Where the Grass Was Tall and the Air Was Sweet   Wednesday, April 20, 2016





Random photos this week that kinda, sorta, maybe  suggest the post's title.

And poems by me, more me than usual, sharing equal time with German Poetry in Transition 1945-1990, an anthology published by University Press of New England in 1999. It's a bilingual book, with German and English translations by Charlotte Melin on facing pages.


Me
yesterday's wine

Helga Novak
Cain or Abel

Me
new world passage    

Hertha Kraftner
On the Death of a Poet

Me
good enough for Monday

Christi Reinig
February
September

Me
building the dream home

Gottfried Benn 
Half Here, Half There

Me
The Weight of Civilization

Ingeborg Bachmann  
Exile

Me
just diggin' it

Yaak Karsunke
Kilroy was here

Me
surprise party

Brigitte Oleschinski
No Path

Me
a little bit of rain

Reiner Kunze
The Present
Suicide

Me
business plan

Peter Huchel
The Road

Me
and that's a fact

Kito Lorenc
THE VOICE GIVES ME RECOMMENDATIONS               

Me
busy morning

Erik Burkhart
Homo Faber

Me
modified Goldilocks

Me
         if it's broke...         
      










One of the best poets of our time passes and the circle of greats grows smaller.












yesterday's wine

Waylon
             went first
                              then Johnny
                                                   and now Merle's time has come

only Willie is left, 80 years plus, his bus
always on the road,
again,
           heading down that long
                                                   lonesome
                                                                     highway
                                                                                   alone now...


and I mourn in advance
                                        the loss
                                        of yesterday's wine










From the 1955-1965 section of the German antholgoy, this poem is by Helga Novak (aka Maria Karlsdottir). A German/Icelandic writer, Novak was born in Berlin and grew up in East German (before reunification) where she studied journalism and philosophy at the University of Leipzig.

Born in 1935, the poet died in 2013.










Cain or Abel

Germany
wily whore
don't  call yourself
Europe quality work
boom market crown prince
of the economic community

don't call yourself
social-minded
land of the working people
humanely educated
red nation
your skirts are flags
in the winds of the superpowers

right draped in money and
left in banners
you beg
before he portals
for the atom  bomb

you sleep on the
silk pillow of thieves
on the mattresses of the
Pharisees no
you don't trundle
with the ruffians, the coal miners
cudgels and creatures
you destine your newborns
instead of aborting them
to be Cain or Abel








I've spent a lot of time in Austin, about 80 miles up the road from San Antonio. Relatives lived there when I was a child and we visited for a couple of weeks at at time at least once a year. Then in the mid-60s I lived there while attending a university about 20 miles up the road. In all the years since, I visited often, in the course  of doing business. Now we visit frequently to see our son who lives there.

It is an amazingly different place in the years since, population and area more tripled since I lived there, downtown a maze tall  buildings,  including many residential high rises as the city encourages its young population to escape the suburbs and live the urban life downtown.

In the midst of all that, the streets in the old north and south central portions of the city, though everything alongside of them is different, are themselves unchanged from the streets I  drove fifty years ago.

This is a little narrative on our last visit.





new world passage

from Austin, north central, time to go home,
back to the old world, San Antonio
and its 300 years of 
history

forget I-35 through the city
most days,
especially this time of day
most days, 
the longest linear  parking lot
in the United States of America

but
I lived here 50 years ago,
visited many, many times since,
and I know the old way
across town...

45th
to Guadalupe;
Guadalupe
down
the strip
bisecting
the 
UT campus, 
then
through 
downtown
in 
the shadows
of the new
gleaming
in the sun
residential
high-rises;
across
the bridge
over
Lady Bird Lake
to  
1st,
running 
parallel to
South Congress,
the whole 
south
central
part of the city
now called
SoCo
(or,
ten years ago 
after
the area's
redevelopment
chased out 
all 
the street corner
prostitutes,
called
affectionately
NoHoNoMo;
then 
over to
Congress
at 
Ben White
to
Slaughter Lane
and a 
jag
to I-35,
which 
though moving
slow, 
is by this point
at least
moving,
then
the 80 miles 
to
home...
A drive through the heart of the city and everywhere crowds, walking, biking, sipping lattes and cappuccinos and americanos at sidewalk cafes, people everywhere, crowds of young people, pretty young women in Saturday Brunch clusters, young men in Austin-chic shorts and flip-flops and it's like some alien or international force came to the city  and took away everyone over 25 years of age and now there's  no one here but these way-hip youngsters and it must be an exciting place to live and I remember it was exciting, too, when I lived here,  back when, in the redneck-hippy days, but we  didn't have the place to ourselves as it seems these young folks  do, we also had  some old folks around, a  lot of  the redneck- hippiest were old folks themselves, old Bets,old philosophers and poets and singers and pickers and grandstanding forever students, academic hangers-on, loving the life and the nubile young coeds, studying some, but never finishing, people finding new and exciting beats, new and exciting music, hillbilly-hip and nirvana blues, from the heart of where most everything was new - those time exciting too, but it seems different now, as I think a lot of us were hicks in those days, astounded at every new possibility and the new batch seem immune  to the astonishment, assuming assumptions we would never think of in the old days...

But then, maybe it's not so  different, except that being old just go to us, unable to keep up, giving up and moving to Topeka.











The next anthology poet is Hertha Kraftner, from the 1945-1955 section of the anthology.

Born in Austria in 1928, she died in 1951. There is a lot of information on the web, but all I could find was badly translated from German and I couldn't make much of it.











On the Death of a Poet

My friend the poet is dead.
We buried him under a acacia tree.
His companion - a real shrew -
scrubbed the restaurant soup out of is tuxedo
(he wore it for he funeral)
because all is life, she said,
he had longed for purity.
She also  thought the Acacia smelled too strong,
he had always complained privately
about her heavy perfume.
She in turn had suffered, o, suffered she had
from his smell
of ink remover and stage dust
and cut-open paper and sometimes
- unfortunately - sometimes a kind of powder
that she never used.
That's what his companion said
on the way home from the grave,
and that was all that could be said about his life.

Meanwhile he lay quietly under the sweet acacia tree.
If he had known it, he would have stayed up for nights
and tortured himself over some verses,
verses about white acacia blossoms
and a gray, moist morning
and bone bleaching under the grass.













Here's a little Monday note.











good  enough for Monday

back
at the old breakfast stand
one day only because  I was  going this way
anyway
instead of the other way I've been  going  
for months
and in the pasture
on the other side of the highway
the deer (but not the buffalo) still roam

buffalo roaming but have been  nice
but it's Monday
and Bambi-footed deer roaming  a fresh green pasture
on a beautiful sun-bright morning
ought to be good enough
for a Monday








 From the 1975-1990 section of the anthology, this is a poem by Christa Reinig, poet, writer of both fiction and non-fiction,  and a dramatist. She began her career in the Soviet Occupation Zone that became East Berlin. She was banned for publishing in West Germany and moved to the western part of the city in 1964.

Born in Berlin in 1926, she died in Munich in 2008.










February

February 24, Friday

          At times
          the gay shirt
          is closer to me
          than the feminist coat

February 25, Saturday

          and quite apart from that apple
          it's clearly Eve's fault
          that Cain flipped out
          and Abel never made it big

September

September 7, Thursday

          My woman shifts through
          my collected works
          Our poems are more beautiful
          she says 











Here's another morning observation from my coffeehouse perch, a great  place for such observations with its high, wide windows and my reserved table looking out on the world as it passes.










building the dream home

the sparrow
stands on the ledge
on the other side om my window,
mouth full of nest material,
a puff of cotton, twigs,
like a shopper on a Saturday afternoon
at Home Depot, ambitions in lumber and nails
and a 7-foot  pecan tree,trying to get it  all
into his Buick, the bird, like the
shopper, juggling his purchases,  "want to do" overloading
his  "have a clue how to  do,"
looking at me  with his beak-full of dreams and black, panic-looking BB eyes,
as if he is asking for directions to a suitable home-building tree...

"good luck with getting all stuff up into a tree," I  think

"lift with your knees," I advise











This poem, from the 1945-1955 section of this week's German anthology, is by Gottfried Benn, a poet and essayist. Born in 1886, Benn died in 1956.











Half Here, Half There

No Gainsboroughs hung in my parents' home
nobody played Chopin
the muses enjoyed no great status
my father had been to the theater once
at the turn of the century
Wildenbruch's "Meadow Lark" or something,
our bit of culture
and that was it.

All  gone now
gray hearts, gray hair
the garden in Polish territory
the graves half here, half there
but all  Slavic,
Oder-Neisse line -
the contents of coffins couldn't care less
like children think of them
spouses, still too, for a wile
half here, half there
until they have to move on.
Selah, thus ends the psalm.

Even tonight in the metropolis
a cafe terrace
summer stars,
from the next table
the quality of hotels in Frankfurt
comparisons,
the ladies  dissatisfied,
if their frustrations had any weigh
they would each weigh a ton.

But what atmosphere! Sultry night
a la travel  folders and
the ladies step  out of their pictures:
improbable beauties
long-legged, high waterfall
who would even dare to think of them
in bed.

Married couples run a poor second
never make it somehow, balls land in the net
he smokes, she fiddles with her rings
worth a thought, incidentally:
the relation of marriage to a man's creativity -
paralysis or outpouring.

Questions, questions! Memories of a summer night
jotted down, scribbled over
no Gainsboroughs hung in my parents' home
all gone under now
half here, half there the lot
Selah, thus ends the psalm.













I get a lot of thinking done several times a day when my dog takes me for a  walk.










the weight of civilization

walking my dog
under
the interstate 35 overpass
all the weight of civilization thundering over my head
supported by blind faith
and thick concrete
pillars

"piss on 'um,"
says
my dog
as we trod carefully through the high, wet  grass

and then she stops
and does just
that











Ingeborg Bachmann is the next poet from the anthology. A poet, author, writer of radio dramas and collaborator on opera, Bachmann was born in Austria in 1926 and died of complications possibly resulting from barbiturate abuse while being treated for injuries after a fire in here apartment in Rome in 1973.











Exile

A dead body I am, wandering about
no longer registered anywhere
unknown in the realm of the prefect
redundant in the golden cities
and the greening countryside

passed up long ago
not provided with anything

Except wind and time and sound

who cannot live among people
I, with the German language
this cloud around me
and which I keep as a house,
drift through all languages

O how it turns dark
those somber those rain tones
only the few will fall

Up into brighter zones it will then carry the corpse













More of the same, coffeehouse, big  windows, life passing by...











just diggin' it

across the way
three groundskeepers
spread mulch on the landscaped meridian

tomorrow
three more groundskeepers
will arrive with leaf-blowers and in their
obnoxious,noisy way commit a hundred years of erosion
in 25 minutes

they do that every day

meanwhile,
on the patio, a fella who looks  like Errol Flynn
drinks coffee with a pretty young blond
who  looks like a starlet waiting
to  be discovered

forget guns to plowshares...

at what point will we
put aside our shovels
and quit digging our hole
ever deeper...









 Here's another piece form German  Poetry in Transition, this one by Yaak Karsunke from the anthology's 1965-1975 section.

Karsunke is a poet and actor born in Berlin in 1934.











Kilroy was here

when i was 11
"Kilroy was here"
was written on busted walls
on toppled columns
on bar room tables in johns
the yanks wrote it
everywhere

when i was 11
my sisters wore red skirts
the white circle with the four times
broken cross
had been taken off
by my mother & burned
Kilroy was here now

when i was 11 the war
was over & "Hitler kaput"
so were the houses the windows the jews
& germany (what was that?)
that's whey Kilroy had come
taught us about baseball
& chewing gum & coca cola

when i was 11 Kilroy
taught me words like fairness
& democracy
slogans like no more war
taught me to jitterbug
& even with Shakespeare sonnets
the brooklyn accent

when i was 11
those were three golden words
"Kilroy is here"
almost as  good as the three
from the french revolution
that he told us about
freedom & equality & fraternity

when i was 11
my parents had
raised me wrong
Kilroy tried hard
explained the rights of men to me
& the u.n. charter
reeducated me

when i was 11 Kilroy
was the best
friend I had
his house was open to me
in his clubs
i heard jazz & Stravinsky
& no sirens

:much of that was still with me
- years later -
when Kilroy climbed into his plane
loaded it with napalm & disappeared
now  it's written on pagodas
& the smoke black remains of villages
"Kilroy is here"

it's over
between us











I wrote this in February for our wedding anniversary. Don't know why I haven't used it, maybe I just temporarily succumbed to all the "that's not a poem, that's prose" bullshit critics.

Anyway, whatever it is (and I don't really care what) here it is.










Surprise Party

     The first time I told her I loved her was six months after our first date and six months before our wedding, 39 years ago today. It was in the parking lot of El Sombrero Restaurant in Harlingen, Texas, where we met for dinner  after work.

     It was a "mixed" marriage. She was 21, I was ten years older. She was Mexican, I was a gringo redneck. She was Catholic, I was a disbeliever. Neither of us was what the other's parents had expected as a son/daughter-in-law.

     The wedding was in a small Catholic Church in San Benito, Texas. She still goes to mass at least once a week. I go whenever a friend gets married or dies.

     There was a helluva a party after the wedding, family from both sides of the border, Noe Pro  and his orchestra played into the early hours.

     This was on a Saturday night; we both went back to work the next day, honeymooned six months later when we were both in new jobs.

     We bought a house and had a child, the hard way, through an agency.

     And then we moved and bought another house.

     And then we moved and  bought another house.

     Now, both retired, we're spending more time together than any time since that time 39 and a half years ago when I said I love you in parking lot of El Sombrero Restaurant in Harlingen, Texas.

a  long story made
short 

history 
together -
all those  years of it

who would have
thought
such a story
in those long lost summer days 
of 1976

though pleased with the outcome,
it surprised the hell out of
me









Here's a short piece from the German anthology by Brigitte Oleschinski.

Oleschinski was born  in Cologne in 1955. She studied political science and lives in Berlin where she works as a historian.









No Path

Always the tire tracks lead, log such fallow paths,
at chirping noon to the resting places of crumpled dove -
wings, between potsherds and tin, where the
poems still  cling like blown out fingers.

Motionless the hour doubles itself into a ball under the heat, intertwined
with brick shrub.  All around the nodding of the awn,
over which black and forth glimmering beetles hasten.

Once a cow was buried here. Sewn
into its rib cage was a sack. In
this sack a face.













Here I am again, same place, same time (but different day)










little bit of rain

little bit of rain
this morning, not much,
but big drops,
raindrops the size of quarters,
knock small birds right out of their trees,
concuss crickets on the ground

and in a break between the giant raindrops
a young Latina in aviator sunglasses
and tight bicycle pants
and tight neon green bicycle tee
and shoes
and
the big drops start again
and I wonder
if the image is just a  vision,
that,  perhaps like the cricket,
I have been concussed,
but there she is
again
at the door
with an ugly long-haired guy
looking like a refugee from Los Barrios Malcontentos -

ah, the vision,  how deceitfully beautiful...

and the giant raindrops start to  fall
again
and  the day returns to meander its
dim morning trial
again









Now, two extra short pieces by Reiner Kunze. Born in 1933, he was educated at the University of Liepzig where he studied media and journalism. He left the governing party in East Germany upon the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and had to publish under pseudonyms after that. His best known book dealing with life behind the iron curtain was published in West Germany to great acclaim. He moved to West Germany in 1977 upon being exiled from East Germany.

The poems are from the 1965-1975 section of the anthology.










The Present

What do I keep behind lock and seal?

No conspiracy not even
pornography

The past, daughter

To know it can
cost the future


Suicide

The last of all doors

But one  has never
knocked on all the others










 My coffeehouse hangout has an artisan market in its parking lot twice a month. It also seems to be icy cold or rainy twice a month, the same twice a month of the artisan  market.

I  wrote this on one of those icy, rainy Saturdays last winter, then, possibly for good reason, forgot about it.










business plan

supposed to be a perfect day
for the coffeehouse's
regular
Saturday artisan mart

instead,
cold, cloudy,
occasional spitlets
of rain 

and all the vendors rush inside
to warm up with a cup of coffee
and maybe a sandwich or a bacon and cheese
taquito...

a lousy day for artisan mart
vendors

but a great day for selling
hot breakfasts and
coffeehouse
coffee

``````

do you suppose
there could be a business plan
here?








This poem is from the 1945-1955 section of the book. The poet is Peter Huchel.

Born in 1903, served as a soldier in WWII until he was captured by the Russians. Prior to the war he had written radio dramas and upon the end of the war and his release by the Russians, he returned to radio and also became editor of an influential poetry journal. After the Berlin Wall was erected, Huchel came under supervision by the government and from 1962 to 1971 lived in isolation under constant surveillance He was allowed to leave the country. He died in 1981.









The Road

Strangled evening crimson
Of  collapsing times!
Roads. Roads.
Crossways of flight.
Cart tracks across the field
That, with the eyes
Of slain horses,
Saw the burning sky.

Nights with lungs full of smoke,
With the hard breath of the fleeing,
When gunshots
Assaulted the twilight.
Stepping from the broken  gate,
Silently, ashes and wind,
A fire,
Disgruntled, that chewed on the dark.

Dead people,
Flung across the rails,
The smothered scram
Like a stone at their palate.
A black
Cloth of buzzing flies
Closed their wounds.










I wrote this back in January and shelved it, thinking that I shouldn't encourage Texas Republican  politicians in the efforts to be stupid, evil, indecent assholes, but as it turned out they didn't encouragement from me and just went right on being stupid, evil, indecent assholes all on their own.

Since my restraint went unrewarded, I figure, what the hell, here it is.









and that's a fact

the moon is made of green
cheese...

there was a time when people
would have laughed 
at the likes of
that...

nowadays,
if you say that and somehow
it gets on TV or Facebook, a significant number
of people will hear it, stroke their chin,
and say, hmmmmm, makes sense
to me

it is like the malignancy
that is my state's lieutenant governor
who made the claim that states were people
can carry guns have a lower rate of
violent crime - this based on a study 
disputed and disparaged by every professional 
in the field of statistics and good sense,
but that doesn't make any difference,
because,
you know,
we don't need no stinkin'
facts
and arithmetic
'round
here

and it's like the fool
who represents the north side
of San Antonio in Congress
who being  ignorant as a  moss-covered
fence post, and being a Republican besides,
his ignorance and rabid anti-science
is rewarded by being appointed by his party 
as chairman of the House Science Committee
where he will explain, even if you don't ask, how
99 percent of the climate scientists  in the world
have altered  their findings so that Obama can  stick it
to us by imposing socialism on us, that, or Sharia Law or
some such deviltry, he (Obama, of course)being, big surprise,
the Anti-Christ come to take over the world...

it would be comic opera if these people
weren't  so grandly and
proudly
real

and that's a fact









This short piece is from the 1975-1990 section of the anthology. It is by Kito Lorenc.

Born in 1938, Lorenc is a Sorbian-German writer, poet, and translator.











THE VOICE GIVES RECOMMENDATIONS  for surviving in case of atomic war
When canned milk is dropped it will burn up
en route, but you can catch a frog if he's sleeping
He was sleeping
You pull his upper lip over the lower lip
I pulled
Make a cut across his neck
I cut
Insert a tube or straw, drink
and thus transfer his blood
I drank
this kind of frog yields four liters of blood per hour
while you lie beside him according to the voice
I bubbled:
In our commitment to peace
we let no one
outdo us












This is another one from last month that I never got around to using.












busy morning

busy early morning
at the coffeehouse, unusual,
also the couple requiring Spanish,
Mexican tourists I imagine,
early morning visitors at the Pearl
who somehow wandered they way here,
a block away from the main 
attraction...

outside,
a young mother in black stretch pants
pushes baby carriage, red cover like a blaze
under this morning's bright sun, a great new day
form the new human under the cover, the world this cool bright morning,
what a great world to be born in, to perambulate under a red cover 
firing up the day, happy,  healthy mom pushing, showing
the new one of us why the work
of leaving behind mom's warm fluid cradle
was worth the trouble...

welcome, new one, that's  what  I say...

see what we bestow upon you, your birthright -
keep it our of harm's way

as we have not









This is a longer piece from  the 1975-1990 section of the book. It is by Erika Burkart.


Born in 1922 in Switzerland, Burkart received many honors and awards for her work. She died in 2010.









Homo Faber

Sharper year by year that fear
when somewhere you see a man
standing in the countryside. What is he up to?
A buy? A sale?
Does he want to build houses,
lay out a highway,
does he want to concrete the creek,
reconstruct the country lane
and drain the pond?

Is he looking for a site
to start his model airplanes,
to train his dog?
Is he sniffing out mineral deposits? Or
considering the beautiful field
for a garbage dump?

Is he perhaps planning a nature trail,
is he making a picture book called "Pristine Landscape"?
Or, worse yet, is he on the lookout
for a UFO?

Suppose he was simply looking at a blade of grass,
the flowering panicle, the clean stalk,
I would have to report him to the police,
unless he himself confessed to be
just some fool, looking for nothing,
just walking along here and who stopped
because a gnat landed in his eye. 













From last week, another trial of aging.










modified Goldilocks

the creep of age,
becoming a  body-shifter but not like in the scary movies,
instead
a modified-Goldilocks-hang out to dry...

buying clothes
everything either too big
or too small

nothing just right

better
like my poet friend from Atlanta..

just go
bare
as a Georgia
peach











I wrote this back in November, last year, but never did anything with it. Finding it less not so good than I did back then, here it is.

Besides it seems like a kind of appropriate thing to end on.













if it's broke...

it's a broken
day
and I try to mend it
with memories
of days
life-full and
complete
but remember
only days
equally 
broke
but at least
none of those 
broken days
broke
me
so
I suppose
I can survive
this broken 
day
maybe
not happily
but
at least
well
and whole

you wait
the break
wait for the
sun
to stitch
the tears
until I can
sing
the song of
my favored kind,
proclaiming
again
that happy days
are here
again









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Poetry

New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces
 




Always to the Light






Goes Around Comes Around




Pushing Clouds Against the Wind





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Seven Beats a Second






Fiction


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  Peace in Our Time

2 Comments:
at 1:10 PM Blogger davideberhardt said...

the shed w the silver roof photo liked best

the lined rock face w plant- has been done (weston)

in photogrphy- repetition weems expecially taboo= making it a suspect art?

at 1:11 PM Blogger davideberhardt said...

the following quotes collected by a fabulous pianist and teacher- Daniel Weiser, of Baltimore

"All arts aspire towards the condition of music.”---Walter Pater
•“Among all the arts, music alone can be purely religious.”---Madame de Stael
•“Music is the art of arts for it is able to detach the sentiment of the human soul from the chaos of earthly existence.”---William Wackenroder
•“The arts should all be drawn together and take on the sensory effects of one another. Then statues perhaps may quicken into pictures…pictures become poems, poems become music.”---A.W. Schlegel
•“Haydn’s music reminds us of a blissful, eternally youthful life before the Fall…while Beethoven’s music sets in motion the lever of fear, of awe, of horror, of suffering, and awakens just that infinite longing which is the essence of Romaniticism.”---ETA Hoffmann
•“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. It is the wine of a new procreation and I am Bacchus who preses out this glorious wine for men and makes them drunk with the spirit.”---Ludwig van Beet

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Loch Raven Review
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