Unity from Diversity   Wednesday, March 16, 2016





First,  a comment on this week's title, a restatement of what used to be our national motto, E Pluribus Unum (from many, one), a sentiment that served us well from our founding, until the 1950s when Republicans who controlled congress decided we weren't worthy of our mutual trust and ought to trust their god instead. It occurs to me in this political season that they are still at it, dividing us at every opportunity, shoving their own shepherd-god into our face at every opportunity, on our currency, into our pledge of allegiance, into our textbooks and into our politics.    

That said, my photos this week are a variety of  black and white scenes, which, in their diversity, present a more unified narrative of where I've been and what I like.

I'm still not happy with my new poems so, while I'll use a few this week, mostly I'll be pulling old stuff from my travel book, Places and Spaces. The book is an accounting of five extended drives I made through different parts of the county, including straightforward narratives of where I went and what I did, interspersed with more lyrical (I hope) reactions to what I saw.

There are five extended poems in the book, covering five different trips. The poems are titled On the Cusp of Confederate Winter, Ruidoso, To the Rockies, Sleeping with Andy Devine, Silver City and Beyond. The Book also includes two  short pieces, an opening poem, Well Begun, and a closing, And in the End, Well Done.

As usual, the book is available wherever eBooks are sold, this one priced, at least  on Amazon, $3.99, cheap  at half the price. 



Me
an itch for the road again

Federico Garcia Lorca
Christmas on the Hudson

Me
from Places and Spaces - On the Cusp of Confederate Winter

Cyril Dabydeen
Posterity
Rhapsodies

Me
from Places and Spaces - On the Cusp of Confederate Winter

James Richardson
The God Who 

Me
from Places and Spaces - On the Cusp of Confederate Winter

Paula Ranking
The Recurring March Dream

Me
from Places and Spaces - Ruidoso

John Engles
Early Morning Poem

Me
from Places and Spaces - To the Rockies 

Nikki Giovanni
The Wonder Woman

Me
from Places and Spaces - Sleeping with Andy Devine

Daisy Zamora
Razed Earth
Beloved Voices

Me
from Places and Spaces - Silver City and Beyond

Osip Mandelstam
from Stone

Me
blank canvas

Dwight Okita
The Art of Holding On

Me
chickenhawk

Samuel Hazo
National Prayer Breakfast  

Me
warming my tortugas on a wet, windy day

Alice Walker
Compulsory Chapel

Me
strategic retreat

Jack Marshall
60

Me
fanny pack

James Galvin
Promises  Are For Liars

Me
       heaven          










This is from last week.

Reading through Places and Spaces, my book of travel poems, this week has left me nostalgic for the days when I could just climb into my car and go. These days, I can't do it so much, the days doing 400 to 500 miles a day are past. Aching bones limit me  to only  100 to 200 miles. Takes a long time to get  anywhere at  that rate, especially when you're starting from central Texas.










an itch for the road again

remembering
good times on the road
and feeling lonely for the road
the itch
to get into my car and drive,
west, to the mountains and forests
of New Mexico and Colorado,
nostalgic for my time there, University
of New Mexico, Peace Corps Training during
the fall and winter of 1964, the camaraderie
of extraordinary people in a place like I had never been
before, from the flat cotton fields of South Texas
to mountains and forests all the colors of a crazed artist's
palette and in recent years, Colorado and the grand majesty
of the Rockies, snow capped, the forests,pine and shimmering gold
aspen, driving through the canyons and heights and  switchbacks
as the mountain and the road rises and the view from lookouts along the way,
the lowlands, so  recently visited. spread out like landscape of another world,
and the narrow gauge railroad, Durango to Silverton, riding the rails through
dense forests and the edges of mountain walls, following
the  Animas River as its waters tumble past, down  through forests
and mountain gorges, the last time our ride, as winter slips in, snow
on the thing passes and on all sides, and...

I have an itch to travel  again, to be where I'm not again, a highway cowboy
riding the asphalt trails again...









I start poems from my library this week with Federico Garcia Lorca, from Poet in New York, first published in 1940. My edition in in the eighth printing by Noonday Press in 1995, with translation by Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

Born in 1898, Lorca, the great Spanish poet, playwright and theater director, was murdered by Nationalists at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. He was 38 years old at the time of  his death.











Christmas on the Hudson

That gray sponge!
That sailor whose throat was just cut.
That great river.
Those dark boundaries of the breeze.
That keen blade, my love, that keen blade.
The four sailors wrestled with the world.
With that sharp-edged world that all eyes see.
With the world we couldn't traverse without horses.
One, a hundred, a thousand sailors
wrestling with the world of keen-edged velocities,
unaware that the world
was alone in the sky.

The world alone in the lonely sky.
Hills of hammers and the thick grass's triumph.
Teeming anthills and coins in the mire.
The world alone in the sky,
and the air where all the villages end.

The earthworm sang its terror of the wheel,
and the sailor whose was slashed
sang to the water-bear that held him close;
and they were all singing - alleluia.

I stood all night on scaffolding in the boroughs,
leaving my blood on stucco  projects,
helping the sailors lower their ripped sails
And I stand with empty hands in the murmur of the river's mouth.
It doesn't matter if every minute
a newborn child waves the little branches off its veins,
or if a newborn viper, uncoiling beneath the branches,
calms the blood lust of those who watch the naked man.
What matters is this: emptied space. Lonely world. River's mouth.
Not dawn.  Idle fable.
This alone: river's mouth.
Oh, my gray sponge!
Oh, my throat just cut open!
Oh, my great river!
Oh, my breeze's boundaries that are not mine!
Oh, the keen blade of my love, oh, the cutting blade!

                                            New York, December  27,  1929











First, these are several "moments" from On the Cusp of Confederate Winter, first of the poems from Places and Spaces. The trip took me on a roundabout route through the southern states to Columbus, Ohio, where I picked up  my wife, then to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway and back home through more southern states.










The first problem with going anywhere from Texas is getting out of Texas, requiring the better part of a day's travel. On this trip I made it from San Antonio to Little Rock before calling it a day. This moment was on Interstate-30, between Dallas and Little  Rock.


a pick-up
pulling a horse  trailer,
alone in the back
one horse,
a palomino,
golden main and tail
and eyelashes
flaring 
in the wind,
brown eyes watching as I pass


Later, still from the first day...



a hawk 
slips slowly from the air
to land on a fence post,
watches,
sees all with yellow eyes
that view all that moves
as potential
prey 


And, as the day comes to an end, still  in  Texas...



orange sky
like mist
though a forest 
of orange  leaves


Finally past Texarkana, a small city with the Texas/Arkansas state line running down the middle of main street...



lakes and ponds
and waterfowl,
a crane passes over the road
low, 
long neck outstretched
wings spread
a dark shadow
against a nearly dark sky


Night falls in Arkansas...


red sky
in my rearview,
the road like a tunnel
through the dark,
tall, thick forest
on either side

.....


The second day, Little Rock to Nashville...

 

I  wanted to write about
the forest,
the colors,  gold and yellow
and the red-brown color the
Crayola people
used to call
Indian red or Indian brown
or something like that

and in the middle 
of all that bold and yellow
ad red-brown Indian whatever,
some low brush that's flaming
bright red
scattered among the trees
like little fires
burning in the woods

and I wanted to write about
the flock of ducks that flew over
in perfect V formation,
near  enough to the ground
so that each duck could be seen
and counted
as an individual,
close enough to the ground
that I could hear the flapping
of their wings
and the mutter-quacks among
the ranks

and I wanted to write
about the hills,
reminding me of the
hill country of home,
but soft hills, none of the hard face
of caliche and cactus and mesquite
just soft, 
soft
forest-hills,, trunks climbing close
together

I wanted to write about the sun
this morning
and how it lit the colors of the trees
and covered the sky
from mid-afternoon, bringing shadow
and mystery 
and darker colors of the night


The beautiful day marred in my mind because after two days I could not find national news anywhere.


.....


The third day took me from Nashville to Charleston, West Virginia...


the forest colors
have changed,
the yellows gone
as we have journeyed 
further north
and the gold is starting
to fall as well, a shower of
golden 
leaves
around me
as I stand by the river


 And further on, past Knoxville...



the colors now
are mostly shades of red and
brown

on a hill
surrounded on four sides
by forest

a horse enjoys a pasture
all his own

...

in a dell
green  as spring,
a small church,
white clapboard with a white
wooden steeple
rising twice the church's height

on a hill behind the church
rows of tombstones
in rank and file,
climbing
the hillside like steps
to an afterlife that,
if we are all lucky, would look
exactly like this green little dell
and this white little church


.....


Finally into Virginia (I haven't mentioned before, by my dog always traveled with me) ...


I  stop at a park
just across the state line 
so Reba can walk and pee

just across the highway
three cows
line a ridge, dark cut-outs 
against the sky


Approaching the highway that will take me to Charleston for the night...


the road rises in front of me
bordered as always by red and brown forest,
at the top,
a silver-dollar moon
on a pale blue sky















Next from my library, two short poems by Cyril Dabydeen, from the anthology Breaking Silence, an Anthology of  Contemporary Asian-American Poets. The book was published in 1983 by The Greenfield Review Press.

Born in Guyana, the poet and short  story writer has published six books of poetry and one of short stories. In addition to poetry and short story collections in progress, he was also  working on  a novel at the time the anthology was published.












Posterity

As I am not
Pythagorean
everybody talks
a snake slithering
a ball rolls into
thick grass -
a grandfather whom I
hardly knew
about to have a stroke

A jolt and a cry -
everyone rushes
grandmother's collapse next:
the sick among us
foreshadowing death

And amidst the sameness
of  trees
a grandfather transmigrates
bird's song
in my ears -

being too young to remember
much else
I salve memory
growing up
listening everywhere
to the music of the spheres -
wishing he familiar earth
to spin       everlastingly


Rhapsodies

an  uncle tries his best
to break out in madness
an aunt reshapes here life
with three children  and more

a mother carries in her womb
her thwarted desire
she stitches portions of her ski
with each new child being born

I am somewhere i the loud notes
throbbing in the old brain
I haunt the folds of night
insisting that all is not well

I collect the discarded bones
I stop the gaps of my nightmare
I   bang on the empty drums
             alone












Back to  On the Cusp of Confederate Winter, the longest of the five poems in my travel book, Places and Spaces. Earlier we left the poem in Charleston, West Virginia. The new day's trip would take me to Columbus, Ohio, where I would pick up my  wife at the airport so that she could  continue the journey with me.










About an hour  out of Charleston I got lost, knew the road I was supposed to be on, but couldn't find it. Eventually I succumbed to the "ask directions" imperative at a little country store, finding for my troubles that I was on the right road, just heading in the wrong direction for about 25 miles.


finally
straightened out,
I follow the road,
a narrow two lane that  twists
with a river north,
on the river side, shacks,
square little homes
with junk cars
and several hundred dollars
worth of scrap  metal
in front
and on the other side of the road,  
great  brick houses
with wide green lawns
and  barns
and horse stables


I  lost a full hour being lost in West Virginia, the another couple of hours in Ohio because of their ridiculous speed limits, arriving finally, looking to find a strange airport in a strange dark city on strange dark streets...




.....


In Columbus, after four days on the road, we decide on a rest day...




another
dark day,
gray and overcast
again,
rain  hanging back
like the word that gets caught
on the time of your tongue,
there, but not there,
waiting in the wings,
waiting for its cue
to bring on the storm


...


Spending the day downtown, visiting museums and the  crush of huge, churches that looked like they were dropped out the Gothic dreams of the 18th century, all as ugly as the hell they were trying to get
the faithful to avoid...


finally,and by accident , as you might expect,
we find ourselves on High Street,
right  in the middle of Short North,
the arts district, but the galleries
all seem to be closed...

so we settle 
for a late lunch at  Betty's Food & Spirits,
named, it seems likely, after Bettie Page,  whose
photos, along with other mid-century pin-up girls,
paper the walls, the most  vivid dreams
of my 14-year-old days and nights
revisit me as I enjoy a bowl of beef vegetable soup,
a bit thin of broth for my taste,
but full of vegetables, with thick chewy bread


.....


Finally, on my sixth day out, back down through Ohio and through West Virginia again to Roanoke.


when I passed this way
two days ago, it was dead-black dark 
and I couldn't see anything but the moving island
my headlights threw ahead of me

today I appreciate the tree covered hills and vistas
as  we curve around the mountain side

though the rain has  stopped
most of the color on the hills is gone
and what  remains
is draped in  drab by the overcast sky 


In Virginia, we take a short cut that will take us on a more direct route to Roanoke...

a smaller,slower road


with dips and turns and  twists
that take us across a river
then alongside it for twenty miles

people here  are different from people
in Texas who post the name of every river and creek
whether flowing water or dry that every  road,
paved,  caliche,or blowing dust crosses - we value water
for its scarcity and want a name everywhere it might be found
even if only a couple of days a year

here even rivers have no posted name

this river, wide, with white-water rapids
deserves a name we decide,
even if only a name we made up as we passed

"a river with no name,"  we naming it

"El Rio Sin Nombre"


As we travel, the temperature dips and fog rises from the hollows and slides over the mountain tops...


a white house
on a hill
surrounded by leaf-bare trees
and behind them,
mountains
showing bits and pieces through the fog

on the road,
short, thick-foliaged pines standing,
crowded side by side like spectators
standing  shoulder to shoulder, watching
a passing parade

or, I think of the hundreds of clay soldiers
lined in rank after rank
buried with the Chinese emperor

fog drifts around them
and in that shifting fog, the soldiers
seem to move,
coming alive  wile their emperor still lies dead
in the dust


In Roanoke for a day of museums, mostly not so  impressed by what we see...


except  for the homeless man
sleeping
in the corner of one of  the galleries,
very realistic, but not real, a representation of reality,
an  essay on invisibility
as museum visitor after museum visitor (myself included)
walked past, near stepping over him, without seeming to see him,
stopped and looked at paintings hanging over
the space where "he" slept and not seeing,
as if the homeless lived in an alternate universe,
unseen and unknown
to us until they panhandle us or scream and rant
on a street corner

.....


We end our stay in Roanoke the next day with a trip to Jefferson's second home and plantation. Acting as his own  architect, he created the kind of octagonal structure he preferred, with wide verandas front and back, with columns giving it the appearance of a Greek temple on some high mountain...


from his grand veranda Jefferson
could look  down  on the nearest of his 
4,000 acres

large poplar
trees
yellow leaves
still holding on
despite the lateness
of the season;
a gentle slope of close-cut grass;
a creek running fast; another pasture,
tobacco fields in  Jefferson's time,
a crop he  despised but planted anyway
because he needed the cash;
a forest of poplar trees  broken
by a winding  crushed-shell drive

around the side and in the back,
slave quarters, not for the cultivated eyes
of the gentlemen and ladies of the
Commonwealth of Virginia

...

A slave holder as he was a tobacco farmer, hating both but doing both anyway because he needed the money from both  to keep  his holdings and lifestyle viable.  












Now, here's James Richardson, from his book, By the Numbers, Poems and Aphorisms. A National Book Award Finalist, it was published in 2010 by Copper Canyon Press. A poet and critic, Richardson is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Princeton University where he has taught since 1980.











The God Who

It was the small gods we talked to
before words, though soon  enough
we  forgot, and sadly,  that what dawn
or the shrine of hips made the heart do
was prayer.
                    The god of a particular
slow  bend in the river, his friend
god of the white boats swung around it,
gods of moderately impressive rocks,
of spots warm where someone was just sitting,
of the deep sharp scents of shoes, of sounds
whose direction is unclear, of silver linings:
they appreciated whatever small appreciations
came their way and, ignored,
were not so much vengeful
as doubtful in that dark early world,
where the workload, if it can be called that,
of their divinely inefficient bureaucracy,
left plenty of time to enjoy the specialties
of their fellows,  god of just sitting around,
god of the nasty slider, of low-battery gleeps,
of wine that gets better by the glass,
the god (the high god) of too excited to sleep.

Actually, with considerable power
over one thing or another, or a couple - a book maybe,
tennis, unusual salads - but only average
at, say, getting lovers or starting a car,
they were a lot like us. Distinctions, in fact,
were not rigidly maintained. it  being proverbially
difficult to be sure you're immortal
or that you're are not. There was intermarriage,
bargaining, and respectful confusion (once
language got going)
about what  constituted worship
and what was just delighted
saying of the names of things,
which persists. So as for the god

of the squeak of clean hair,
of your hand out the car window
wind-lifted, of the small shade under hat brims
and not excluding
the banned gods of leaf-fires and tobacco,

oh and definitely including
she of the coffee-breath and fine cold hands
who says Sit down friend and let's see,
let's just see, and certainly
my other god, he of Least Resistance
who decrees what is going to happen anyway,
who listens only to prayers that end
Let all be as Thou whilst, who grants
only my wish to believe in him,

and with the possible exception only of the god of making a list
of all the other gods, who gets distracted and forgets so many
and suddenly the universe is His and only His,

praise them












This is the third and final collection of excerpts from On the Cusp of Confederate Winter, first and longest of the five travel poems from my book Places in Spaces.










Leaving from Roanoke, we set out on the return trip back to San Antonio. The plan for the day is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, 233 miles of it, following the bony ribs of the Appalachians to Asheville, North Carolina. It will be an all-day drive, three of us now, my wife Dee who I picked up in Columbus, my constant canine companion, Reba, and me...


through the curves
and thick forests
of poplar and pine,
leaves falling like
golden snow, 
we begin to climb

...

a half dozen
wild turkey
along the roadside,
undisturbed
by our passing

a fat deer
I see ahead
leaps across the road
and through the trees


We started the day ahead of a cold front rushing down from  Lake Erie, for a while we stayed ahead, but every time we stopped for a picture and to give Reba a pee-break the front passed over us and for a while we would be in its midst...


we are enfolded
by the rain
and the fog
and the forest all around us


Stopping often, the storm finally gets far enough ahead that we can't drive out of it.


grand vistas
across green and gold ills
around us,
cleared pastures,
little villages
with little white houses
and broken-down barns
and church steeples
and yellow school buses
parked behind schools closed
for the weekend

the temperature
at 3,700 feet
is 37 degrees,
a fierce cold wind
blows through the wooded valleys
and across the high crests,
so strong
it billows my Levi jacket
out from my back like blue wings,
almost lifting me over the edge

the chill factor is in the teens


.....


After a night in Asheville, our next stop is Birmingham, heading south to  get out of the bad weather. But first, we planned one last stretch of mountain vistas across the Great Smoky Mountains. Then the weather got worse over night, much worse than we expected...


heavy snow
during  the night
has dusted white
across the lower elevations

higher, thick dark clouds
wrap around the mountains,
covering them like a dirty white blanket


Upon the advice of a Waffle House waitress, we avoided the heights and went straight away between the snow powdered peaks to the lower lands of North Carolina and Alabama.


I expected
cotton fields
but found forests instead,
still with all the colors of fall,
turning more and more to green
as pines begin to  infiltrate, then dominate,
tall thin giants, straight
as fence posts with bushy crowns
at the very top


.....


A night in Birmingham, then on to Lafayette, Louisiana, through Alabama and Mississippi along the way...


lunch at a little truck stop
in Pearl County, Mississippi,
three county deputy sheriffs
at the table next to us,
all black, making me think of my first
trip through the South on a bus
in the spring of 1966,
white and colored waiting rooms at the depots,
white and colored restrooms, white
and colored water fountains, illegal since the passage
of the Civil Rights Act of a year earlier,
but lifelong habits break hard,
people still segregating themselves
because that's the way they knew

but hard or not, habits change
and what could not be imagined,
like black deputy sheriffs in rural Mississippi
becomes routine


.....


Our last day, Lafayette to San Antonio. I don't have much to say about Louisiana, and what I do have to say is not good. Friends speak of its beauty...


I see that,
but I see the ugliness as well,

the seediness
behind the facade,
like a middle-aged beauty queen
showing the sag of body and spirit
that comes from too many nights closing
too may bars with too many men

I love the food and the music of the accent,
but it is not a place I could ever live


.....


And finally home, 3,986 miles, 11 days, 9 states, we pick up Peanut, the small dog we left behind with friends and head for a couple of days of rest...




Reba pees on her favorite tree,
Peanut pees on herself
as she usually does when excited,
and cat fusses, wants us all
to go to bed so she can sleep
on my nap
 














Next from my library, this poem by Paula Rankin, from her book, Augers, published in 1981 by the Carnegie-Mellon  University Press. I couldn't find information on the poet on the web except for her obituary showing her death in 1997 at the age of 57.












The Recurring March Dream

Bored with being snowbound, the wind
picked up anything it found and threw it:
a garbage can's lid landed on our windshield,
splattered as a giant's dinner plate

with something green, dried, fibrous.
Everywhere the air was spiked with sharp edges -
gravel, branches - all headed for us,
while mate-less shoes that had lain in ditches

or months shuffled again with that  awful hope
I had seen lifting shoes at the Home
for Abandoned Children. I wanted to  stop
and try them on to see if his was the time

I would replace someone else's body,
but we were running too late to give ourselves over
to  wind. That night I dreamed again the bloody
trail that is always missing  between air

and ground's collection of shoes, shirts, dwellings.
I dreamed again that some things, like love,
were too heavy to lift, that wind would save
its re-scatterings and erasures for things

that left empirical holes when up-rotted
or thrown down, that it would not waste
itself on us, for whom no needle, thread, paste
is needed when we open the air and step out.












The next poem from Places and Spaces is Ruidoso based on a spur of the moment visit to Ruidoso, a city in southern New Mexico I had never been to. Not especially impressed by Ruidoso, I extended the trip to places beyond.













What you see driving through northwest Texas is a lot of empty space and what there is that isn't empty is often desolate and abandoned. Past Pecos, you come to Olna, 15 to 20 structures along the highway, all abandoned and in ruin...


no sign of life in Olna

but 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 red-wing
blackbirds, a survivor where little else finds


.....


Moving on after a night in Ruidoso, passing Mescalero...


across the road
from the Tribal Center
2 Apache boys play King of the Hill,
rolling over and over each other
in the rose-colored dust

stylized art
on concrete abutments
along the highway tell
the tribe's story

which of the stories
do the boys
reenact


...


the down slope
from Mescalero to Tularosa
opens up  between wooded
mountains sides to the desert below,
desert grasses so dry
they are white in the morning sun,
like sand,
like a wide  ribbon of white sand
between the mountains


The drive through the white grass desert producing little of interest until Carrizozo, I skirt the Valley of Fire, a wide crater-valley created by an ancient volcano...

a jumble of big, black lava boulders
across the valley

a vision of hell
when the fire goes out 


.....


Finally, day five, on the way home...

 


the sky, 
clear overhead
but all around dark clouds,
lightning flashing within the clouds,
blossoming pools of  soft white light through
dark clouds

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


And home, depending on Dairy Queen stops, less than 4 hours.














John Engels is my next poet. His poem is from his book Sinking Creek, published by The Lyons Press in 1998. Born in 1931 in South Bend, Indiana, the poet died in 2007. A winner of many awards and honors, he was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.











Early Morning Poem

Mightily detained and allured
I've listened to music all night,
Bix and Tram to dispel austerity,
Beckhet to inform the manner,

Wild Bill Davidson, then
Messiaen, Hayden for grace
and comeliness, a little
Chopin for continuity, two hours

ob  Bruckner and Schumann
for the last of the wine. By two,
everything thinning and thickening, ragged
space at the edges of things, the sofa

billowing four inches off
the floor, the air
gone milky, I stand
at the door staring across

the lawn at the bristling landscapes
to the north. I imagine
I move out, accompanied,
the circling Bear apace, the Hunter

brandishing his bow. The dogs
which have barked all night
fall silent, and then the sun
squirms from a black seed
onto the highest comb of the farthest
peak, and all the time I've been coming
closer,  wondering how to announce
myself, afraid I'll choke

on a clot of voice. Everything
is late beyond late, tonight
this music has been something
of an answer, the dense

speechless collisions, the mind
delicately bellowing from its fixed
centers. When I turn back
into the room I hear strings

everywhere, horns
sonorous in the corners, tympani
like something bearing
on the doors, and no voice to trouble me.













Back to Places and Spaces, with selections from the third poem, To the Rockies, a trip to Denver. As usual, I  drove with my canine  companion until we got to Denver where my wife flew in to meet us. After a couple of days in Denver, Dee flew back home while Reba and I headed back several days to home.











As usual, the first day is about the 500 miles it takes to get  our of Texas.


a palomino
with twin colts -
gold dancing
on a green field,
then a gathering 
of buzzards, fifteen, at least,
on a little hill on the side of  the road 

unusual
so see them together like this
with no carrion
in sight


...


passing
the Iraan/Sheffield exit,
I look south
toward the Big Bend park,
the Chisos mountains -
just a smudge on the horizon


...


Later, approaching Fort Stockton, the wind turbines turning, curves and angles combined, clean and white, standing tall and twirling atop the mesas all around, beautiful as any art. To the north a mesa...


re-formed by wind and rain
for thousands of years
to resemble a beast
complete with erect nipple
kissed
by the blue West Texas sky


.....


The second day, another 500 miles from Roswell...




after about 40 miles
I look behind,
a long straight road,
gradually rising 


As a strong wind blows across the road...




little twisters cross brown fields
on both sides of the highway,
most throwing up  clouds of dust
that move with the wind, but one,
a smaller one, forms a perfect funnel
about five feet across, keeping
its shape up to a hundred or more feet
above the ground

a tumbleweed the size of a beach ball
blows in front of me, seems
to pace the car for several seconds
then crosses the road


...


further north
as we cross into Colorado,
the winter grass is almost white,
the almost white off the sand on gulf beaches,
broken here and there by red barns
like red umbrellas on a vast beach
that has no sea


...


Just Pueblo, first news on the radio of the severe winter storm that's on its way...




as I approach Colorado Springs
I see black storm clouds
pouring over the mountain crests

I enter the front of  the storm
as I leave the city

rain, sleet,snow and fog
all at once and in alternating bursts


...


At the end of a very long day, approaching  Denver...




looking out my window
I can  see miles away the tall buildings
of  downtown fade in and out of view
a rain and snow  clouds rise and  fall 


.....


In Denver  the  fourth day, I, as usual, look for a coffeehouse and a New York Times...


watching 
from the coffeehouse window
I see a small boy climb  into the back seat
of his  family's sedan

closes his door

a conversation with his mother
in  the front seat

a moment  passes 

the car does not move

the boy's door opens and a 
snowball drops from the
car


.....


On the fifth day, enjoying the open street mall in downtown Denver...


the sun rises
orange
light
awakens a blue crystal day

west,
the Rockies, covered in snow
from foothills to peaks,
blinding
in their white

.....


On the sixth day, homeward bound, Dee in her airplane, the dog and I starting the drive home, a westerly course, gradually ascending  to the two mile high Vail Pass, then descending for over a hundred miles to Grand Junction.


a turn south
and a faraway view of the Rockies,
snow-covered,
looking like billowy white clouds,
white like fresh laundry hung in the sun to dry


...


twelve bison
in a line across
a snowy slope,
each following the tail of the other,
at the head of this strung-out regiment, a bull,
the leader, knows where to go and when to go there

and two or three miles
down the road
elk scatter among
a stand of pines,
pushing aside snow and pine needles
to graze


...


at ten thousand feet snow melt
sloshes down the rocky mountain side in a torrent

at eleven thousand,
thick  icicles, long, long as a tall man,
hang from overhands on the canyon walls 
dripping 


...


Through Silverton and down the mountain to Durango for the night...


at the crest
a big horn sheep
stands by the road
and watches me pass

his territory, these rugged mountains,
and not my own


.....


And the last day, passing El Paso in the very early morning, a full day's drive back to San Antonio.


deep desert
blue
seeping
through  the black night sky

the air is desert chill

a pink thread
on the east horizon
suggests the coming of a rising
sun


Then...


the pink thread widens 

a shadowing light spreads

from the north foothills
a coyote howls 
 












This short poem is by Nikki Giovanni, from her book My House, published in 1983 by Quill.











The Wonder Woman
(A New Dream - for Stevie Wonder)

dreams have a way
of tossing and turning themselves
around and the times
make requirements that we dream
real dreams for example
i wanted to be
a sweet inspiration in my dreams
of my people but the times
require that i give
myself  willingly and become
a wonder woman

        [29 sep 71]













Next, selections from Sleeping with Andy Devine, fourth poem from my travel book, recounting a drive to Lake Tahoe, four days there and three days back.














As usual it takes all day to get to El Paso for the night. Then day two, pushing through New Mexico toward Arizona.


on the right
the Rio Grande River delta valley,
green and cultivated
fields,
pecan orchards,
houses, stores, church steeples, 
yellow school buses flashing red lights
on two lane highways

hanging over all this

mountains


...




a hawk,
dead  in the middle of the road,
a casualty of flying too low,
flying too slow

a single wing
like a flag sands
above the mess
of bloody, mangled meat and bone

brown and white feathers
flutter in the wind


...


nearing Gallup,
I  reach the snow level,
patches first, mostly in shadowed areas
where the day's sun could not reach

then more and more
until the desert is covered in white,
a thin layer, little individual sprigs of  desert grass
poke through here and there,
like Kilroy with a really bad haircut


...


And into Arizona...




bum
sleeping
under a pile of dirty clothes
in the handicapped restroom stall
at the first rest stop in Arizona


...


through high desert, flat
as far as you can  see

then mountains on the horizon,
north and west, snow capped


...


several dogs in front,
a horse and two or  three goats
in the back,way the hell
away from everything


...


tumbleweeds
whip  across the road
in front of me,  chasing the wind,
never catching it

I've known people like this,
blow always by capricious winds,
never finding rest


...


I  see a buffalo
in its shaggy brown coat
eating green sprouts between giant red boulders


...


dense white clouds
cover the horizon ahead

snow
rain
or dust storm

not what I'd like to see...

sleet,
the strong winds even stronger
throwing ice pellets like bb shot


...


Lunch in Flagstaff, then...




light snow

moving on through the national forest
and between the mountains
the snow gets much worse,
blowing hard across the road,
the sky closes in
and the temperature drops to near freezing


Back near desert level after ten miles of steep decline...




the clouds clear,
the temperature goes back up
and fat driving snowflakes hitting my windshield
turn to fat, splashing raindrops


As the little town of Winslow approaches I see a sign, "Mojo's Gourmet Coffee...




I find Mojo's
and a skinny barista  with ore tattoos
than most folks have skin, and the corner
a small group of old cowboys sitting at a round table,
some just listening,  
some singing
and picking their guitars...

country ballads and the like and some of their own composing

"I once loved a girl in Albuquerque," sang one

"I wanted to a cowboy," sang another as I was leaving,
"but I was always afraid of cows"


 .....


Finally, getting close to Nevada, the night in Kingman,  Arizona, a comfortable hotel on Andy Devine Trail.

Then, up early, onto and through Nevada, a larger state than I imagined, with mountains, not all flat desert as I had  also imagined.


snow clouds flow
over mountain peaks
on both sides of me
like buttermilk over  hot  cornbread

light snow dusts desert stones and plants
with points of silvery shadow

the snow falls faster
and soon they all sport white caps
until they all disappear
under the white sea

a herd of horses, twenty or thirty of them,
chase and play in a field
of snow 


...


I crest the last of the latest string
of mountains and laid out before me
a vast valley, a basin surrounded  by peaks,
covered white like a fresh tablecloth
of a expensive bistro


.....


Finally in Lake Tahoe...


from my tenth floor window
I watch snow clouds cross the mountains,
then begin a slow drift across water toward us

the "little cat feet"
whisper over  cold water


At a park beside the lake, walking the dog...


we are not the first
to break the snow, little duck tracks, triangles
divided by a line from point to base,
and tracks of some bird of a larger sort,
tridents in the snow

a white sailboat sits offshore
half hidden in the
snow


.....


Then back to home, San Antonio, through California to catch Interstate-10 for the fastest  way back...





the mountains
are a majestic spectacle  that lifts the heart

but it's over 1,700 from home
and I can get bigger and better mountains
500 closer


...


past white-robed mountains, the virgin brides
of western California

past San Bernardino and the car-chocked
debris of Los Angeles to the dry brown hills
of north Arizona

bright yellow flowers,brushy and thick,
climb the hills like sunspots across
the drab and dreary


And finally home, ten days and five states, snow in four of them.




back home now
where the edge of spring
arrives too soon
and will pass too quickly

back in the zone
where days are measured not by calendars
and dates and miles passed
but by the passing of the sun
east to west, and cycles of the moon,
full to dark, and by poems written
and quiet moments when a contemplative life
seems not a waste of time but a harvesting
of the fruits of time
  







The next two short poems are by Daisy Zamora, taken from her book Riverbed of Memory,  published by City Lights in 1988. Born in 1950 in Nicaragua, she later became involved in the revolution against the dictator Somoza. Spending years in exile, she joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front, serving as a combatant and the voice and program director for Radio Sandino  and served as Vice Minister of Culture for the victorious Sandinista government in 1979.

It is a bilingual book, with translation to English by Barbara Paschke.







Razed Earth

The suitcase full of baby clothes I kept with such
                                  care,
a little girl crossing the street in her
                                  mother's arms,
or a passing glance at a pregnant woman
                                 waiting for a bus.

Any encounter / Spark / Unleashes
                                  a bonfire
in this unprepared heart: dry fodder,
                                 tinder
reduced to smokey ash, to
                                 razed earth.

(MP/BP)



Beloved Voices

That afternoon when you called Maria Mercedes
I discovered in your voice the voice of your father
whom I never knew.

There was a moment
when you spoke with a voice that wasn't yours.

A voice
                 echo of another voice
that your older sister Gladys,
                 would remember
or your mother (if she were living)
would have recognized immediately.











Now, excerpts from Silver City and the Beyond, the last  poem from the book of travel poems, another trip taken on the spur of the moment just to go someplace I hadn't been before.











As usual, the first day about getting out of the state, San Antonio to El Paso...


stone-wrapped hills
to  long-stretched fingers
of pink Chihuahua Desert

blue sky, blue on blue
on deep ocean  blue sky,
to jagged clouds
dark and sharply racing


Eighty miles an hour past all the little towns along the way: Segovia, Senora, Saragosa, Sierra Blanca, Allamoore, Belhmora and Van  Horn, how mysterious these names seemed to me the first time I past them 40 years before, before the interstate when you could not pass without going through...




on the ridge a line of dead trees,
oak blight killing scrub oak all around,
reminding me of a picture I once saw
of a lone tree, bare and burned among the ruins
at Hiroshima

these trees like that, bare limbs, black,
reaching up, grasping at the sky

in the pasture below a mare and her foal
eat grass generous and green


The roadway blasted through stony hills, in the rock walls on either side, layers of geologic time...




there, near the top,
a woman and a man passed,
nearly human, and down here by my feet
a fish struggled crawled  awkwardly
from the sea 


...


a bird, zippity-flash, crosses the road,
skinny little legs pumping,
thin neck and head
high and proud

sharp
like an arrow passing
 and just as fast


...


a cloud billows up
from the Chisos Basin
like a white  rose
opening to the sun


Into New Mexico...


green desert all the way,
a rainy year disguising the stone-hard truth
below the green

smudge of mountains against the horizon, 
left and right, front and rear -

New Mexico, a state of mountains and deserts
and neither ever very far from wherever
you might be


Disappointed with Silver City, leaving after one night...




three horses crossing a green pasture,
grass high, up to their knees,
crossing in single file, one after the other

like carousel horses with somewhere to go


...


Escaping from boring flat spaces, I take the long route right through the Gila Mountains, a diversion that turned into an adventure as the road turns away from comfortable asphalt, gradually deteriorating to narrower and rougher gravel, twisting and turning, climbing and descended, falling into a deep canyon, which worries me as rain begins...


setting aside considerations of mudslides 
and all other hesitations - it is now considerably further
back than forward - I come to a break in the trees
and stop and look out and see I am on a high ridge,
above the clouds,  churning white and billowy below me


...


a very large buck and 25 to 30 does and fawns,
fluffy white and brown stub-tails flicker in in the wind,
all together as a group, coming down the mountain in great bounds,
over the road, then back up on the other side, like winged creatures
who, through fate or folly, lose their wings, but still
they crave to fly, almost  succeeding with each great leap

...


passing through a burned  out portion of forest,
pine and aspen tall and limb-less,
black as the charcoal they have become while still
they reach for the sky

I stop and listen to the wind, all around deep-forest quiet
but for the wind passing through these poor
standing-dead

ghost whispers









Russian poet Osip  Mandelstam is next  from my library. The poems are selections from his  book  Stone. My edition published by Harvill Press in 1997. It is a bi-lingual book, with translation from the poet's Russian by Robert Tracy, who also provided and extension introduction and notes.

Born  in  1891 in Poland, Mandelstam lived through pre-revolutionary Russia, as well as after the revolution and the establishment of the Soviet  Union. He died in 1938 at a transit station on the way to a Siberian gulag.











1.

A tentative hollow note
As a pod falls from a tree
In the constant melody
of the wood's deep quiet...
                                              1908


2.

In the woods there are Christmas trees
With golden tinsel blazing;
In the thickets toy wolves are gazing
With terrifying eyes.

O my prophetic sadness,
O my silent freedom
And the heavens' lifeless dome
Of eternally laughing glass!

                                                1908


3.

In a light shawl, you suddenly slipped
Out of the shadowed hall -
We disturbed no one at all
Nor woke the servants up...

                                                 1908


4.

To have only a child's books for  reading
And only a child's thought to muse,
To let all grown up things disperse,
To  rise out of deep  grieving.

Life has made me mortally weary;
I will take nothing it gives,
But I love my land, poor as it is,
For I've  seen no other country.

So in a far away garden I swung
On a plain wooden swing - I recall
Fir  trees, mysterious and tall,
In my vague delirium.

                                                   1908


5.

More delicate than  delicacy
Your face,
Whiter than purity
Your hand;
Living as distantly
From the world as you can
And everything about you
As it must be.

It must all be like this:
Your sorrow
And your touch
Never  cooling,
And the quiet catch
Of not complaining
In the things you say,
And your eyes
Looking far away...

                                   1909













Back to new poems before I expected to be, I wrote  this  last week.















blank canvas

I can remember every place I ever  had  a haircut
since I was a child,except for any memory of where
I cut my hair for the nine months I spent at Indiana University
or the eleven months I was at a little military base
on Pakistan's  Northwest  Frontier...

I can remember oh so many faces without names
and names without faces...

I can remember being at  places I know  are real
but don't know how I got there...

and the places I  remember in such complete  detail
even though I know  they are not real,  my
clear memory of  places  that don't
exist  and never  did...

black holes in memory as mysterious
as the black holes we can't see in our night sky...

what a boon these holes are to the writer, blank
canvas to imagine on











I'm going back now to the anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets for this poem by Dwight Okita. Born in 1958, Okita  describes his poems as like something you might find in a whiskey bottle along the shore.














The Art of Holding On

So this is Monday.
I open my door and there it is
with the mail: ready, waiting.
And if I step into  like a taxi
will it take me somewhere,
can I roll down  the windows
and shout my name as loud as it will go?
I open my and and feel for rain.
I climb in.
Here we go, hold on.

Marcie slips into Wednesday
like a new dress. I flatters her
and she looks on the bright side,
looks  at  a map and wonders  where
her priorities lie.
All the roads she says.
By evening she is there
and she can count on one finger
all the reasons she came.

Frank likes his Fridays,
wants to hold them in his hands
like pencils and see if they write.
Tonight he will call me out of the blue
and tell me he has great plans for the evening
and I am part of them. See you at 6:00.
The day spins on its edge
and drops like a penny
to the sidewalk - call it
Heads.













Here's another  from last week.














chickenhawk

misty wet this morning
but strong thunderstorms are predicted,
sweeping across Mexico and the Gulf, beginning this
afternoon and extending through the week,
inundating most of Texas,  especially here in the south
where the first strong  winds and rain will pass

and I am here, looking out the coffeehouse's
broad  windows, waiting for Armageddon, listening
for  the distant call of the Horseman's trumpets,
the thundering drums of their army
walking

and even though I know there will be suffering for some,
I look forward to the advancing pillage, a storm rider,
taunting the elements here from my protected
saddle, enjoying the ferocious drama of its
passage

making me, I suppose, a kind of war lover, a shameful
passion some say should shame me but I expect
I will not be embarrassed for I am a man
past is prime who has no use for
golf or the various spectator
sports that set an old
man's blood
a'churning

instead I will take my excitement wherever
I can find it, like here in my comfortable
seat where the thunder can rumble
but the lightning does  not strike
and the wind does not
blow and the rain
does not
fall










Next from my library I  have this poem by Samuel Hazo. The poem is from his book, A Flight to Elsewhere, published by Autumn House Press in 2005.

Born in 1928, Hazo is a poet, professor, playwright and essayist. Director  of  the  International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, he was named the first Poet  Laureate of Pennsylvania in 1983, among many honors he has received.












National Prayer Breakfast

Conventioneers from thirty-seven
  counties throng  the banquet
  hall to hear the message.
A clergyman asks God to bless
  the fruit and rolls.
                                 The President
speaks up for Reagan, Martin
Luther King and having faith
in faith.
               Love is the  common
theme, most of it touching
all of it frank, unburdening
and lengthy.
                      If faith is saying so,
then this is faith.
                              The problem is
  that  must be the problem.
I've always thought that faith
  declaimed too publicly destroys
  the mystery.
                        Years back,
  when Brother Antoninus yelled
  at listeners to hear the voice
  of Jesus in them, Maura said,
  "the Jesus in me doesn'  talk
  that way."
                    Later, when I saw
  a placard bannering, "Honk,
  if you love Jesus," I thought
  of Maura's words and passed
  in silence...
                      Jesus in fact
  spoke Aramaic in Jerusalem,
  foretold uninterrupted life
  and sealed it with a resurrection.
If  he asked me to honk
  in praise of that, I'd honk
  all day.
               But rising from the dead
  for me  seems honk enough
  since  on one's done  it since
  and no one  did it earlier or ever.
Others might disagree, and that's
  their right.
                     But there's an inner
  voice that's one
  on one  and never out of date.
It's strongest when it's most subdued.
I'll take my Jesus straight.













And here's another from last week.














warming my tortugas on a wet,  windy day

struck
dumb
if I can't find a coffeehouse to write in and
it being Monday and my personal  coffeehouse
being closed on Mondays I am doing my Monday
Starbucks tour and actually found one with lots
of room and electric outlets I would come to
other days if I didn't already have my per-
sonal coffeehouse elsewhere, and as
usual for their kind they have their
air conditioner set to frozen
steppes of Siberia even
though it's cool
outside
enhanced to cold by
wind and misty rain and
I'm freezing my tortugas in
here and I often find that I am
struck dumb by even slightly frozen
tortugas so you'll  excuse me if I run on
and on here, running being one good way to
warm up frozen torgugas and fact is I'm feeling
smarter and and smarter all the time maybe suggesting
maybe I should throw this away and start, genius and elegance
of expression having been released by by the toasty warmth of my
tortugas...












Better known for her prose than here poetry, the next poem is by Alice Walker. The poem is from her book Once,  published  in 1986 by The Woman's Press.












Compulsory Chapel

i
A quiet afternoon
the speaker
dull
the New Testament
washed out
Through the window
a lonely
              blue-jay
makes noisy song.

ii
The speaker crashes
on
though his speech
All eyes are
upon him
Over his left
ear
the thick hair
is beginning
to slip.

iii
I would not mind
       if I were

                       a sinner,

but as it is
- let me assure you -
I sleep alone











After several cold and wet consecutive days last week, we  were presented near the end of the week with a beautiful spring day, bright sunshine and warm weather. Sitting at my normal coffeehouse writing station, looking out the window at such a wonderful day I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that I had to write a poem. Luckily our poem-a-day rules allow for occasional punting.












strategic retreat

it is a beautiful day
sun bright
air crisp and light
twirping birds
and scampering squirrels
overhead
while in the right earth
worms
delve in wormish
delight

it is a wonderful day,
its wonders
to be protected not
besmirched by a bad
poem...

just don't  see
the
p
o
i
n
t
of it so I
won't










Next, I have a poem by Jack Marshall, from his book Spiral Trace, published by Coffee House Press in 2013. The book is a series of 85 numbered poems on the experience of aging.

Born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who emigrated from Iraq and Syria, Marshall has received numerous literary awards including a finalist nomination from the National  Book Critics Circle.











60

Seaward morning in the mood
for miracle, grab sight
of a wing, upturned, wide-

open sky, where horizon's
edge  bends
endless  blue dome -

pale, porous  hue
which all that is  matter
passes through.

On my desk, the sky-blue cover page
of a notebook, 1994, faded
white around the edge,

a  cloud's peephole,
upward, the whole
turning pale,

faded as wish that winter
not be visited on spring
coming on. Make it far:

cold, wet, late
winter not finished
with us yet.

Low above sunlit telephone pole,
black cloud stacked behind brown cloud
in blue sky, Rothko sails,

as if a wind rose
in late day in a house
long ago closed,

and the garden cut back in autumn,
in December all
thorn and skeleton.

Though light closes
in winter right
as a rose,

and time touches
what light
never reaches,

where flowers were,
and the weather
was ours,

home is a bloom away,
where sun just set
on New York's day.












Again from last week, looking out my coffeehouse windows, such wonders to behold.
















fanny pack

very fat woman
in very tight stretch pants

so tight that even though
the pants are black as the dark
side of the moon
(speaking of a very full moon)
I can still see the slight rise of freckles
on her ample, tightly-bound
behind...

fanny devotees
rejoice -
so much there for adoration

on the way to the church next door...

if there was an  eleventh commandment
it would surely concern itself
with ample bottoms and very tight
stretch pants

if the United Nations
had a multi-national commission on nylon abuse
it would be voting sanctions
this very minute

...

unable to un-see
I'm left with a whole new meaning for
"fanny pack"
and now I'm stuck with it










The last piece from my library this month is by James Galvin and it's  taken from his book X: Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2003.

Author of seven books of poetry, Galvin is also published prose and a novel. He is winner of many awards and honor and was on the permanent faculty of the Iowa Writer's Workshop  for  many years.












Promises Are For Liars

Because, you know,
Either you're going
To  do it or
You're not.
Slight as light
Reflected from the stream
Onto the wavering
Willow leaves,
Eternal love
Doesn't need
Eternity, see?
A cyclone of sand-
Hill cranes
Rises from the corn
Slathering the
Ephemeral work.
Let's don't worry.
Let's don't ask.
Our institutions
Are standing by.
But I keep thinking
How easy it is
To get lost in the sky
With nothing holy
To defend.













Here's the last poem  for the week, a quiet and restful end to the post.













heaven

light April rain today in March
slow and comfortable
like a warm
dog
curled beside you on the sofa,
sleeping head resting
in your lap deep
breathing dog
heaven







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4 Comments:
at 2:27 PM Blogger davideberhardt said...

i never see any other comments - am i the only one?

nikki giovanni seems a bit off to me- i went to a reading she gave in baltimore where many attended - she said if martin luther king came back he wld b wearing dreadlocks- with this and her praise for va tech after the shootings there- i get the impression she is an opportunist/ sell out

can u prove me wrong? let me know

at 4:46 PM Blogger Here and Now said...

except for you,david, few comment. i appreciate yours and would like to have more. giovanni has special interest in virginia tech. the shooter was a student in her class, very scary she says, had him thrown out of her class.

at 3:21 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

am i posting on the right page? 2nd and 4th black and white photos marvelous- u do not recognize ur own gifts (but that has often been the case w artists) some of the last photos on the list also great - nikki giovanni so overrated- lot of yr poets are prose writers- alto they do not seem to realize

choos an identity- may i?

at 8:44 PM Blogger Here and Now said...

Poetry or prose? - the least interesting thing one can ask about a piece of writing. Did you feel something? Did you learn something? Were you ennobled, amused,moved or in some greater or lesser way changed by the reading? Poetry or prose? that's the kind of irrelevancy lesser talented creative writing professors are paid to talk about.

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