Cactus Jack Sleeps Here   Wednesday, June 03, 2015

More  old photos this week going west Highway 90 (except  for a ringer from downtown San Antonio taken several years ago) . The bulk of the pictures are in or around Uvalde,Texas, hometown  and burial place of John Nance Garner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and first vice-president under FDR. He retired after FDR's first term due to his and FDR's mutual loathing of the other.

He was called "Cactus Jack" during his days of power, in reference to his prickly personality (and a  polite way to bring  attention to the fact he was a mean, ex-county sheriff, Texas son of a bitch).

He did bring into the political lexicon some pithy sayings, used often by Lyndon Johnson, including  my favorite, LBJ's response as to why he kept on for so long so many Kennedy men who despised him. "It's better," he said, "to  have them inside  the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in." Johnson learned the hard way  the truth of one of Garner's most quoted observation that,  "being vice president ain't worth  a pitcher of warm piss."

This is a very short post this week, making arrangements for other possible new directions to be taken. The result,  there's nothing  from  anthologies this week, just a few things from my library, and a lot of me. I spent most of the past week working on pieces of a flash fiction narrative that I've abandoned until I figure out what happens next. The result, again, is I only have no new poems to post this week, so all I have are old, and a lot of them because they are the easiest and fastest to do.


This old poem is from 2010.

a minor poet explains it all

I'm eating
breakfast north-faced
because normally
I sit in the booth
at the other end, the one
next to the electric plug,
where I face south
as eat...

this morning,
the booth was taken
by another south-faced,
keyboard clicking
leaving me
at this end, the
only other booth next
to an  electric plug
where I  now face breakfast
facing north...

I'm not sure
what effect this will have
on the gastro-dynamics
of my egg-over-easy
and extra-crispy bacon
but it does
present a subtly different
view which could have far-reaching
psychological effect on

those, like me
who normally eat  breakfast
facing toward the south,
facing the oncoming traffic on the
as well as  those, like me today
who eat breakfast
facing north and
the interstate traffic
going away...

the different orientation -

a reason,
I believe,  why
south-facing  diners
are usually people
with the supreme confidence
to write meaningless, totally
trivial, poetry
while north-facing diners
often suffer  from abandonment  issues
and are frequent victims
of depression


From my library here are four short poems by Chinese poet Yang Wan-Li. Yang was born in 1127 and is identified as one of the "four masters of the Southern Song Dynasty." He passed his exams in 1154 and served in a number of minor positions in the Song Dynasty. He died in 1206.

The poems are from the collection of his work, Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow, published by White Pine Press in 2004. The poems are  translated by Jonathan Chaves.


I stuff the heater with wood,
                and put on all my clothes -
but only drinking a cup  of wine
                makes me really warm.
People say the cold is unbearable after frost,
but they don't realize that there's springtime
                in the wine pot.

Drinking at Night

I drink alone in my cold study,
huddled close to the brazier.
the wine is fresh - just strained this evening.
the candle is short - left over from last night.
I chew on a piece of sugar cane as  big as  a rafter
and  eat tangerines sweeter than  honey.
When the wine takes effect, a poem comes to me;
I grope for my brush, but I'm too high to write it down.

Eating Frost to Sober Up

Hung over from last night's  wine -
my chest is heavy, my stomach upset.
Below the railing on Peony Bank
I break off  a ball of  frost
               and roll it down my tongue.

In the Canal Locks at Hung-Tse

Blocking  the canal locks are cakes of ice
waiting for the people to open the gates.
When the gates are opened just two or three turns
the ice rushes through with a sound like  splitting jade.

This piece is from January, 2007. It's one of those poem-a-day, can't think of anything poems. There  are many of those in the poem-a-day business. I dedicated a whole section to them in one of my books on the presumption  that such poems are apt metaphors for the many difficulties of moving ahead in life and, therefore, much more weighty than they might initially appear.

a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a can of sardines

I struggle
but the gray fog
does not clear

I study the scene around me
and watch and watch
as if by watching hard enough
I  can make the poem
like on a dialogue board
in an  old  silent movie...

it works sometimes,
but not today;
all is dull
and unyielding
as yesterday
and many days before

best to give it up  for now
and write a grocery list

Next from my library, this is a poem by Ralph Angel, from his book Neither World, 1995 winner of the  James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.

It took me a while to find this poem in the book. Lines from the poem were included in a review on the back cover, but the title of the poem was never  given. Great lines, I had to do a line by line search through the book to find the poem.

The poet was born in Seattle in 1951. He earned his bachelors degree at the University of Washington while working for Union Pacific Railroad and later his Master of Fine Arts at the University of California, Irvine. He teaches at the University of Redlands and is a member of the MFA in writing faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Like Land Crabs

skittering sideways
when the moon drives by, the blank stare
of the boulevard,  and everyone carrying something.

Eating a double-dog chili burrito
seams like a perfectly natural thing to do.
Nothing much matter because
so much turns into a face

that looks back at you. Blundering ,
I think. It's out of the question, the night.
One of the hands at the ends of my arms
on the hips of the lush who's undressing me.

Everyone keeps getting in
and out of cars. I'm electrified
by earth shoes, a solitary goat dance,
the weird expanse of parking lots,
glittering, peopled with loneliness.

Past news racks and policemen, past
all-night doctors carrying corners
in bedsheets of torn light, I follow a friend
who swears I know where I'm going
among headless palm  trees
and other fences.

"Bring on the coffee," I hear myself
say as you reach over and turn on
the radio, "I  didn't know I was already driving."
I brake for a stop sign.
The earth speeds up a little.


This poem is from 2011. It's a long way around (as my stuff often is) to get to the question of having my cat put down. I  have to admit that my distinction between  dis-believing and non-believing is a lot less clear to me today than  in was when I wrote the piece.

As to the cat, we did  not put her down  until months later when she was no longer able to walk at all.

about the cat

having breakfast  every Monday
with the Religiosos at the
next  table over

always gets me into
a philosophical/theological/cosmological
mood, setting me off  today

to thinking
about which I am,
a non-believer or  a dis-believer -

suggesting a lack of belief
in certain specific assertions

non-belief indicates
a disbelief in belief...

there was a time,
for example,
when many people  did not believe

the human body
could stand traveling at  speeds
of 50 miles per hour,

that should be human
achieve that speed, convulsions,
mental disorientation, bleeding from the ears

and probable death
would quickly ensue; many
people believed the same

about exceeding the sound barrier
(and that was in my lifetime) and
I, personally, believe

that the human body
is not constructed to fly
like a bird

or  a leaf blown in a summer storm,
and, despite all evidence
to the contrary,

that is still my belief,
which means I cannot  be
a non-believer
because,  obviously,  I believe
in belief, in this instance

the belief that humans are always
to fall out of the sky

whether on their own,
flapping their arms
in a sorry imitation of creatures

like birds or bats,
or encased in a metal sausage
with rigid wings, which

if you think about it
is even more ridiculous
than the flapping-arms scenario

so, while I dis-believe
in the theory  of manned flight
and many other things

mostly doing with magic
and magical events and beings
and, since I  also believe in many things

like biscuits and gravy and turkey dressing
and the innate goodness of man, it is clear
I am not a non-believer, which is not

the opposite of believer as dis-believer
clearly is, since  a believer
and dis-believer in the same room

are opposite poles
of the same thing, belief,
their common point of reference

which leads, on a  more prosaic level,
to the question of the  day
regarding conflicting beliefs

that being, do I  believe  more
in the rightness of euthanasia
at  the proper time

and under the proper circumstances
or do I believe all creatures
have a right to life under all

however impaired,
until a natural death comes to them

in a natural time,
considering today this philosophical question
as it applies

to my elderly cat,
gone completely blind this past week,
wandering now in confusion,

bumping into walls as  she searches
for  her food and water dishes
and her litter box -

would the free-cat  spirit of her prefer
her current state to the nothing of  nonexistence,
or,on another  level, is it only me  I'm thinking of,

wearied  already of her wandering
and of having to pick her up to take her
from place to place


This is from 2009. I love the word.


ennui -

always liked that

sounds like some
African antelope
or anteater
from South America
or maybe a bird
high in the trees
of some small South Pacific
island, crying

maybe I caught it
from the birds

12 hours sleep
last night
and another  hour
already this afternoon
and I feel like I ought to go
back to bed right now...

the sun seems dimmed,
sound smothered
as if through a thick wool blanket,
brain like a blind dog
in the fog,
all sharpness
all passion
buried in a burlap bag
on a dull plain
suburban crab grass

I'll quit this poem...

my fingers
are tired of typing...

From  my library again, these two, very different, poems are by   Jane Hirshfield. There are from her book, The Lives of the Heart, published by Harper Collins in 1997.

Hirshfield,  born in 1953, is a poet, essayist and translator, a member of the first graduating class in Princeton to include women. I think I  remember using one of her poems just a couple of weeks ago from another of her books. Posting weekly does tend to fray the memory sometimes.


Large as  two hands together
still cupping rain,
yellow of amber stripped lightless,
scent of cold leather.
Nameless, one one of ten thousand,
lifted without complaint or hope
to this painted table,
neither envelope nor letter.
almost nothing. Yet before you,
words lie down in envy and silence,
switch their tails,
bury their damp, dark snouts between paws.


A woman  tells of watching a hyena
eating her body.
Part of an arm first, then part of a leg.

It looked back at her
in a steadiness without malice or affection.

Though for months she had fed it,
watered it, it swallowed looking.

And I think of those three sisters,
the Fates,
sharing their single eye.
Each spared seeing the whole.

How that  tearless, almost-human blinking allowed them.


A memory poem from  2013, remembering 1957.

when I was 13 I worked in a grocery store

when I was 13
I had a job in a grocery store

after school
dust all the shelves, unpack,
price and put up
new  stock

cull the potato bin,
dig through the potatoes,
pull out all the soft,  rotten potatoes
that stunk like rot
at the bottom of the bin...

spread oiled sawdust
on the wooden  floor,  then
sweep  it up,
leaving behind the sweet
scent of it...

potato stink forgotten...

but remembering
the sweet woodsy scent
of oiled sawdust
I am 13

the whole year
in my memory, enveloped
in the sweet scent
of oiled saw-

Another from my library, this poem by Andrei Codrescu from his book, Belligerence, published in 1991 by Coffee House Press.

Codrescu,  born in Romania in 1946, is a poet,  essayist, screenwriter and frequent commentator on National Public Radio. For a bribe of $10,000 each paid by Israel to the Romanian government he and his mother were allowed to leave the country, going first to Italy, then, in 1966, to the United States. He worked as a Professor of  English at Louisiana State University from 1984 until his retirement in 2009. Though I like many of the poems in this book, he always seemed to me to be trying to hard in his readings on NPR.

Roto: How the Bourgeoisie Dream

Human step not into the Middle
      of the Road!
That's for Trucks!


I train the gaze.
Particularly useful center stage.


Not arrested for pot
        arrested by it.



The embarrassment  of  creation:
       I made that?
Certain days in December
the light surrounds me with the circumstances
of my birth.
I'm glad they made this.
      Prism jism.


All games are games of Yes and No.
The aggressor says Yes.

The defender says No.
Sweet fruits of victory:
          your  enthusiastic subjects.
Bitter fruits:
          sore losers, ideological cases.


At the end of time
     au bout du temps
psi factors go through,
     cholera & ponies,
thud of great ideas:
     I had the advantage
in my mode  of lie.


A green but
with a white border
on "the book that killed my summer."
I am what you might
call "a beneficial bug."
        I turned,
                walked away.
The butterfly had legs!


"Famous Places We Had Fights in Front of"
        $8,95 in paper.
Where were you at those same times,
        O Bald Soprano?


Fiver years is not a long time
          to the steady heart.


Mmmmmmmmmm, I want to
          to be Taj Mahal!
                     Mmmmmm. Candyman!
                            It has been long.


Rising from the glib
        I become inchoate & inarticulate
                     thank God,
& then I shock myself with the truth.

The newspapers
        flap around me
after replacing literature
        but nothing flies.
Woman's body in the foreground
        applies for historical site status:
was once battleground:
        angels wanted in,
        men wanted out,
but now it wants to be commemorated
        but I think: Airport!
Certain Indians who live in books
        are gathering
about the unaware reader.

He will be eaten in the bookstore.


 From 2008, a study in personalities.

winners and losers

the little one
is a chihuahua mix

the big one
is a border collie mix

the big one
is the smartest dog
I've ever been around

the little one
is dumb as any rock
in a field of stones

the little one
is always hungry,
stuffing a whole plate of food
in her mouth at one time

the big one
likes her treats
but prefers to eat delicately,
at the end of the day

the little one
is sly,
sneaky as a thief at midnight

the big one
is trusting,
open to everyone all the time

the little one
the big one's bones
the second she is distracted

the big one,
so sweetly dispositioned,
never quite figures out what happened,
unable to imagine
studies closely the spot where the bone had been lying

at me

then moves on

too good-natured
to let
life's unfairness for long
spoil her day


 This one from a great-feeling day in 2012.


like birds flying
where they please

like a stray dog
roaming wild
in green Missouri hills

like a fiddler
at the Saturday dance

that's how free
I am


Here's a not-so-old from December last year.


an allergy zombie, right now,
yesterday and for the last weeks,
looking out the restaurant window this morning
at a dim day opening with rain
only a degree or two above
Bella waiting in the car
for her walk...

why am I here?

I  would feel lousy
even if I wasn't already
feeling lousy

so why am I here?

oh yeah,
it's about the medal,
the Distinguished Service
in Lifetime Stupid & Stubborn Award...

already have a bunch of those

can't pass up a chance
to  get another

that's why I'm here...

like the actor,
doesn't care what  they say about him
in the papers
as long as they spell his name right...

is what counts, even if only for
stupid and stubborn...


This poem by   Jack Kerouac, is from his book of 242 numbered  "choruses," Mexico City Blues. The book was originally published by Grove Press in 1959, my edition republished in 1990.

118th Chorus

It's all the same to me.
The  radio  I don't wanta hear
And cant have to hear
Plays one thing  and another
Of great Sara Vag

                but no I stop
                and  grasp
                and I forget
                that it's my own fault

See how you do it?

           And having grasped
              go on singing
                  because I wouldn't
                      be writing these poems
                      if I didn't know

That I grasp I  sing

I've had times of no-singing
    they were the same

Music is noise, Poetry dirt    


I wrote this poem January 11, 2007, a day of significance to me.


on this day
forty-one years ago,
newly shorn
and uniformed
in the middle
of another
loosing war,
I was in
my fourth  day
of learning
the arts of  combat,
which seemed
at that early
to be mostly
about getting up
in the very dark
of morning
and marching,
always marching,
in god-awful winter
to places we did not
care to go...

many of us
would soon learn
more advanced
and terrible
while others,
like me,
would find safe
in specialties
that  involved
neither shooting
nor being shot

veterans this
of the-they-also-serve-
honor those
who fought
and those
who fight  now
and thank
we are not

The last poem from my library this week is by Lorenzo Thomas. It is from his book, Dancing on Main Street, published in 2004 by Coffee House Press.

Thomas, a poet and critic, was born in Panama in 1944 and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1948, growing up in New York City. He was professor of English at the University of Houston  - Downtown for 20 years. He died in 2005.

Quiet Riot

I'd  rather not  negotiate
An understanding

I  have no taste
For anorexic conversations
Without your richly-layed innuendo
Or parables of just desserts
Among acquaintances

If you  really have something to say
It's worth breaking out the good china

Put the damn tin cup  away


I finish my poems for the week with  this one, not so very old at all, from the first week of January, this year.

hell no,  I won't go

it's warm in here
and very cold outside and
looking through the wide restaurant windows
it  even looks cold
and  I need to go out there  and walk my dog
but I  don't
want to
because it's cold enough out there to freeze my macchiatos
right plumb off
and I would feel right distressed
in my macchiatos were to freeze and fall right off
and go bouncing down the street
so  I'm  going to sit right here and pretend I'm writing a poem
cause it's just too damn  cold out there for a South Texas fella
with tender macchiatos

hell no!
I won't go

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


Post a Comment

May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018
January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2019
July 2019
August 2019
September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019
January 2020
February 2020
March 2020
April 2020
May 2020
June 2020
July 2020
August 2020
September 2020
Loch Raven Review
Mindfire Renewed
Holy Groove Records
Poems Niederngasse
Michaela Gabriel's In.Visible.Ink
The Blogging Poet
Wild Poetry Forum
Blueline Poetry Forum
The Writer's Block Poetry Forum
The Word Distillery Poetry Forum
Gary Blankenship
The Hiss Quarterly
Thunder In Winter, Snow In Summer
Lawrence Trujillo Artsite
Arlene Ang
The Comstock Review
Thane Zander
Pitching Pennies
The Rain In My Purse
Dave Ruslander
S. Thomas Summers
Clif Keller's Music
Vienna's Gallery
Shawn Nacona Stroud
Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet