf pearls
strewn in a line through the city,
across Oso Bay and into the distance,
ending at the edge of sight, mixing,
by the whispering surf,
with the yellow shine of a sub-tropic  moon
as reflections on pale island sand.

Next a piece from an often funny book by Paul Guest. The book is My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, published in 2008 by Ecco, a Harper Collins  imprint.

Born in Tennessee, Guest broke his third and fourth vertebra in a bicycle accident when he was 12 years old. A quadriplegic since then, he graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, then earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University in 1999. Currently he is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

Through no  fault of my own I have enough extra time today to  use the lengthy title poem from the book

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

Masturbation interrupted at Normandy
by strangers who fled sobbing  to the surf.
Or by your mother,arrived early from Little Rock,
her muumuu throwing floral light at the wall.
Or by janitors at the Chinese Consulate.
By members of the Team Arthritis  Tumbling Squad,
flush with the swagger of artificial hips.
By Richard Nixon, That Time He Came To Town
for  Reasons Nobody Can Remember
but It's Commonly Agreed He Slept Over There.
By the priest and by that other priest
wearing a clever disguise. By Charles Nelson Reilly,
who seemed only vaguely offended
or disinclined to join in
or just bored, as one feels in the airport
of a connecting flight in a town everyone is leaving,
everyone knows it, and no one wants to be
the last one turning off all the lights,
on by one by one a part of the world is turning to dust,
and anyway, he died the other day
after long illness, which is another horror.
As is realizing encyclopedic fervor isn't a virtue .
Moving on.
Metaphysical constructs like Texas
and mayonnaise and cole slaw and vegan water parks
and the Bob Dylan Naked Network
and the strain of pernicious insanity
suffered by the curious. The id detonating
like an improvised explosive device.
The toxic spill of puberty.
That time. that time after that.The one before.
Snow covering the state. Facts about clouds.
Their immensity, the exact tonnage
of the crushing vapor sailing past like a camel.
Or a castle. That the hair and nails
of the dead only seem to grow
as the body recedes from itself like a flood.
The time she said no. The time she said yes.
the time she did not choose.
Her tired face in the morning. The mirror's interrogation.
The crafted answer. How you hate it.
Remedial rage. Nature all up in your grill.
The dolphin's prehensile penis,
fifteen inches in length and adroit
in the act of mating but not at dealing cards.
Or passing the salt or reaching
for the remote or that out of the way itch.
the monstrous seven feet
the blue whale lugs beneath the rolling waves
with disturbing extravagance
and the bifurcated penis of the marsupial
and the swan's feathered member
Zeus once took for his own
before falling like a loud into Leda's lap.
The animals presumed by science to be extinct
only to be dragged dead into boats.
The brute coelacanth like a frayed epoch.
The Laotian rock rat coaxed from the caves of our guilt.
The ivory-billed woodpecker
flitting about the ancient ruins of Arkansas.
Bigfoot. Depending on who is asked
and whether his tenure status is certain.
Plesiosaurs. Because Polaroids of rotting flesh
weighing  several hundred pounds
snagged by the crew of the Zuiyo-maru
Off the coast of New Zealand in 1977
are really all you need to welcome them back to the party.
Weapons of mass destruction
or aluminum tubes or yellow cake
or the half-life of sweet, sweet Crisco
coursing the byways of my broken heart.
Decency and its granite headstone
for which Science designed
something based upon good  taste and accurate data
and no funding. American
women who are able to  belch
on command: 42 percent.
The Anti-Christ commanding them.
the rest of us trying to choose
between continued sentience
and celibacy so serious it borders on asexual fascism.
The stupor of powerlessness,
often confused with summer.
That guy with the shitbox van
with Valhalla crudely airbrushed on-each side,
blissfully unaware
Ragnarok went down in the seventies.
Vain attempts at negotiating
with Kim  Jong Il
who won't stop calling.
Kung fu masters who fill e
with existential dread
instead of broken bones.
but not the master of  the ice-cream truck
who fills me with sugared variations of the theme of winter.
Memories of the woman I loved
for three pulverizing years
through the miseries of her marriage.
When she left me,
time's heartless crawl.
The librarian   in the deathless stacks of orthodontic history.
My teeth aching like a beacon
in the darkness of my voice.
The butterfly threading its strange proboscis
through the flower's throat
for whatever it finds that to it is food.
A word like dacrylphilia,
which is to be aroused by the sight of tears.
The hook-handed man
who lifts my garbage with weird grace
and never a word to me.
The postman I nominate for a prosthetic conscience.
The man next door shooting cats
from the shade of his porch safari.
Who paints his house in Crimson Tide.
That town in which I once worked
and tried my best to live.
That town an August blister.
That town beside the black river.
That town and its roads tarred to muck.
Strangers who left the sweat of their hands on me
after asking or not asking
to petition the Lord and his angels
for my healing. Amen.
Strangers who stopped me in the street
or paid for my lunch
or wept over the dead son
or asked how many miles
in my wheelchair could I go.
The twenty-five miles in five hours
that would take me nowhere
except the car plant or pet food factory
the wind at night
would bring to everyone.
Crickets singing exact heat  to the night.
Possums wild-eyed
and newborn pink all their mean lives.
Confederate flags  limp  in the windless past.
Abysmal roads leading everywhere.
The temptation of 1-800-CALL-JESUS signs.
The temptation of eighteen thousand Cracker Barrels.
The Ten Commandments like lunch menus everywhere.
The six and counting I had ploughed through
with a kind of drunken force
though I never drank, leaving me memory like a septic sidekick
Vestigial Klu Klux Klanism.
Vestigial seasons.
Defining vestigial.
Fried corn.
Governor Fob.
The child I  babysat against my will
who would climb me  like monkey bars
or claim he could use his penis as a bookmark.
That nightmare.
Pet store fish we bought
thinking it possible to release them in a spring pond
rife with thick reeds
and naive exhilaration
for a few seconds only
until a wave, bluegill or  punkinseed or what I don't know
swallowed them.
That nightmare.
All of us meandering away from  suicide.
Whistling past the graveyard. Stepping on the duck's humble
Women who considered me
in the minds like an exotic equation.
The answer arrived at.
One kiss I could not follow down the steps she took.
And the virgin who loved me.
Whose love I reciprocated like politeness.
Whose meals I brought to her
where she was lost in work.
In accuracy. In data, In numbing repetition.
The microscopic souls she ferried
from dish to slide to blinding oblivion
and back again. The hours I watched
in drained solidarity. The elevator's escape.
The sky I wanted her to want
and not Sunday's corpse
and not Monday morning beside me,
ever untouched.  Not Lazarus with the first  light.
Not hurried into her clothes.
Or in the  intransigent.
Not absent. Not in my arms like a fraction.
So  it  went.
But there were nights
when she would strip to nothing
in the bathroom's cheap fluorescence
and meekly meet me
in the fall of shower water
to  soap; the day from my skin
and in her hand make me come,
laughing as though this were magic new to a dying world.

San Antonio folks always looking for a reason to have a parade and a party.

everything for everyone, all  the time

the city breathes a long sigh
quiet for a couple of days as it
recuperates from the 12 days of  Fiesta

but in a city that loves its parades
and parties, the end of one
burst of  celebration means
the time has come to prepare
for the next one...

just a few days now from
Cinco de Mayo, commemorating
the unlikely defeat of French occupiers
by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla,
May 5, 1862...

a significant victory,
that Battle of Puebla, yet the war  continued
until years later,  after the United States, freed from the distraction
of the Civil War,  threatened to enter the war
on the side of Mexico,  that the French withdrew,
leaving behind their poor puppet
Emperor Maximilian to face  a victorious Mexican
firing squad...

battles won
and battles lost;
great beginnings and sad endings,
all, in this city, good reasons for  feasting
and parades and picnics in the parks
and dances and cascarones
cracking as once again,
the close cultural and historical and cultural
and familial kinship of Texas
to its Mexican neighbor is recognized
and celebrated...

everything for everyone,
all the time - 
the Texas Conjunto Festival in mid-May,
then the Summer Art and Jazz festival and
the Folklife Festival in June,
celebrating all the various nationalities and
cultures and peoples that are part  of the state's history,
all building up   to fireworks downtown
and Tchaikovsky at Fort Sam
on the Fourth...

and, O, how it wears me out

Retrozine was a little on-line poetry journal that didn't stay around long, but long enough to use several of my memory poems, including this one which appeared in  2001, the same year I wrote it.

I have to say, if only to make myself feel better, that I have lost more than 65 pounds since I wrote this piece.

when nighthawks fly in memories dark

glide through the dark,
against the star-lit sky,
soaring between trees,
picking insects from the air
like outfielders
shagging high, easy flies

          nothing to it, with  a shrug
          as they toss the ball in

the birds flit through the air
and I think of old heroes,
jumping from their  planes,
uniforms  glistening black,
Blackhawk, the leader,
Chop  Chop,  the Chinaman,
Andre, the Frenchman
with glossy black  hair
and a pointy little mustache,
and Olaf, all squarehead German

          that's what  they called my father,
          third generation in the country,
          his central Texas enclave
          of  squareheads and krauts,
          always careful through two wars
          not to draw attention to themselves
          and their German ways, quietly,
          quietly keeping to themselves,
          avoiding the Amerikaners,
          raising their sheep and cattle
          on the rocky, hill country pastures;
          facing  good times and bad
          with stubborn, squarehead

and before the Blackhawks,
Smiling Jack,
with his movie star looks
and his friend, Fatstuff,
with a belly so large
buttons flew off  his shirt
like popcorn in a pan

          Dad had a belly like that,
          from his emphysema,
         ballooning his lungs,
         making them heavy with spit,
         swelling, degenerating tissue,
         dragging his lungs down,
         collapsing his chest,
         displacing his stomach,
         pushing his belly out
         like he was pregnant with
         the fruit  of his own

a smoker for forty years,
those popping buttons
are on my mind
as I gasp for air
after a flight of stairs
and thinking of my own  belly
pushing ahead of me
and wonder what it felt like
to die in pieces

Two of my favorite journals, both for submissions and as a reader were Niederngasse and Tryst. Here is a poem from each. The different thing about the two  poems is that, though they were published about six months apart in 2002, they were both written during a fifteen minute drive from my coffeehouse at the time and my home.

The first  poem is from Niederngasse and the  second is from Tryst.

From Niederngasse.

did you ever watch a pigeon walk

notice the way its head thrusts
forward then back with each step

I think at first
of the advice often  given that
to get ahead
you have to stick your neck out

then a closer look reveals that
though they walk with such purpose
they don't really go anywhere
but in circles, which makes me wonder
about the whole concept of risk and reward

perhaps better to be the jay
who sits in the tree and shits on my car

he goes nowhere
and still leaves his mark on the world.

From Tryst.

what's better than cold chocolate milk

what could be better than a big glass
of ice cold chocolate milk
on a warm summer day

might be you
up to your neck in a big vat
of cold chocolate milk

could be you
floating on your back in an immense bowl
of cherry jello

even you
splashing like a puppy in a gigantic pot
of split-pea soup

or, hell, maybe just you

waiting for me

The next poem is by Sharon Olds, taken from her book Satan Says. The book was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1980.

Born in 1942, Olds has been the recipient of many awards, including, most recently, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for  Poetry. Before that, she won the 1984 National Books Critic Circle Award and the first San Francisco Poetry Center Award in 1980. She teaches creative writing at New York University.

I suppose some might say that being around a five-year-old boy can sometimes be trying. Maybe so at the time, I don't remember it that way now.

Five Year Old Boy

My son at five is leaning on the world
the way a factory foreman  leans on
a slow worker. As he talks, he holds
a kitchen strainer in his hand. At the end of
the conversation, the handle is twisted;
the mesh burst - he looks down at it
amazed. Mysterious things are always
happening in his hands. As he tells a story,
he dances backwards. Nothing is safe
near this boy. He stands  on the porch, peeing
into the grass, watching a bird
fly around the house, and ends up
pissing on the front door. Afterwards he
twangs his penis. Long after
the last drops fly into the lawn,
he stands there gently rattling his dick,
his face full of intelligence,
his white curved forehead, slightly
puckered in thought, his eyes clear,
gazing out over the pond,
his mouth firm and serious;
abstractedly he shakes himself
once more
and the house collapses
to  the ground behind him.

I'm sorry if this next piece strikes too close to home for some, but it does make me very angry that is often by their own hand that we lose so many of the best of us.


young and beautiful,
a  wide happy smile that crinkles
her eyes, a fine poet,
and delicate, and smooth
as glazed ice...

she took her own life
jumped from
the top of a football stadium bleacher
at the university where she

it so confounds me, pictures
of smiling,  seemingly happy, suicides...

how did they get from the person in their picture
to their own self-negation?

are the pictures a lie, a cover-up,
despair known but not to be shown?
or was it a truly happy moment when the lens
shuttered open and closed, capturing pure and real
joy with their life; was there anything
behind the smile that foretold
the future that even they did not know
was there?

my grasp on life is ferocious in its tight
and determined grip and I cannot imagine ever
letting it go and am angry when I learn
of people of such promise who slip themselves
away into that dark void, never again to allow
the light of their genius to inspire the lesser of us
to persevere...

and though I do wish it were not  so,
the confounding deception of their smiles
in life angers me even more...

Here's another old, old poem, this one written and published by the on-line journal, Junket, in 2003.

This was written after my first retirement when I had returned to work and was  commuting back to the coast for a job as the community services director for the United Way in that area. It was 150 miles north Fridays evenings for a weekend at home and a 150 miles south and back to work Sundays. I did this for a year and, needless to say,  became familiar with every mesquite tree and cactus stand along the way. This poem was inspired by something different seen on the way back to the coast on a Sunday afternoon and a picture in the New York Times that same day.

in the last days of March

clear sky, bright sun,
the last  north wind of the season
pushing hard against me as I  drive south,
back to the coast for another week

many weeks I've done this,
north on Fridays to the rocky hills
of home, to the quiet comforts of home,
to  family, to my favorite paces,
then back on Sundays to the coast,
until the road is hardwired in my memory

but today is a day just past the first edge of spring,
a spring that lays our on either side of the road
the soft side of South Texas  chaparral

neon green mesquite, mustard yellow huisache,
pastures of bluebonnets,
patches of creamy white buttercups,
Indian paintbrushes, red or deep pink,
depending on the light,  yellow sunflowers
lining the highway on tall green stalks,
and just around a softly rising curve,
a mother and her  baby, sitting together
in a deep patch of bluebonnets,
the mother posing, look at daddy,  she's saying
as he circles, focusing, getting just the shot

and I think of a picture in the Times this morning,
a mother, bare feet grimy from her dirt floor,
a colorful blanket laid out by a wall, a treasure, maybe,
where, just moments before was lying the baby
she holds close in her arms, long,graceful fingers
holding the baby tight against her breath

perhaps she heard them coming,
the two soldiers standing in the open door,
rifles ready, three people afraid, not knowing

friend or foe!

friend or foe!

the woman,
her face, a bright frozen  mask
shinning like a beacon from the dark interior

the soldiers,
awash in sunlight, their backs  to the camera,
tense, their hands tight on their weapons,
their fingers tight, it must be, on the triggers

and the baby sleeps at its mother's breast,
an innocent at a time and in a place
where the just and the unjust
will find a common grave

I think of all those who  have died in my time 
and all those who will die now
in these last bloody days of March
and I ache for the God I knew as a child,
the God of green trees and grass and cool winds
blowing soft against a pasture dancing with his colors,
the God who would enfold all the mothers and babies
and frightened soldiers in the protection of his billowing robes

Two more old poems from the early 2000s.  The first was published in The Poet's Canvas, and the second in Scope Journal.

From The Poet's Canvas.

lying in the grass on a Sunday afternoon

I could feel his sweet breath
warm on my face,
his nose almost touching mine
as he leaned over me,
bracing himself with his hands on my chest
while I held him under his small arms

dear Lord,
I thought,
let me never forget this memory,
this bright moment
with my son

From Scope Journal.

north wind on a southern beach

a north wind  blows strong
against the incoming tide
and all across the bay
whitecaps flash in the sun
like handkerchiefs
fluttering across a field
of salty sea-green

a beachcomber,
dressed for the day
in a silver windbreaker,
walks the beach barefoot,
shoes tied by their strings
to hang around his neck,
throws bread to gulls,
greedy birds, swooping, fighting
each other and the wind
for every crumb

Here is a poem by Lucille Lang  Day from her book The Curvature of Blue, published in 2009 by Cervena Barva Press.

Day was born in  Oakland and grew up  in San Francisco. Her memoir, Married at 14 won a number of awards. Previous  to that book she has published eight poetry collections and chapbooks, a children's book. fiction, essays, book reviews, song lyrics, science journalism, feature articles and research papers.

710 Ashbury, 1967
      For Gene Anthony

The photographer hangs out on Haight Street,
entranced by youths in beads
and braless girls  in lace and feathers
who weave flowers in their hair.
He smokes weed with his subjects
and taps his foot to the beat
of Jimi, Janis and the Jefferson Airplane.

He has told his agent not to call him:
"No more dogs, flags,wine labels,
politicians or corporate portraits."
In his office in New York
the agent  paces.  He's apoplectic,
so many clients  waiting.
His guy in San Francisco is a flake -

lugging his camera bag up Ashbury,
where nothing is more important
than Jerry Garcia in his Uncle Sam hat
and Phil Lesh with a golf club.
The photographer rings the bell  at 710,
tells the Dead where to  stand,
and the world snaps  into place.

Next, a political poem. I really don't like political poems. They're like spitting on the sidewalk, accomplish  nothing, piss some people off, and  disappear in hours.

But it is a thought occurred to me that I was like the frog in the pot where the temperature of the water is raised so slowly that the frog is boiled to death before it ever  notices what is  happening.

Like the water in the pot, the political situation in this country has deteriorated  so slowly that it's been hard to recognize the full extent of it.

So, in this  poem, the frog notices, maybe before it's too late.

consider this

so sorry
to inflict a political poem
on unsuspecting ears,
but consider this...

think of all the most important
of congresses over the past 100 years,
think of them,
social security
unemployment insurance
pell grants
national parks
food stamps
national endowments for the arts
environmental protection
civil  rights and equal opportunity guaranteed by law
and the list  goes

make your own list
of the advances
that our country
and our people
healthier and more  secure...

think of all this and consider
that if these things
did not exist
none of them would be/could be passed
out of our current Republican-controlled

think about that...

how did we get into such  a  debased condition?


we did it to ourselves, no  one in Congress
took the power from us...

they were given the power
by us...

such a dark and depraved
we have imposed upon ourselves...

Following the last political  poem, here are three more from the 2003-2004 period that I sent to the Poets Against the War website. I don't  suppose you can, strictly speaking, call these submissions since I think everything that was sent to them was included on the site.

I included the first one in my 2005 book, Seven Beats a Second.

for you & me


on dry desert dust

in steamy jungle rot

on busy city streets

in green country fair














State of the Union, January 2004

four more dead
as another day passes
under the flare of dust-filtered skies

far from the stink of bodies
bloating under the unforgiving sun
sheep graze a fine green valley
while their shepherds dance
around a pyre of torn corpses,
the blood of wasted lives
pooling unacknowledged on the floor

and two more die
as-another night passes
under dark and cloud-shrouded skies

welcome home the warrior  safe and whole

let us not think today of those who remain,
but celebrate instead only you, home now,
safe for a while from the lying old men
who sent you away, the craven old men
who passed their own war in hiding,
saving all their bellicosity for a day
when risk would again be borne by others

O, safe now in their paneled office,
how  they glory in sending others to die,
no hiding now for them,
but photo  ops far from the line of fire,
in the garb of warriors
on the deck of a warrior vessel,
watch them preen,  thieves that they are,
stealing honor from the blood
of better men and women
than in their grandest dreams
they could ever be

but you are not them,
you went with honor and with honor you now return,
far  away from the sand
and searing desert heat,
far away from lurking death beside each road,
around each corner, behind each wall,
behind, you have to fear each smiling face

through the random grace of  whatever gods
look out for warriors and their families
you are home,
home to friends and worried kin,
to wife and dancing daughters
(grown so in the months your were gone)
home to gentle hills  and dew-drenched pastures,
home to the cleansing rains of October,
to the cool nights ad shifting colors of early autumn,
home to your wife's warm bed
and the arms  of all who waited for your return

The last poem from my library for this week is by Maxine Kumin, from her book, Looking for Luck, published in  1992 by W.  W.  Norton.

Born in 1924, Kumin was U.S. Poet Laureate from  1981-1982. She died last year.

Taking  the Lambs  to Market

All due respect  to the blood on his band-saw,
table, hands and smock.Amos is an artist.

We bring him something living, breathed, furred
and meet it next in  a bloodless sagittal section.

No matter how we may deplore his profession
all of us are eating, even Keats

who said, If a sparrow come before my Window
I take part in its  existence and pick
about the Gravel, but dined on mutton.

Amos, who custom cuts and double wraps
in white butcher paper whatever we named,
fed, scratched behind the ear, deserves our praise:

a decent man who blurs the line of sight
between our conscience and our appetite.

By the time this appears next week, the issue will have been decided. Either the heroes will have lost, returning home for the rest of the year, a couple of them returning, probably, from their last professional game, or they will emerge successful and  the city will be holding its breath again, waiting for the  outcome of the next step up the play-off ladder.

the streets are  clear

the streets are  clear
of traffic

the malls and supermarkets
are empty

the moon round  and silver
is alone in the deep, dark sky,
the stars all at home
stretched out on their celestial sofas,

it is not the biggest game,
but it is a big game
that if won
clears a major obstacle
on the way to that  biggest game

if lost
there will be only one  more chance to win it,
but on  the opponents
home court, two  teams
both playing a last chance

it is a basketball town here
and, as a basketball town,
it is above all else
a Spurs town

and it's a big game night,
not the  biggest yet to be won
but big enough

and the city pauses,
holds its breath 30 minutes before
game time

the streets, the malls and the supermarkets
are  empty, the moon
round and silver against the new
night's black sky, watches - silver
and black, like the armor the heroes
will wear tonight on the hardwood court,
beginning in just 30 minutes...

and the city holds its

As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and to me.

As always, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:

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

New Days & New Ways

Places and Spaces

Always to the Light

Goes Around Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind

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

Seven Beats a Second

Short Stories

Sonyador - The Dreamer


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