My photos this week are from San Antonio's Mercado. A tourist place now with restaurants and curio (many) shops, but in the old days it was a real market where housewives and housekeepers from all over the much smaller city would come to the market to get fresh vegetables and meat. I have a distant personal connection in the form of my mother who, when she was a very small child would come to San Antonio with her father to deliver vegetables he bought from the vegetable fields of South Texas on the border. Her mother died when she was born and much of her very early life was spent with her father in his truck.
She passed on 15 years ago, but I remember her stories.
It's a short post this week, but I still have my standard new poems and poems from the new Latino poets anthology I started last week.
Also carrying over from last week, another drive-around from my book of travel poems, Places and Spaces
. I've used four of the five poems in the book in the last two weeks, so this is the last one, titled "Ruidoso." It was a very boring summer several years ago and I felt a need to recharge with a short trip and Ruidoso in southeastern New Mexico seemed like a good place to go. I knew nothing about Ruidoso except it is the closest skiing to Texas which drew some, usually disappointed, skiers since I'm told the slopes don't offer much in the way of excitement. I also knew someone many years ago who was from Ruidoso. He was ten years older than me and likely dead by now so I didn't expect to see him (and didn't) but he was an extraordinarily decent fellow and I was curious about where he grew up.
As it turned out, Ruidoso was a disappointment and having now been there once I'm not likely to go back. But the drive there and round-about drive back presented some interesting sights. As usual I saw the sights during the day and wrote about them in my hotel at night.
This was a solitary trip, except for my dog, Reba (since passed on), who was a good traveler and always ready to hop in the car and go with me wherever I was going. My new dog, Bella, is the same.
For this week:
dry land lullaby
a discombobulated day
days and nights on the frontier (I)
days and nights on the frontier (II)
Slow Dancing with Frank Perez
days and nights on the frontier (III)
De Las Mujeres
La Invencion de Televisor Segun Huitzilopochtli
My Mother, Sex, and Dating
days and nights on the frontier (IV)
A promise of very heavy rain, but as usual it appears the gray, dry hand of god my split the rain and leave us with next to nothing.
dry land lullaby
I'm watching the rain fall,
the rippling mirror
of the street
as cars splash through,
and on the parking are in the front,
big drops hitting still water
like asteroids impacting a great sea,
swooshing craters in the surface
quickly refilling, flat and still again
until the next raindrop falls...
tree limbs mutter with restrained
motion, a slight breeze shyly waiting...
the big stuff is on the way...
under the shelter of my patio
I will watch the wind shock the trees to their roots,
the storm raging like a desperado wild and mean
from cheap whiskey and the desperation
of lost and lone highways, pushing
very heavy rain, leaving streets running deep,
our creek roaring as the white-foaming frenzy of its roiling water
passes, and after two months of very dry, every living thing
will be grasping under the storm
for its chances to live full and large again...
I will probably sleep after sharing the predatory exuberance of its arrival,
then sleep as my windows rattle and ping with the bluster driven
rain, the roar of thunder frightening to some
but a lullaby to the drought weary
Since the drive to Ruidoso didn't take me as far west as usual, I didn't need to go through El Paso so I spent the first night instead in Fort Stockton, about halfway between San Antonio and El Paso. A much easier first day drive than usual, but Fort Stockton is one of the least interesting places in Texas to stop for the night.
...it's off to the mountains, but
before the mountains, there's
a half-day of driving,
San Antonio to Fort Stockton,
through the dry limestone hills and
brown grasses of the Southwest Texas
As a consequence I was up early the next morning for a full day's drive to Ruidoso, first wide spot on the road, Pecos.
poor little Pecos, sinking
beneath the weight of the
that has no place
for dirty little towns stuck, alone
on the dry West Texas plains...
I should say here that I was unfair to Pecos. It was my first time driving through the city and the route I took was apparently through the worst of it. I've since been through on another route and found a very nice little, modern city. Still stuck, alone, way the hell out on the dry West Texas plains, though.
It is a lonely part of the world.
...an hour north of Pecos,
a congregation of buzzards,
gathered in the middle of the
in their Sunday-best black, our
dependent like us
on meat killed by others
And a little further down the road, Olna, Texas, a sight seen all over the west and mid-west. 15 to 20 structures along the highway, all abandoned and in ruin.
...no sign of life in Olna
just a single tarantula making
its creepy-crawly way
across the highway, a cheering
sight, this fuzzy, black nightmare,
extinct now where I grew up,
along with the horned toad and
the red-winged blackbird,
a survivor here
where little else finds a home
As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed last week that I couldn't do more from The Wind Shifts, New Latino Poetry
. So it's back to the anthology this week.
First from the anthology the poet Richard Blanco
Born in Madrid in 1968, Blanco is an American poet, public speaker, author, and civil engineer. He was educated at Florida International University. Having read at Barack Obama's second inaugural, he is the fifth poet in our country's history to read at a presidential inaugural. I think it might have been Robert Frost who began the tradition.
Mother Picking Produce
She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.
She selects with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding band she now wears as a widow.
Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.
I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields.
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.
and now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumpling pyramids of golden mangoes,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.
This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.
She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her -
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,
what I say is this: they look sweet, very sweet.
The promise of very heavy rain, postponed for days, finally came through. After making it to my coffeehouse through the storm I discovered, due to circumstances to complicated to get into, that I had forgotten to put my laptop in the car. I had to make do with a borrowed Apple to get this poem down. I hate Apple computers.
a discombobulated day
after a three day
the rain finally
not like a lamb
but like a lion menacingly mewing,
no sturm and drang, just a flood
from the sky, like God dumping his
wash bucket, dishes done,
time to move on to a God-slumber
a discombobulated morning
i take Bella for a walk
because it isn't raining and i have given
that it ever will again and after two days
of being left at home because of the
of rain she wants to go with me
for the morning so our walk done
and her business done she rushes to the truck hatch
and waits to be let in because by all the power of the great Dob
in the great celestial Dog Park in the Sky
and she doesn't want to be left behind again so i say
and let her aboard
and had left my computer in the house
to get it when I put her back and when i didn't
i forgot about it so we went to my morning breakfast hole
and of course the minute we parked God
emptied his wash bucket and so i got breakfast
and the wash bucket still emptying and God's got a big
so who knows when it'll be
and so i decide to take Bella home
so i did and got wet all over again and went back
to my truck driving away under the still-pouring wash bucket
through it all on the rain-puddled streets
all the way downtown
and got to the coffeehouse and reached for my computer and
(cross words spoken here)
and realized i had forgotten my computer again
like forgetting my
and so damn here i am at the coffeehouse
with no computer trying to write my morning poem
on a borrowed computer that doesn't
worth a poetical poop
and that's just the way it is when God dumps
his wash bucket
all over an
living life, just
The passage from Texas to New Mexico is hard to miss on this route. The road turns to crap, the speed limit drops from 75 to 55 and all signage that might tell you were you are disappears.
But at least there are mountains and cool weather
...83 degrees at 6,000 feet
Check the weather in San Antonio, 102 degrees.
The next poet from the anthology is Eduardo C. Corral
Corral is a poet and teacher. Born in Arizona, he is a graduate of Arizona State University. His first book, Slow Lightning
, was published by Yale Press i 2012 and was winner of the Yale Younger Series Poets Prize.
Night Gives to Things the Turning Beauty of Leaves
the distant lights
scattered like salt
along the horizon
mountains. A pack
of wild dogs
Their barks lacquer
the tail feathers
of the quail. The dogs
their dark snouts...
Beneath the arms of
a saguaro my parents
Father's chest gleams.
her chin up, takes in
the gold crucifix
his throat. The stars
and the sperm
inside her swimming
This is another memory poem from my year (mid-1968 to mid-1969) of military service on the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan.
days and nights on the frontier (I)
we flew no flag
because we were secret,
known only to the readers of the front page
of the New York times which knew,
even 45 years ago, all the
secrets fit to
but also, of course, the radicals and revolutionaries downtown knew,
and the tribes who sent men to clean our rooms and shine our shoes
and, no doubt, watch us carefully, preparing for the day, but best,
there were the caravans who knew,
lines of camels loaded with goods on their back,
going clankity clankity with every lumbering , six-footed step...
the caravans that stopped every couple of months
on the narrow road that separated our secret living quarters
from our super-secret operations center where we sat and listened
to the also not-so-secret secrets of the other guys...
the camels put to pasture beside our walls while the merchants in their robes
laid out their wares for us to consider as we passed for shift change,
from the gates of our home to the gates of our work and back,
all kinds of goods, oil paintings, brass shining bright chunder the desert sun,
camel saddles of polished wood and soft leather and always at least one tailor
who it was said could, for next to nothing, look at a picture of a man's suit from Esquire
and make an exact copy with the finest silk from China, a silk suit, finely tailored,
in finest Savile Row fashion for $20...
many bought such suits and some bought many suits before going home,
getting word back to us who remained that while the silk was fine,
the cotton thread that sewed them was not, that the way to keep your $20
suit when you got home was to take it to someone who could take the suit apart
and put back together again with good thread...
there was a lot about the place that was like the suits, both less and more
than it often seemed -
secrets that weren't secrets, finely tailored suits made with rotten thread,
soldiers who would rather see us gone protecting us
from people who would rather see us dead,
fake wars, and, ultimately,
days and nights on the frontier...
Leaving Ruidoso for a drive around on the third day.
A heavy storm at the beginning, but passing quickly
...a single black cloud
rolling over the mountain crest,
lightning and thunder
breaking the dawn
with raindrops the size
of jawbreakers, that candy
eaten more for the dare than
than the taste
of hard, colored sugar...
...across the road
from the Tribal Center
two Apache boys
play King of the Hill,
over and over each other
in the rose-colored dust
on concrete abutments
along the highway tell
which f the stories
do the boys
...the down slope
Mescalero to Tularosa
opens up between wooded
to the desert below
desert grasses so dry
they are white
in the morning sun,
like a wide ribbon of white sand
between the mountains...
Not the mountain drive I had hoped for, a third of the morning spent crossing the white grass desert from Tularosa to Carrizozo, a desert so unremarkable I have to stop three times Reba, my traveling companion, finds something interesting enough to pee on.
She is bored, sleeping in the back, head between her paws
.....a spike of interest
as i pass the Oscuro Bombing
but nothing blows up
the Spanish word for dark or
maybe something did blow up
and i just didn't
is my next poet from my new Latin poetry anthology.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1964, Ayala received an MFA from Bennington College Writing Seminars and, writing in Spanish and English. She has published several collections, including Wild Animals on the Moon
, selected by the New York Public Library as a 1999 Book for the Teen Age. She is an educator and administrator and has been visiting humanities scholar for Hermana a Hermana (Sister to Sister).
At six the glass roses would be watered.
At six the tomatoes and lima beans.
At seven the machete would be sharpened.
At the forcible hour, the groan of the moon
swelling in women's bellies.
At that hour in which the crow would kneel
on the shoulders of the ripened breadfruit.
At nine the return to coffee,
the tip of the chin sweating its scent.
At nine the noontime sun would belying.
At twelve, nine perishing.
At one Eve's rib would suffer
the weight of the man it held up.
From the body, wheat ears sprouting.
The viand loosening from the iron pot,
the cassava would fight the yautia
the sweet banana make a scene.
At two love was a mirror,
watching the cane fields from the corner of its eye,
hurling the bait of its breath,
forgiving-mornings predictable as catch.
At four, four would become a gag.
At five, five would explode.
At six, the bread would bless itself
and the dishes wash themselves alone.
At seven, the porch and the hammock,
the night a country without borders,
without muddled languages.
Mute as the rooftops
the spirits guarding their turn.
Another memory poem from a short series in progress.
days and nights on the frontier II
working a midnight shift
on Moscow time
that 4 a.m. breakfast at the 24/7 NCO club
was a pitcher of beer
and a cheeseburger with fries
and the jukebox
multiple listening to the Doors
with "Baby Light My Fire"...
worn and raunchy
having seen nothing female
for more than six month but
the Commander's 16-year-old daughter
sunning at the pool, her leaving at the end
of the Commander's tour in whatever virginal state
she arrived, a sterling testament to good military and order
More from Ruidoso
Entering Carrizozo I skirt the Valley of Fire, a wide crater-valley created by an ancient volcano, leaving a jumble of big, black lava boulders across the valley.
...a vision of hell
when the fire goes out...
Then on through Capitan, a tree-shaded tree and an old man riding his horse to collect his mail.
back to Ruidoso
climbing again, this time
through the Lincoln National Forest,
but still no feel of mountain
to the drive...
Up early on day 4, beginning the drive home, the second day in reverse, going back the way I came, seeing the other side of the cows and barns and cactus trees I saw in coming.
Fifty five degrees when I left the forest and mountains, 105 degrees on the West Texas Plains as I check into my hotel for the night.
grazing on a green hillside...
The next poet from The Wind Shifts, New Latino Poet
, is Sheryl Luna
Born in 1965 in El Paso, Luna is a graduate of the University of North Texas. Her book, Pity the Drowned Horses
, was the inaugural winner of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize.
Slow Dancing with Frank Perez
I called him fish-lips, Frank was all bones,
dark. His knees sunk in at the sides.
You could mistake him for a runner.
When he kissed me, he barely opened
his mouth. The tip of his tongue peeped
into my mouth, two fish sucking rubbery
lips. Fumbling and leaping like salmon
into a glorious world, its incalculable
madness and beauty still fresh.
Our breathless, peckless hurried sway.
My arches aching from moving tip-toed.
Our oafish knees and the lyrics
hummed in meaningless pulses and tones.
I remember the floor moving,
the ceiling aflame in colors. Each pain,
each trope blooms now to real meaning.
Frank never made it to twenty. He died
in a parachute accident, a broken young
body. I still see his black curls, eyes
two pits of innocence. And life is like this,
hurried and awkward; the way pride swells
and need takes over, all weary desire.
The way those lost speak through an old song
that lives duende
or heart and steam, knows
what it means to touch. Smooth songs
sting something more than sexy, each word
swells to images, implodes in icons.
Memory does this, helps us live
through all the cutting borders,
the aches of our slow return to bungling
knees and bony hips.
These stories from nearly fifty years ago take place in the same area of the huge earthquake the day before I write. It is a tough part of the world which challenges its people in even the best of times. News today is of about 300 deaths. The last earthquake of this magnitude in this area killed 75,000 people, so it is clear, sort of some kind of miracle, that the worst is yet to come.
I haven't mentioned in any of the pieces in this series, but it might help understand, particularly, this piece, that beginning a month after I arrived and for the remaining ten months I was there that we were restricted to the small base because of political unrest in the coutry and riots in the city. That unrest led to the ouster of the country's long-time and the subsequent closure of the base by the new government, which made no one on the base, as far as I know, unhappy. Most, like me, were happy to leave early, which in my case led to my discharge from the service several months early.
days and nights on the frontier (III)
the operations center ran 24 yours a day, 7 days a week,
with staff working rotating shifts, swing, mid
and days, three days each shift, with a day off between each
and because of the twenty-four operation,
everything else operated twenty-four hours as well,
the NCO/Enlisted and Officer clubs, the two tennis courts,
the two-lane bowling alley and the base theater, the base
theater with a steady stream of Disney and other family
entertainment (even though there were no families, except,
for a short time, the Commander and his daughter) and
most everyone on the base who wasn't working or sleeping
was drunk or on the way
and the curious thing (at least I think it's curious
now even though I didn't strike me at the time) there
was no obvious law enforcement - outside the walls
were semi-permanent camps of host country soldiers
who provided external security, but were never, ever,
allowed inside the gates and inside the gates I do not
recall over eleven months ever seeing any military
police except for those couple who guarded the gate
to the operations center, reviewing badges to confirm
we were who we were supposed to be at the place
where we were supposed to be...
nowhere inside the walled living area of the small base
do I recall seeing a military policeman, and nowhere, even
the military police guarding the operations gate, did I see
this, in a community of 1,500 young men, half to two-thirds
awake at anyone time with nowhere to go and nothing to do
but sit by the pool or the clubs or by the walls or atop the
barracks, where stars shone bright in a display of light
every desert night, nothing to do among this small collection
of places but
remember other, more welcoming places
and count the days the days remaining
at this place, hoping
the beer will last
be left behind...
The next two short poems from the anthology are by Albino Carrillo
Carrillo, a sixth generation native of New Mexico earned a BA in English from the University of New Mexico in 1986 and an MFA in poetry at Arizona State University in 1993. A pushcart nominee, he taught at the University of Minnesota and at Union College of New York where he held a post-doctoral fellowship. He currently teaches at the University of Dayton.
De las Mujeres Tristes
My mother, beauty queen from Rincon, seemed
alone in her sadness. By this she meant
to show us how the world had given up
on her, how the angels made her bite
her lips like plums over and over
again. This much was true.She never knew
the words to fill her body with love, fearful
was she, reversed, who couldn't speak without
seeming terribly alone. You see
we saw the terrible place from where
the sadness grew. A mobile home, a point
on the map, all of her children angry,
fighting for something better: the green fields,
the beaming moon, and stars under Our Lady's feet.
La Invencioj del Televisor Segun Huitzilopochtli
He'll kill you if you whisper to the priest.
But in the garden behind the altar
he sits, the blue flickering of his dream
like the firefly he's crushing between
two fat fingers. For hours he's painted
his lover's face with its electric juice:
because of the war that starves their children
they're awake and with their boredom take
the last pleasure from their bodies home
like something stolen or alone. It's here
he invents the first set, a radio,
later that first beautiful machine tuned
impossible to all our frequencies,
to each heart on the continent, a gift.
This is the last piece this week from The Wind Shifts
. It is by Adela Najarro
From an immigrant family coming from Nicaragua to the United States over the course of 40 years. Najarro holds a doctorate in literature and creative writing from Western Michigan University and an MFA from Vermont College. In addition to her writing, she teaches English at Cabrillo College, preparing community college students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
My Mother, Sex, and Dating
Though she was sexy with her stockings
and silk slips, she didn't
think it was good. Seven years after leaving
my father she wore a satin bra
under a gold and black sweater
which I could see right through.
I pouted and exclaimed,
"You can't go out in that!"
My good mother now tells me
I should hold off on sex, though
I'm divorced in my thirties.
After Elizabeth's wedding reception
at the Richland Pub,, we all
went back to her house in the woods
and I slept with a man who wanted
only to hold me. My mother tells of dancing
all night with a soldier or man in a tie.
She must know how the heart
gets lost once a palm is placed, open-faced
upon another palm, how the fingers
curl under and how the neck pleads
for a kiss, and I think John
knew this, too. That's why he confessed
that he didn't love me and why we didn't
do anything else. I thought it was understandable
for my husband not to want me
to wear make-up and have all my clothes
three sizes too big. My pants were held up
by one of his old belts. I tucked
the extra leather through a loop, almost around
to the back. We both wanted for me
to be a good mother. She swears
she went home after breakfast at the diner,
offering a thank you and a fake phone
number, and I have to believe my mother.
And now, the last from Ruidoso
, and the collection it's taken from, Places and Spaces
The last leg home, up at 5 a.m., breakfast at I-Hop, on the road by 6:15.
but all around
dark clouds, lightning
flashing within the clouds,
blossoming pools of
soft white light through
Strong winds from the north and a morning chill in the air.
...in the east, a small
break in the clouds,
like a knothole in a fence,
and through it, the peach-orange glow
of the rising sun...
Home-bound, I have eyes for nothing but the road ahead, 306 miles, depending on Dairy Queen stops, less than 4 hours.
Here's my last new piece for the week, and, at least for a while my last memory poem for the frontier of Northwest Pakistan.
A contemporary note: the small airport in the city was the last refueling stop in the 1950s for the U-2's before their high overflight of the Soviet Union. The base was originally established to monitor response to the flights. It was involved with other missions while I was there.
days and nights on the frontier (IV)
from out barracks roof
we can see over the walls and past
the Pakistani soldiers who from their small camp
guard us, and past them the fields and the shepherds
and their sheep, and sometimes the shepherds
take their sheep elsewhere as a man with a long-barreled,
antique rifle shoots at a man with another long rifle
in an adjacent field who shoots back, both missing, tribal
disputes requiring not death or serious injury, but just the effort
and the show, like dogs barking on opposite sides of a fence,
a noisy peace, but effective at the time...
(but not so much anymore it seems,
the dogs of war having jumped the fence
and men who are not shepherds with new and more accurate
guns and women and children with bombs strapped to their chest)
but this is now,
then it was just the guards, singing quietly in the morning, and the fields
and shepherds and sheep and make-believe wars for honor satisfied,
and beyond them, the desert, shimmering on hot afternoons,
and beyond them, the mountains, hard mountains, dry, brown
and treeless, just deep canyons and sharp crags cresting on a deep sky,
a Martian landscape, hard mountains for hard people...
we could see it all from our roof, watching with a six pack of beer
as the soldiers who watched over us lay our their prayer rugs
they do not pray for us, except, perhaps
for us to be
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
Also usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of
this blog, and diligent seller of books, specifically these and
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
Sonyador - The Dreamer
Peace in Our Time