Winter in the Hills   Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My photos this week are from a mid-winter drive in the hills north and west of San Antonio.

I have new poems from last week, as usual. I also have bits from my last book, Peace in Our Time, a selection of short, flash fiction-like bits that together form a narrative made up of selections from  the diary of a soldier in  a future war.  It's a kind of a science fiction book, a story told in 47 very short pieces about an apocalyptic environmental disaster brought on by an unknown and mysterious enemy. It is a young soldier's story of war with an enemy who seeks  annihilation of the human kind. As a book, it is collection of 47 small pieces, with each little piece having to work on its own while advancing the larger narrative. Also, the book has its mysteries, including the central mystery of the book that isn't revealed until the very end. I have tried here to include pieces that tweak your imagination without giving away too  much.

Creating  the book was a little experiment for me, looking for a way to  write  a longer piece of fiction within the limits of my limited attention span. I think I did well, though I  really wish more of  the books had  been sold and the book itself read by more people.

Like all my eBooks, it is available wherever  eBooks are sold for $2.99 or less.

While we're waiting for that.

silver linings

Philip Levine

from Peace in our Time  
"1. In the early days of the war..."

Anna Akhmatova

sweet things

John Popielaski
elegy for Kenny Bighead 39

 from Peace in our Time 
 "3. In the place of my city"  

Jimmy Santiago Baca  

don't get too close

Donald Justice
Two Songs from Don Juan in Hell      

left hanging

Jessica Helen Lopez
The Room Upstairs

from Peace in our Time         
"4. A stream here..."

Sally Van Doren
Sex at Noon Taxes

Thursday night poetry at the coffeehouse

Tu Fu/Du Fu
 Asking Wu Lang Again
Gone Deaf
Facing Night

from Peace in our Time  
"11. I was sixteen when the Floaters Came..."

Marge Piercy
The Meaningful Exchange

The Ancient Song of a Woman of Fez

from Peace in our Time  
"13. Naked by the Sweat Rock..."

from Peace in our Time  
"23. A woman in the snow.."

We finally got some rain, great rain, no big thunderstorms, just slow,  steady rain that went on for hours, great soaking-in rain.

silver  linings

like a spot-lit circle
on a dark stage, the sun outside
so bright i makes colors
like fearsome warriors
on attack

all around the lit circle
in all directions
dark clouds
relief, threaten (maybe)
more relief than some can  handle
as dry creeks roar
with flash-flooding  rain  water

there will  be some
who in sublime disregard
will drive into those creeks
and die

bad luck for them,
such luck so often a by-product
of  ignorance

my grass and plants
will live again, at least
for a little while...

for lives, the constant balancing
that our green and careful
Mother  insists upon...

For my first poem from my library  this week, I have this by Philip Levine from his book, 1933. The book was published by Atheneum in 1981. It is a book, as sometimes the very best are, of memories.

Born in 1928, Levin died in  2015, 15 years after he was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. Best known for his poems about working-class Detroit, he taught for more than 30 years at California State University - Fresno and won the Pulitzer Prize  for Poetry in 1995.


They would waken
face to  face, the windshield
crystaled,the car
so cold they had to get out.
Beyond the apple orchard
they saw where the dawn sun
fell among plowed fields
in little  mounds of shadow
and a small stream ran black below
where the rocks slept.
Her wrists pounding
against it, she rubbed
the water in her eyes
and temples, the iron taste
faint on her tongue.
And they'd bet going, stopping
for cokes and gas
and cold candy bars all
through Ohio,
and when the sun failed
north of Toledo
they were almost there,
the night sky burning
up ahead at River Rough
like another day.

Another day.
Now he was gone, the children
grown up and gone
and she back home,
or whatever you could call it,
West Virginia.
A wafer of  sunlight
on the pillow and she rose
and heard the mice startled
beneath the floor boards. Washed
the sink, lit the stove
and waited.Another day
falling into the fields,tufted
like a child's quilt.
Beyond the empty yard
a wall of poplars  stared back,
their far sides
still darkness, and beyond,
its teeth  dulled with rust,
the harrow tilted
on one frozen wheel, sliding
back to earth.

This is the introductory bit to my book, Peace in Our Time. It is an eBook, and, like all my eBooks, available wherever eBooks are sold.

1. In the early days of the war...

     In the early days of the war, back when most had shoes and my baby sister was a virgin and I was in love and we did not yet know the taste of horse or pigeon.

      We had so much to learn...

For the next poem I return to an anthology I used a couple of weeks ago, Ain't I a Woman, subtitled "A Book  of Women's Poetry from Around the World."

The poem is by one of my favorite Russian poets, Anna Akhmatova,  who, born in 1889, survived the Russian revolution and the oppressive Communist regimes that followed, and died in 1966.

Her poem was translated by D.M. Thomas.


    I am air and fire...Shakespeare

She has kissed lips already grown inhuman,
On her knees she has  wept already before Augustus...
And her servants have betrayed her. Under the Roman
Eagle  clamor the raucous trumpets, and the dusk has
Spread. And enter the last hostage to her glamor.
"He'll lead me,  then, in triumph?" "Madam, he will
I know it." Stately, he has the grace to stammer...
But the slope of her swan net is tranquil still.

Tomorrow, her children...O, What small  things  rest
For her  to do on earth - only to play
With this fool,  and the black snake to her dark breast
In differently, like  a parting  kindness, lay

This also from last week, extrapolation from observation.

sweet things

a stringbean of a fella,
walks all hunched over
like he expects God to start
throwing rocks at him any minute

all the waitresses
rush over to give him a hug,
including my favorite, Santa Linda,
and I'm jealous...

never ever be a  stringbean fella
again but maybe if I can walk in like him
all hunched over like that
maybe I could get  some of that sexy loving  as well

it's been a long time since I got any sexy loving
like that, and I suppose if I  thought I could get some like he got
I'd come  in on  my hands and knees

such deprivation of sexy loving
to eliminate
from a man's psyche
any concern of diminished 

just tell me what I need to do,
sweet things,
and I'm
with bells  on
or maybe black latex
with skin diver's mask and snorkel 


The next piece from my library is by John Popielaski, It's from his book Isn't  It Romantic?, published by Texas Review Press in 2012. I don't  remember buying the book and don't remember reading any of its poems until  now.

The poet, born in 1968 is from Portland, Connecticut. This is his third book.

Elegy for Kenny Bighead, 39

If you're inclined toward admiration
for this man whose prized possession
was the bottle-cap collection
he'd amassed  since he began
the steady drinking in the ninth grade
like the rest of us,
I'll have to pigeonhole you
as an optimist, not cockeyed
necessarily but as  a person
who, despite these rouged cheeks
and this silk tie on this torso,
sees the bright side even
as his mother, an Italian,
trembles in the front  row, dabbing
hopelessly at  eyes that  won't obey.

We tripped once at a Dead show
fifteen years  ago this month
at RFK in Washington, our seats
a tier down from the nosebleeds,
and I wondered then what someone
in the anti-psychedelic field
of HVAC repair and installation
on Long Island saw in that
environment of glow sticks
and ecstatic dance and shared  belief
in the redemptive power
of a band's extended mams.

It wasn't cool to ask.

And we diverged. I heard,
I heard, I heard about his progress
toward decline, the morning six packs
and the nights he still parked in
the power trails, the dense glow
of the seamless joints that made him
sense the inarticulate expression
of the cosmos in the  ordinary
objects that, when  he  was younger
he attempted on occasion to explode,
and no one whom I know was too
surprised when they were told,
but even knowing what we know
it is surreal to see him
dressed like this,  embalmed,
supine among the flowers, mourned here
by we ironists,who  afterward
will drink to him and shake our heads
like wizened sages at is passing.

Here's another piece from my book, Peace in Our Time, still early in the story.

3. In the place of my city...

     In the place  of my city there are gaping holes, like rotted teeth in the earth; in the place of grand boulevards, muddy cow paths unvisited by cows long slaughtered; in the place of orchards there are  gallows;  and  hanging from their  limbs, not the crisp taste of winter  apples but the foul stench of fruit, rotting.

The next poem is from one of my favorite books in my library by Jimmy Santiago Baca. The book is Healing Earthquakes, a highly autobiographical book published by Grove Press in 2001.

Baca, born in Santa Fe in 1952 of Chicano and Apache descent, overcame a life of hardship and struggle in part because of his love of  reading and earned a Bachelors degree at the University of New Mexico, becoming a leading American poet.


Graffiti on walls. Large tablets of stone Moses Sedillo
scribbles  on about freedom. Our Berlin walls
our Juarez border. Agents in helicopters, others
in green jeeps, insomniacs with yellow faces lit
by monitor screens, check buses, cars, trucks and pedestrians -

and Moses Sedillo scribbles on about freedom.

In October. the freedom of leaves changing colors,  burying
     themselves in the
ground. Small golden coffins floating down the ditches.
     And then the
wiry, haggard  branches become old men  tottering behind
     the coffins,
fallen in the dirt road, leaning against fences. Moses
     throws himself
on the park grass and smells the green grass, the black earth, the
fine, thin coldness of the atmosphere.

He scribbles about freedom on walls.
No one knows what he means. the cops label him a vandal.
     The upper-middle
class folks  from the  Heights are filled with fear, and the people
     in  Santa Fe are angry
when they see his black letters on white adobe walls. Moses gives a
nondescript  shrug of indifference and walks about the
     mountains and arroyos,
in the midst of aspens, thinking of  beauty.

But Viviano from Nicaragua knows what Moses is saying.
Karina from El  Salvador reads the words to her children after  she buys
                                                          tortillas from the store.
Perfect  Flores, el viejo del barrio who goes to visit his
                          brothers every month in Durango, understands
                          the graffiti.

When the wall is painted over, the words  push through the paint
        like prisoners' hands
                                          through prison bars
                                          at strangers passing on the streets.

Sometimes the observations get to close.

don't get too close

intense discussion,
the middle-aged man and woman
sitting under one of the umbrellas
outside, the man gym-fit, thin, the woman,
not so thin, flat, acne-scarred face and
blond hair,wiping tears...

I can't help but watch
since  they're sitting right outside
my window, right in front of me,
and every time I raise my head from my laptop
she and I are face to  face and I'm looking directly
into her teary eyes and she into mine...

I am an eavesdropper, I tell  people

it is my job as a writer to lurk around  the edges
of other people's lives, I say

but this is too close...

I've crossed the edge with this pair
and now I'm in the middle of their lives
and whatever is the cause that roils it,
their hard times, not  seen from a safe  distance,
but like a low boat in high water,
I'm in the middle of  their churn and turmoil

I'm a people-person, that's the way
I like to think of myself,  but the harsh truth is
I'm a people person only as long as  the people
stay at a safe remove from  my  person...

so much grief in the world and  its people,
safe at a distance to see and write about,
but wearying  if you get to close...

babies dead on Mediterranean beaches,
women murdered by their fathers
for the sake  of "honor," children growing
up  angry and ignorant, men and women
stunted in youth, angry and ignorant for
all their lives,  so much of  it out there,
too hurtful to allow  too close

like the two outside
under the green umbrella,
whatever their personal and specific
grief - they will be in  my dreams

Next from my library is this poem by Donald Justice, from his book Selected Poems,  published by Atheneum in 1979.

Born in Miami in 1925, he has been described as one of the most quietly influential poet of the twentieth century. He died in 2004.

Two Songs from Don Juan in Hell

1  Sganarelle's Song

The gardens are golden with leaves.
Notes  drawn on the season's Exchange;
But my purse is as  limp as the sleeves
That amputees learn  to  arrange

           No, no.  nothing assuages
           the pain of damnation
           Like regular wages
           And a two-weeks vacation

The sun and the moon are as bright
As coins that collectors collect.
But why should my purse be so light
With no sun or moon to reflect?

             No, no nothing assuages, etc.

2  Don Juan's Song

The devil's like a jealous, jealous husband,
But I must blame his horns upon another.
Oh, evil's like a young wife from the country,
Approachable, but hardly worth the bother.

Damnation's like an heiress, much proposed to.
Why has she chosen me to be her groom?
Hell is a cheap hotel, if continental:
The bridal suite is just a small,  hot room.

A little whiny. but what the hell. My Certificate of Poetic Latitude includes occasional whining.

left hanging

5:30 P.M.
and I am safely and comfortably
drinking coffee and reading the Times
at my favorite friendly diner
while outside
the daily commuter ant hill
is  alive, all the ants scurrying 
in all the colors of Detroit and
ports foreign...

and the strangest ting
is there are days when I
miss the ant hill and the fierce joust
for fender to bumper  
supremacy, King of the Hill
in the morning
to set the tone for the day
and King  of the Hill in the evening
to celebrate the day's wins
to  sublimate the day's losses,
the aggressive drive of winners
and losers the same at the
beginning  and end of days...

remembering days of  living
in ways that counted, kicking over
the ant hill, something more 
than finishing the day with
black coffee and a newspaper,  not like
today such an anti-climax is the sun's falling
when nothing I did made any kind of mark
to announce my passing, leaving no tracks
in the grit of time..

it wasn't always so,  but it was long ago,
long enough you'd think I  would have
come to accommodate the new realities
of age and obsolescence, but
to remember  the sand between my toes
when I crossed the beach, making
things happen,nostalgia now, remembering
important things done when I was there
to push through the bubble of inconsequentially
that cocoons those who drift through life
without the propulsive power  of  purpose
and direction...

the cocoon hangs dry and abandoned
these  days, waiting
for the transfiguration that will
never come

This from my library is by Jessica Helen Lopez, taken from her book Always Messing with Them Boys. The book  was published by West End Press in 2011.

Lopes is a three time member of the Albuquerque slam team and of the 2008 National Champion UNM Lobo Slam Team. She has published two books of poetry, this being the first one, and has been named City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate.

The Room Upstairs

It is  a lonely bottle night
me and my cigarettes
my dogs
the smoke chokes the carpet
in  her bed
our daughter is sleeping
like you do
all underwear
and no  blanket
you curled up a
man-sized fetus on the couch
it is a declaration of your independence
I wish you were here
I am glad you are not
you strangle me
even in your sleep
even from downstairs
me in my safe haven on the second floor
divided by fourteen steps
and all of the world

our unspoken guilt
our brilliant arrogance

The empty stairwell tells of our separation
this mini divorce
we marry
we cleave
I gave birth to you
but you are not my child
and we know not the
pact of unconditional love

maybe by Wednesday
we will meet again
until then
I am  proud Cuba
and you a stubborn embargo

the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean
is made of fourteen steps
twenty cigarettes
and two bottles of lonely
lukewarm beer

From Peace in Our Time, the narrator of the story, the young soldier, remembers better times.

4. A stream here...

    A stream here, Maggie lying with me in the cool of an autumn eve, pale skin, breasts inviting my kisses, the blush of desire, together entwined under a full October moon.

    I remember Maggie lying with me here that day.

    It was before the clouds parted.

This  poem, also from my library, is by Sally Van  Doren from her book, Sex at Noon Taxes, published 2008 by Louisiana State University Press.

Born and raised in Missouri, Van Doren, graduated from Princeton University and earned a Masters Degree at the University of Missouri, St Louis. She received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for this collection, her first.

Sex at Noon Taxes

    After a painting of the same title by Ed Ruscha

From the ghost town's
fence post, my lariat ropes
your palindromic peak
and hauls it to our bedroom,
where the timbers arch to  hold off
the mountain's hooves - no
avalanche turns snowfall into
uncorraled horseshoes.
The  steeds  bear us up slope,
we reach the muddy cleft
between Maroon  Bells
and Crested Butte,gnawing
on caribou and warmed
liver of once noble elk.


For women some  of who they are
is what they wear and how
they wear their hair that day.

It's rare to get past the flip
of the tress and the gloss
of the puckered lip.

Who can eat lunch when
Vanity thrusts herself out
from every perfumed spore?

Swallow surfeit's opposite
this once, and smell Beauty
moving up from under woman's
widening hips, an extra serving
on the plate of the starved aesthete.

It seems like there are nightly poetry readings on every corner here in San Antonio, like every bar and coffeeshop has one at least one night a week.

Trying to  break into the schedule and develop and reliable of listeners and readers is tough. We had a pretty good turn-out last night, nothing like what  they get at the big, long-established venues, but a good crowd for laid-back newbies like us..

Thursday night poetry at the coffeehouse

the dim yellow dusk
at the end of a rainy day

the sun,
hidden for most of the day
struggles to make its mark
before the night gathers and spreads
its thick ebon robe over the land

street lights in the mist-damp air
cast crystal shadows across
the gleaming

moody night, mysterious strangers,
dark corners, slow-drifting fog 
slips in quietly below 
downtown bridges,
cover the
and  river walkers...

I watch through the window
as the night rolls softly across
the  sky


poetry night, Thursday Night Poetry
at the coffeehouse,
I host,
for the other poets
so I can start
the show

Next from my library I have several  short poems by the ancient  Chinese master Tu Fu (sometimes identified as Du Fu). Tu/Du was a prominent poet of the Tang Dynasty, considered, (along with  Li Po) as the greatest of Chinese poets. Although initially little known  to other writers, he came to be hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese literary culture. With more than 1,500 of his poems preserved, he is known  as the Historian/Poet and the Sage/Poet, while the variety of his output has led him to be referred to the Chinese Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, and even Baudelaire.

I  like the "this-worldliness" of the ancient  Chinese, Tu Fu is an excellent example of  this quality.

I've taken his poems from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu, translated by David Hinton and published by New Directions in 1989.

Asking of Wu Lang Again

Couldn't we  let her  filch  dates from your  garden?
She's a neighbor. Childless and without food,

Alone - only desperation could bring her to this.
We must be gentle, if only to ease her shame.

People from far away frighten her. She  knows us
Now - a fence would be too harsh. Tax collectors

Hound her, she told me, keeping her  bone  poor...
How quickly thoughts of war become falling tears.

Gone Deaf

Grown old as Ho Kuan Tzu, a hermit
Lamenting  this world, like Lu P'i  Weng,
How long before my sight also dims away?
For over a month now, dear  as dragons:

No Autumn tears follow a gibbon's cry
And  no  old-age  grief  a sparrow's  chitter.
Mountain yellows fall. Startled,  I  call
Out to my son Are there northern  winds?


Roads not yet glistening, rain slight,
Broken clouds darken after thinning away.
Where they drift, purple cliffs blacken.
And beyond - white birds blaze in flight

Sounds of cold-river grown familiar,
Autumn sun  casts moist shadows. Below
Our brushwood gate, out to dry at the village
Mill: hulled rice, half-wet and fragrant.

Facing Night

In farmlands outside a lone city, our
River village sits among headlong waters.
Deep mountains hurry brief winter light
Here. Tall trees calming  bottomless wind,

Cranes glide in to misty shallows. Sharing
Our thatch  roof,  hens settle in. Tonight
Lamplight scattered across koto and books
All night long, I can  see  through my death.

From Peace in Our Time, the war continues and is being lost, against an aggressor no one understands.

11. I  was sixteen when the Floaters came...

    I was sixteen  when the Floaters came.

    My sister's husband,  Mica, was the first into the fight, then my brother,  Seth. My turn came the day of the great  collapse,  the End of Delusion Day.

     I don't know  what has happened to my mother and father, or Mica, or Seth or my little sister, Beth. If they are not alive,  I hope they died quickly.

    My world now is this mud, this blood, this  stink.

    When my time comes, I hope it comes quickly.

For my  last library poems this week I turn to two poems from the anthology Ain't I a Woman, a  Book  of Women's Poems from Around the World that I used in last  week's post and earlier in this post.

The first poem is by American poet, Marge Piercy.

The Meaningful Exchange

The man talks
the woman  listens

The man is a teapot
with a dark green brew
of troubles.
He  pours into the woman.
She carries the sorrows away
sloshing in her belly.

The man  swings of lighter.
Sympathy quickens him.
He watches women pass.
He whistles

The woman lumbers away.
Inside his  troubles are
snaking up through her throat.
Her body curls delicately
about them, worrying, nudging
them into some new meaningful shape
squatting now  at the center of her life.

How much  lighter I feel,
the man  says, ready
for business.
How heavy I feel, the woman
says: this must be love.

The second  poem is an anonymous traditional  piece from Morocco translated by Willis Barnstone.

The Ancient Song of a Woman of Fez

I see a man who  is dull
and boring like no one else.

He is heavier than massive mountains.
When he laughs he shakes the plains of Gharb,
when he cries the coastal cities tremble.

To look  at an  ugly man
gives me a headache.

The war in  the book, Peace in Our Time, has moved on. Organized military resistance is  tattered and torn. Discipline has broken down and as the remaining fighters roam the countryside in small groups.

13. Naked by the sweat rock...

    Naked by the sweat rock, we struggle,  clinched tight together, slippery with sweat,  arms, chests, cocks, knees pushing, bumping together, desperately we try to disadvantage the other while avoiding damage to ourselves.

    He  found an old can of tuna,  tried to hide it, won't share.

    We struggle, and in the end, I kill the son-of-a-bitch.

    Nobody cares.

    The son-of-a-bitch wouldn't  share his  tuna.

The next (and last  for the week) from Peace in Our Time, is near the middle  of the book. It  is a good place to stop before too much of the story gets revealed.

The war by this time, is irrevocably lost. There is no resistance anymore, just a few individual survivors doing their best to stay alive. The narrator meets only three fellow humans from this point in the book. Three who could be welcome company or could be a threat. All contact with other people is avoided because the more people congregated together the easier target for the "Floaters."

The first of the  three is this woman. Later there is a boy who at one  point saves his life, and an  old man very near the end of the book who explains the central mystery of the book - who are these "Floaters" and why have they set out to eliminate humanity.

23. A woman in the snow...

    A woman in the snow, back against a tree, the tree protecting her from the butcher's wind.

    Dirty, wrapped in multiple layers of cloth, like a  heavy theater  curtain,  dirty too, stolen, pulled down from  an old theater somewhere.I don't know  where; don't where  there could be a theater. I don't even know where I am.

    A woman, filthy,  in rags, like me, freezing to death in the dark winter,  like me, a survivor, like me. She fights against the cold and will fight against  me if I get close.

    Though  I haven't seen a woman in six months, haven't talked to a woman in even more time than that, haven't fucked a woman since the camp whore in the second year of the war, this one doesn't even  entice me to try.

    I think we have all gone insane.

As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and to me

Also as usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and a not so diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Copia, Garner's, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando and Kobo (and, through Kobo,  brick and mortar retail booksellers all across America and abroad


New Days & New Ways

Places and Spaces

Always to the Light

Goes Around Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind

And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio

Seven Beats a Second


Sonyador - The Dreamer


  Peace in Our Time


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