Old Is Told and Tells Again   Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Old photos again this week, and old poems to. I kept to my poem-a day-discipline last week, but came up  with nothing to  further encourage expectations of poetic fame and fortune so mostly they are hidden away never to be seen again. Instead I'm using some poems I found in the trunk of my car, originally considered for one of my books and, also a folder I found in my closet that appears to be a draft version of my first eBook, Pushing Clouds Against the Wind, including mostly poems I ended up not using in the  book.

All my library poems this week are from the anthology, Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry. It was published in 1996 by The University of Texas Press - Austin. It's a huge book, bilingual, Spanish and English on facing pages. Given the size of the book, I picked poets for the post by a random forage through pages.

how to make friends in Texas

Enrique Gonzalez Martinez
Wring the Swan's Neck  

so much sorrow, a few moments of joy

Jose Santos Chocano
A Manifesto
The Volcanoes

this moment
post-it note
before the estate sale
she laughs

Roque Dalton
Soldier's Rest    

creating  perfection
post-it note
post-it note
while walking in the neighborhood, late 
first frost
old men talk
home fires
post-it note
post-it note

Raul Zuarita
The March of the Cordilleras

time for decaf
study hall
story time

Jose Marti
The opposite of Ornate and Rhetorical Poetry    

something simple

Jorge de Lima
Words of Departure

working in the trades

Octavio Paz
 Native Stone

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied

Sara de Ibanez
You, for My Meditation
The Empty Page

the best poem of all

Alvaro Mutis

loose coins rolling across the floor at midnight



I start this week with a poem I  wrote for the benefit of my out-of- state friends should they decide to visit Texas. It's one of those I found in the trunk of my car.

how to make friends in Texas

if it's  a man,
admire his dog

if he doesn't have a dog
congratulate him  on his choice
of firearm

it it's  a woman
tell her you like what she die
to her hair

if she has no  hair, tell her you think she has great
boots and you're thinking
of getting a pair just like them
for your

(if you are handicapped by any kind of foreign or otherwise non-Texan accent, it is advised to enunciate very clearly when discussing a Texas lady's boots, especially if her husband or large boyfriend is present)


possibly this advice is pertinent
but Texas is where I  have the most
direct experience
and it is that stipulation
I offer it

First from the anthology, here's a poem by Mexican poet Enrique Gonzalez Martinez. Born in 1871, Martinez died in 1952. In addition to writing his poetry, the poet was a surgeon, obstetrician and diplomat.

Wring the Swan's Neck

Wring the swan's neck who with deceiving plumage
inscribes his whiteness on the azure stream;
he merely vaunts his grace and nothing feels
of nature's voice or of the soul of things.

Every form eschew and every language
who processes with deep life's inner rhythm
are out of harmony... and great worship
life, and let life understand your homage.

See the sapient owl who from Olympus
spreads his wings,leaving Athene's lap,
and stays his silent flight on yonder tree.

His grace is not the swan's, but his unquiet
pupil, boring into the gloom, interprets
the secret book of the nocturnal still.

 1905/1911              translated by Samuel Beckett

I  was born during the second world war and horrible as that was, there has been plenty more sorrow to go around since.  This is another of the poems I found in my trump.

so much sorrow; a few moments of joy

I was there
when the footsteps of man
first stirred the moon's
powdered dust
and Cronkite wept
with joy

I  was there
to hear Frost mumble his poem
in the light snow
of Jack's inauguration

and I was there to watch
the funeral march
and the martyr's son
salute the riderless horse
when Cronkite
in  sorrow

I was there
watching Bobbie die
under the vicious bright
of television lights,
cold concrete his death bed

and the death of another hero
just days before, shot by an assassin
as he stood on a motel
balcony, so many weeping
for the loss
of hope

I was there
when a Texas president first  echoed
the call of King and the marchers,
"We shall overcome," he promised
and the crowd  cheered
and wept
and I too with them

I was there
when soldiers  sloshed
through perfidious jungles
and I was there to welcome them
when they came home so many

and I was there
when the Wisconsin's long guns
fired the opening salvo
of the first Gulf War (I had walked
the polished teak deck of that great ship
just months before)

I was there when the first bombs
fell on Baghdad

and I was there to watch despots
beaten and killed
by those they once ruled
with the black hand of homicidal

I was there when the little girl
was pulled from the deep well
that was meant to be her

I  was there when Sadat
was killed, killing also
his dream of peace, unfilled
for the generations since
he and his dream machine-gunned by his own guards

and  I was there
with the man, one of many
killed with the dreamer, the man
with his arm blown off by the
machine gun fire, lying amid the
blood, his own and the blood
of other, crying for help
that seemed  never
to come

I  was there  when the towers fell,
the fires lost in gray clouds of dust
and half-burned paper that
swept the street
like a scene
from a movie, though
the movies never show the dust,
so gray and thick,
that envelopes the action,
and I was there with them  as they ran
that day, and other days in other
places, refugees from around the world
hiking over mountains and high deserts to reach
uncertain safety

and I was there when
shuttles exploded...

O, how could this poem
ever  end,
with so much seen,
so much shock, first in black and white,
now in color...


I have started an endless  poem, I fear
image after image
of a world turned upside down
with such a deficit of joy,
so little joy in the passing of the
day,  so much sorrow -

how do we live with such constant sorrow;
how much happier
the days of our blissful

Eden, a paradise of not-knowing,
the beasts unnoticed, waiting beyond the gates,
how we must regret our exile from our
garden of innocence

Next from the anthology, here are two  short poems by Peruvian poet Jose Santos Chocano. A radical and fiery poet, Chocano  was born in 1875 and died in 1934. While in prison for political activity he alternately befriended and opposed strong leaders at extremes of the political spectrum. After killing another poet, he spent time in prison, was pardoned and went into exile in Chile. Eventually his idealistic, sometimes bombastic tone influenced other poets and other intellectuals toward an aesthetic of overt political anti-imperialism.

A Manifesto

     I sing America, in its wild and autochthonous state;
my lyre  has a soul, and my song has an ideal.
My poem does not hang from a branch,
calmly swinging like a tropical hammock...

     When I feel Incan, I honor the king,
the Sun, who offers me the scepter of his royal power;
when I feel Spanish, I invoke the Empires;
my strophes seem like crystal trumpets...

     My imagination comes from ancient Moorish blood:
the Andes are of silver, but Leon is of gold;
I fuse both races with a noise like thunder.

     My blood is Spanish and Incan in its throb;
if I were not a poet, I might have had the job
of a white Adventurer, or Incan emperor!

The Volcanoes

     Each volcano lifts its profile
as if abruptly from the face of the sky
invisible fingers from on high
lifted the corner of a  hanging veil.

     White, pure white, the crest of the mountain,
while its beast seethes with inflamed desires;
the head's ice strains against the body's fire,
like a pure soul rising past a passion.

     Volcanoes are rubble mounds of rock,
but at their feet the valleys, green
and rainbow-scattered as an Asian rug;

     there among those fields of color,
outlined against the blue, they seem
like tumbled baskets, spilling flowers...

 1906                  both poems translated by Andrew Rosing

Here are several  shorter poems from the Pushing Clouds Against the Wind draft. I think this must have been a very early draft since many of the poems in it did not end up in the book. These did, I think.

this moment

winds aloft
are strong
pushing  clouds
over a bright-morning
pale silver disc
in a bluebonnet  sky
in and out 
of sight

do do today

this moment
before it passes

post-it note

rose opens
morning dew

before the estate sale

quiet walk
a dead man's house

soft  steps
in this abandoned husk
of life

sea shell
of a falling tide

of the end

she laughs

a broad
round woman
comes in
with a trim and handsome
young man
like from the cover
of "GQ" or such

she laughs
in peals
like bright balloons
and all  is explained

Jumping ahead in time, Roque Dalton, 1935-1975, of El Salvador is the next anthology poet. He studied law under the Jesuits in San Salvador, Mexico and Chile. He joined the Communist Party in 1955 and, as a result of his political activity, was frequently imprisoned. He lived most of his life in Czechoslovakia in exile. He was assassinated in 1975, reputedly by a member of a rival Maoist faction of the Party.

Soldier's Rest

The dead grow more intractable  every day.

Once they were obedient:
we gave them a stiff collar a flower
we eulogized their names on an Honor Roll:
in the National Cemetery
among distinguished shades
of hideous marble.

The corpse signed up pursuing glory
once more joined the ranks
marched to the beat of our old drum.

Wait a minute!
Since then
they have changed.

These days they grow ironic,
ask questions.

It seems to me they realize more and more
they are the majority!

1969                                  translated by Richard Shaaf

Here are some more short pieces from the Pushing Clouds Against the Wind draft.

creating perfection

a small  mole
at the base of her spine
calls to  me as she walks away

this tiny flaw
on taut, tanned skin
creating perfection

like a god
who laughs
at the perfect absurdity
of his creations

post-it note

children grow...
bright shards
of memory

post-it note

the tides
pushed forward
sucked back by the moon

while walking in the neighborhood, late

the few leaves
still clinging to the trees
rustle in the breeze
like water over rocks

the cold north wind

from a mountain stream

first frost

leaves  fall
and slow

red and yellow
in the sun 

old men talk

and talk
and talk
all the time
to anyone
using up words
they hoarded
when young
they would need them

home fires

full moon bright
on a black winter sky

wisp of cloud
like chimney smoke

drawing me home

post-it note

I lied...
she knows...
no truth can repair
the breech 

post-it note

for the mercy
of your smile


lazy night
in a thicket of

Except for some poets of the Brazilian "Concretist" movement, Raul Zuarita is the next to last poet in the anthology.

Born in 1951, Zuarita was very early known as one of Chile's most dynamic and experimental poets. His experiments include a multimedia collaboration in 1982, with skywriting planes inscribing some of his poems in the skies above New York City.

The March of the Cordilleras

i.         And there the mountains began to move

ii.        Shivering and white       ah yes white the
           freezing peaks of the Andes

iii.      Separating from one another like wounds
           opening     little by little     until not even
           the snow could heal them

iv.       And then     standing high     as if a thought had
           moved them     from the same snowy
           ranges     from the same stones     from the very
           voids     Chile's imposing cordilleras began
          their lawless march


Chile's distant and it's a lie
it's not true we ever exchanged vows
the fields are mirages
and public places are reduced to ash
But even though almost everything's a lie
I know that someday all Chile
will arise to see you
and ever if nothing exists, my eyes will see you

both poems 1982               translated by Jack Schmitt

Next, here are  three coffeehouse observationals rescued from the trunk of my car.

time  for decaf

she always seems
on the edge
of panic

eyes  bright
smile tight
hunched forward
as she talks to you
as if ready to pounce

she makes my coffee
at Starbucks

I think she's been tasting
too much of the

study hall

has brown
secret-keeping eyes
and perfect teeth
that flash white
when she

with three fellow students,
all boys
competing for  her attention,
with one well-arched brow
she controls the

story time

the girl
with the ruined
eyes dancing
as she tells
a story

too low
for me to hear
but her companion
leans forward
almost  touching

 I envy his proximity
and the
he shares
with her

Now from nearly the last poet in the anthology, to the first, Jose Marti.

Born in 1853, Marti died in 1895. Born of poor parents in Cuba, he became the intellectual leader of the struggle for Cuban independence from Spain, becoming, after his death, a model in Latin American poetics and cultural politics for the engaged life and heroic martyrdom. Sentenced to six years at hard labor in the San Lazaro mines for his political activities when he was seventeen years old, his sentence was commuted after two years. He went into exile and lived most of the rest of his life outside Cuba. Returning to  Cuba he was killed in Cuba during a guerrilla action in the aborted revolt of 1895.

The Opposite of Ornate and Rhetorical Poetry

The opposite of ornate and rhetorical poetry
Is natural poetry. Here a torrent,
There an arid stone, here a golden
Bird that gleams among the verdant branches
Like a nasturtium among emeralds.
There the fetid viscous traces
Of a worm, its eyes two bubbles
Of mire, its belly brownish, gross and filthy.
Above the tree, far higher and alone
In a steel-gray sky, a constant
Star; and down below the star a furnace,
A furnace in whose fires the earth is cooking -
And flames, the flames that struggle, with open
Holes for eyes, their tongues like arms,
Their sap like a man's blood, their sharpened
Points like swords: the swords of life that finally,
From fire to fire, acquire the earth!
The fire climbs, comes from within; it howls, aborts.
Man starts in fire and stops in wings.
At his triumphant step the sullied
And vile, the cowards, the defeated -
Like snakes or mongrels, like
Crocodiles with powerful teeth,
From here, from there, from trees that shelter him,
From lands that hold him, the brooks
That slake his thirst, the very anvil
Where his bread is forged - they bark at him,
Nip at his feet, throw mud and dust in his face,
And all that blinds him on his journey.
But beating his wings he sweeps the world
And rises through the fiery air
Dead as a man, but like a sun serene.
This is what noble poetry should be:
Just as is life: both star and mongrel:
A cave serrated by fire,
A pine tree in the fragrant branches
A nest of birds sings in the moonlight;
Birds singing in the moonlight.

1891                  translated by Elinor Randall

Two more from the early Pushing Clouds Against the Wind. I think only one, the second, actually made into the book.

something simple

dark thoughts
have dimmed
my day...

something simple
is what I need

so it's time now
to play the fool

imagine  red


watch her walk

with each step
the rear of her foot rises
as weight shifts from her heel to her toe
while her shoe lags behind
and between the shoe
the soft pale flesh
of her instep flashes
like a lover's wink
across a crowded room

the most beautiful unseen  place
inviting a caress,
a kiss,
a secret place

Jorge de Lima was born in 1895 and died in 1953. He was a physician, practicing medicine in his native Northwest Brazil while at the same time pursuing careers as a writer, a professor of literature, a sculptor, a photographer and a politician, including serving as president of the city council of Rio de Janeiro after democracy was restored in Brazil in 1945.

One of the really great benefits of doing "Here and Now" is when,  as often happens, I find a poet like this one I didn't know before but find I like very much.

Words of Departure

And you will hear in every passing century
a sound lost in time;
and the last comet that passed by only yesterday;
ad the oceans renewing their waters over and over.
You will see some constellations sending you their rays
     and then dying.
You will compare your childhood with that of the children
     of the Sun.
You will recognize stars that threw their rocks at you
when you were an ordinary man on life's paths.
You will count as Abraham did the celestial bodies, so that
     you can count.
You will contemplate the premature death of moons
and the mysterious life of the stars.
You will piece together the game of creation and the
     throne of the first woman.
You will watch hundreds of millions of eclipses happening
     all at once.
And hundreds of millions of flames in a spiral rising to the
     throne of the Master.
And you will remember you were a poor Eskimo caught
     between the ice of the earth and the final night that
     freed you from the world.

1950                               translated by Luis Fernandez Garcia

I actually worked for a living at one early point in my life, coming to appreciate the skill of the men and women in the trades. This is one of my car trunk finds.

working in the trades

of construction,
nail guns
like AK-47s, tattatatatatatatatatat -
nothing like the sound of
individual carpenters swinging
by hand their individual


I have three hammers

I love the feel of them,
weighted  toward the head end, the power
of  a swing multiplied,
the joy of a
hammer driving
a nail
into virgin lumber,
for me,
the more useful feature
of the hammer, the claw opposite
the head that I use to pull
the two out of three
nails that bend and turn
cooked as I swing with all my
misdirected talent


a roof, sitting side-legged
on the roof, each shingle, its
thin side carefully placed
under the thick side or the above
to insure  against leaks,
(or  maybe it was the  other way
around, thick end up)

it's been a long time since I did it,
50 to 55 years, so  perhaps
I should  not roof again without
close supervision...

so beautiful when done,
each row of shingles
neat and complete,each row
a beacon of useful work


I learned once
how to make construction blocks
out of compacted mud and straw - then
visited a country, a city surrounded
by mountain slopes where such houses
were built, where annual monsoon rains
melted the homes of the mountainside
people, sent them  rushing in muddy
streams through the streets of the


a good cook adheres
to his recipes - a good  mason
does the same...

I am neither a good cook
or a good  mason,
and imprecise,each  mix
of sand and cement
and water an exercise
in improvisation...

so my  concrete
cracks in the sun, melts
in the rain


the smell of hot  tar,
shiny black liquid in its
two-wheeled fire pot...

if it's your neighbor's leaky roof
being fixed, oh, well,
if  it's yours


electric power line
hard hats,  heavy leather belts
swung low from hips leaving legs
free to climb, linemen up top,
"grunts" down below...

"headache" yelled from above
means duck and cover,
something heavy's  coming down...


the art and technique
of manipulating a shovel
taught to  me
by a man three times my age
who dug four holes
for my one


the lesson
from  my time in the
construction trades -

life favors those who
know what they're doing;
 the rest of us just have to stay
out of the way

Can't see how it would be possible to do poems from 20th century Latin America poets without including the Mexican master, Octavio Paz, 1914-1998.

Native Stone

Light is laying waste the heavens
Droves of dominions in stampede
The eye retreats surrounded by mirrors

Landscapes enormous as insomnia
Stony ground of bone

Limitless autumn
Thirst lifts its invisible fountains
One last peppertree preaches in the desert

Close your eyes and hear the song of the light:
Noon take shelter in your inner ear

Close your eyes and open them:
There is nobody not even yourself
Whatever is not stone is light

1955                    translated by Muriel Rukeyser


My steps along this street
              in another street
in which
              I hear  my steps
pass along this street
in which

Only the mist is real

1961                translated by Charles Tomlinson


If it is real the white
light from this lamp, real
the writing hand, are they
real, the eyes looking as I write?

From one word to the other
what I say vanishes .
I know that I am alive
between two parentheses.

1961                    translated by Charles Tomlinson


The stones are time
                                  The wind
Centuries of wind
                                  The trees are time
The people are  stone
                                  The wind
Turns upon itself and sinks
Into the stone day

There is no water here  for all the lustre of its eyes

1968                          translated by Charles Tomlinson

This is another from the Pushing  Clouds Against the Wind draft, which, I've learned from reading some of the poems was put together in 2008. This poem though is from an older poem, three or four years older.

the weight of a butterfly, multiplied

all gossamer wings
and sweet intentions
a single butterfly lands
on a limb in the light-dappled
green of a Mexican jungle

and anther lands
and another and another

and another

until the limb breaks
and falls to the jungle floor
in a melee of  sunshine
and Monarch color
such is the weight
of a butterfly, multiplied
like the small
passing lies
of lovers

As in the past when taking from this anthology of Latin American poets, finding female poets requires a search. Who I found this time is Sara de Ibanez from Uruguay, born 1910, died 1971. Pablo Neruda in writing about her first book, Canto, 1940, said "This woman retrieves a treasure we had lost until now: one of mystical transport, subdued into rigor, one of containment transformed to an eternal spray of sea-foam."

You, for My Meditation

Did the earth stretch out
until it cried?
Did the sky deepen its blue fields
from the pale dream to the blood that suffers?
Did the river travel,
crying and crying?
Did twenty crystal gallopings ride across the field,
with their twenty mysteries full of brightness?

Did the heavy mountain
lift itself?
Did the frost extend its immaculate forest?
Did the cliff grow huger, blurring its face?

Did the wind thicken
like a stone,
like a great and stormy wheel of glass,
spinning between your temples and the hint of my kisses?

Did this huge distance
deceive my sight?
Oh, no: I know the path I need to find you.
Death has shown me how to walk its valleys.

1943                                      translated by Andrew Rosing

The Empty Page

                                  for Stephanie Mallarme

How to make this impure
storminess of blood and fire,
urgency of the blind planet,
oppose your terrible whiteness.
The absence of the creature
who waits to be born,
held captive by your snows
and by my mortgaged veins,
in the disillusionment of dawn
and in spring's no.

1967                    translated by Andrew Rosin          

From the trunk of my car.

the best poem of the all...

a morning in which
everything worked and I've finished
my breakfast
and thinking about my poem for the day
and it's still dark
and the moon is still
high on the horizon, big and round
and bright,
the kind of early morning sight
that  encourages reports
of alien spacecraft
that turn out to be weather balloons...

alien spacecraft
in a dark morning sky,
high above the horizon,
round and bright,
white light
against the black night...

what a great poem
that would be...

ever better...

taken into the alien spaceship
white on black
taken to a far shining galaxy
of planetary whirlings
and twirlings
an honored visitor,
to be inducted
into the all-universe, all-star poet's
Hall of Fame,
a grand interstellar
convocation and trade show
where my books are bought and sold
like the ever-glowing
I know them to be...

that indeed
would make  the best poem
of all

Last from the anthology this week is Colombian Alvaro Mutis. Born in Bogota in 1923, Mutis spent much of his childhood in Belgium, where he was educated. Since 1956 he has lived much of the time in Mexico where he has worked for Columbia Pictures TV. Beside three books of poetry, Mutis has published several volumes of fiction.


that death receives you
with all your dreams intact.
At the return of a raging youth,
at the beginning of vacations never given,
death will distinguish you with its first call.
Your eyes will be opened to its big waters, you will be
initiated into its constant wind of another world.
Death will melt with your dreams
and there recognize the signs
left so long ago
as a hunter coming back
recognizes its own prints along the gap.

1965                        translated by Sophie Cabot Black and Maria Negroni

Here's the last for the week from the Pushing Clouds Against the Wind draft.

loose coins rolling across the floor at midnight

I do
things sometimes
to get back
to where
there is no getting
back to

a part of my mind
to accept this
no matter
how many times
and how man ways
I try to explain it


I watched
a dance troupe
a very sensual

how warily
of their bodies
these young women seem


so often
I get a chance
to  exercise skills
essential to my everyday life
for many years, now long past

like stretching
after too long in a too soft chair
it just
feels so damn


it sometimes
to me, usually way
late, like tonight,
that I really did
make a fool of myself

and I think,
I won't do that again

for certain
I will


of the
I hold responsible
for the pool of anger
still simmering in a corner
of my gut, a rage I expect to
carry with me to my grave, pled
guilty today to a misdemeanor count
of political corruption with a $100,000 fine
and I feed on his humiliation butt it is not enough
for it should have been a felony and someone else
will pay the fine just as someone else has always paid
the price of his corruption, as did I and many more I know


so so sweet
when incomplete

I will sleep

I was thinking I should do at least one new poem this week, just to show I'm still in the game.


this morning's sun
so bright
naked colors
are bared
like the unveiling
of a nervous


the small grove
of oak, seven in number,
under them
a carpet of broad, brown leaves
fallen from the poplar trees
that line the road

the quick and the dead
of winter passing
laying a bed for


a funeral passing
on Broadway,
an officer on a motorcycle
stops traffic from the connecting street
at my corner...

the hearse.  the limousines,
the mourners in the variety of cars
that define the dead -

that weep  for the more fortunate
departed, or five-year-old
Chevys and battered Ford  pick-ups
like those that will follow my box
to where it will rest and rot...

all led by a second officer who roars
ahead of the unhappy parade to  block
the next intersection

as the last trailing mourner passes, the other
at my corner peels  off to block
the intersection of the one
past the one next

a roaring,leap-frog ballet, men
and their growling machines
vaulting the slow


the block of nondescript buildings
across and on either side of me
are  sold, to  be razed,
to  make room for
something  new
and we hope

such as I have been told...

and there is hope as the street,
long derelict, is changing under the wrecking ball's
tough-love therapy, coming
alive again, becoming
and I wait, impatient,
for Joshua to blow is horn,
waiting to watch the walls
come tumbling


by destruction

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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

at 10:21 AM Blogger Alice Folkart said...

A nice edition, Allen. Thanks for the introduction to all of those Latin American poets that, except for Paz, I didn't know. They seem more German than Latin. Dark, mostly. Deep and dark.
But I like the poems from the trunk of your car best - they're crisp and ringing. They say to me, "This is how it is!"
And the photos - almost painful to look at, but so beautiful that one has to look. The goat couple reminds me of the Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. And how did you get those nimbuses (nimbusi?) in some of the first pictures in this issue? They are halos.
Good job. Thanks.

at 1:07 PM Blogger Here and Now said...


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