And It's Another Fine Mess We've Gotten Us Into   Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Planning for the new year.

remember it well

so much
can be
will be
over the course
of four years

I know,
I have
the best
and worst
of it

the best

it well
so that one day
it can come

Most regular stuff, random photos, random poems, etc. except, non-randomly, I have poems from some of my long time poet friends.

the young women at my new coffeehouse

Bharat Shekhar
Being Other

I ain't a'scared ah no ghost

Joanna M. Weston
Home Floors
The Bear Market
The Cut
House Cats


Sean Brendan-Brown
King of Wounds

wait, don't dial up the hot line just yet      

Dan Cuddy
A Dirty Coffee Cup

new pasture

Claribel Alegria
Mortally Wounded

abuelit de los todos

Gary Blankenship
The crowd laughs at her blackguard oaths

celebrity countdown

Miguel Hernandez
I Have Plenty of Heart

empty streets

Arthur Rimbaud
Morning of Drunken Ecstasy

the day after Christmas

Lily Brown 
Sitting in the Car

morning song

Lorine Niedecker
Who was Mary Shelley...

the first of my many mistakes

 All things new in the new year.

the young women at my new coffeehouse

the young women
at my new coffeehouse,
all sleek and put-together,
look like the pretty young  actress,
always the first victim
in a teenage slasher
flick, the nubile young girl
all jiggly in a thin tank-top, who
hears a bump in the night
and foolishly goes into a dark room
to check it out

you know the rest...

and the young
men mostly make me think of
Scooby Doo and the young doofus
Shaggy Rogers
who is the comic foil  for his mates
and the dog
me confused here at the coffeehouse,
seeing the doofuses
hanging out with the pretty young
slasher-bait cuties,
apparently in an affectionate, likely
sexual, relationship on with the other,
a puzzle to me,
except maybe in these new  days
doofus has become the new male sex symbol,
lusted after by all the small-part
movie starlets, and I'm jealous that
style has finally caught up
to  the doofus I was...

to late, unfortunately
being as I  am not and elder doofus 
and the magic just doesn't  
work out for me as it might have
in the long ago days of my

This poem is by my poet-friend Bharat  Shekhar, a freelance writer living in New Delhi.

Being Other

"The trick," she said,
"is not to wonder
whether trees dream,
but to dream
as they do."

Then he was ground,
pushing into ground,
a hundred lithe tails,
his roots -
tongues  writhing
with the elemental taste
of mud minerals,
and worms who
left glistening trains
of wet kiss saliva.

Then he was  ground ,
pushing up from ground,
capillaries coursing nutrients,
packed in wood,
wrapped by bark,
running in rivulets,
drawing water
to the tips of branches
were chloro filled leaves
danced the breeze green.

He felt the hundreds
of small feet
hop scurry gently
on him
singing in birdsong.

And inside him,
a multitude of
sanctum  sanatoriums.,
that birds had hollowed out
and  lined
with feathers, twigs
and the chirp of
little hungry throats

Now it was darkening.
He felt each leaf
grow heavy
with dew  drops
as she wrapped
vine arms around
his  trunk.

I think I ended last week with old poems from 2013. I'll start there again.

I ain't a'scared ah no ghost

my old dog,
lovely Reba, did not like
dark place,
requiring wide detours
around storm drains when walking...

my new dog,
bashful Bella,
loves dark places and little holes
and niches, ever curious, always wants to know
what there is where she can't

I know people
like Reba, always just a nod
aware from a nightmare...

well, I know a  few like Bella

mostly they're  the ones you read about,
riding rockets into the deep dark
above, sailing tiny ships
from sea to sea to  sea, all around the world, or running
for president, taking chances despite all odds,
bull riders t the rodeo, firefighters
and navy Seals, all  entertaining
us with  feats  that make us shiver...

I'm not one of those,
but not one of the other

I'm one of the reasonable ones,
charting the orbits the rockets must traverse,
but never on board for the ride,
watching the little boats berthed
at the marina, bobbing
slightly in the incoming tide, making
queasy my cautious landlubber stomach,
sending my $20 check off
to the candidate I think I might
still like for a least a month after the election,
assuming he or she wins,
which I know, even as I write the check, they  probably
won't, the reason my check is $20
and not $200, political activism prudently restrained
to the low  double digits...

always shaving the odds, that's what us reasonable
people do, buying the cowboy hat but staying
off the raging bucking bull, my wagers always symbolic,
placed so I  can say I did, never laying enough on the line
to  make winning or losing a make or  break

I'll go to the fire
but make no commitment to picking up  a hose,
never go close enough to the fire
to feel the heat that singes
the skin, crisps
the hair,
the exact safe distance
calibrated, precise  calibration
being that at which all reasonable men

not like Reba,
but not  like Bella  either,
an in-between kind

not afraid of ghosts
I say,
but also not one to knock  on haunted house doors
at Halloween...

The next  poems are by my poet-friend from Canada, Joanna M. Weston.

Joanna says she is married, has one cat,  multiple spiders, a herd of deer and two derelict hen houses.  She has two recent books, a middle-reader, Fame and  the McGuire from 2015 and more recently, A  Bedroom of Searchlights published last year.

Home Floors

that dream of polished
floors mirror smooth
waiting for  dancing shoes
footlights     cheers
instead my boards are
smeared with spilled honey
crumbs     splashes
of washing up  water

nothing  so  feral
as lake-flat
the occasional gull
splashing down
into  it's own beak

just the usual
homely grot lying
ready for me
to walk in
and spread the mess

The Bear Market

a grey flannel morning
when the suits  parade
out and down
in a Mercedes world
wheels spinning
toothed mustaches
angled to fit
over smirked mouths
where  remarks cut
deep into  paper troughs
pig's  swill frothing
over bullish profits
nothing left for
poverty's ragged
bear market street
a  smart  line of green

The Cut

these stitches
pierce flesh
in and out
pulling one side
to the other

I grit my teeth
stretch a smile
to fool doctor
and myself
for just a while

and let  blood
seep  through
where the knife
slid in
so easily

House Cats

I lived with mangy lions
for several years
reamed wax  from  ears
wiped runny noses
changed flea collars

they roamed my house
settled on beds
spread  dandruff & mites
until I moved
into an empty chicken barn

added living & bed
bathrooms & fireplace
the lions visited often
finally moved in
I vacated in  lieu of rent

I  live in the house again
but big cats lick
the windows at night

A moment, quick to come and go.


large  early
perfectly round
like a ball
fuzzed by thin
like an orange
tennis ball
caught mid-lob
over a black  asphalt

This poem is from the anthology American Diaspora,  Poetry of Displacement published by University of Iowa Press in 2001.

The poet is Sean Brendon-Brown,  graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He lives in Olympia, Washington where he words as a photographer for the investigative division of an insurance company. His work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies.

King of Wounds

He lived on our place
since before I was born -
more uncle than hired hand.
Pawnee, he changed his name
to King of Wounds after Korea
part joke, part serious

because he believed fighting
the Chinese had changed
his vision forever at Chosin:
the vision he had at fourteen
of an owl flying loop-the-loops
in a circle of red moon, talons
clutching a shrieking white
rabbit. His name then had been
Johnny No-Horses. He returned
from Korea with a box of medals
and as scarred as Frankenstein but enough
disability pension it didn't matter no
one was hiring Indians;
my father hired him.

King of Wounds. Odd even  among
men reluctant to judge. He rode his
circuit of fences at night because that's
when cattle break out or men in.
He loved stars and meteor showers
and considered insomnia a blessing.
A beautiful woman once tried to lure
him to the city - she tried everything.
They had a good time and King of Wounds
wore the pearl button shirts she bought
but at last she went home alone.
When I asked him about it all he said was
         on those barren islands
         they die blamed and blaming.

Still on the old-time train. This one from 2014. An old poem and an older story.

wait, don't dial up the hot line just yet

atmospheric bounce is helping
pushing the radio  signal across a
continent, reception
5 by 5, perfectly clear...

I've been monitoring the movement
for over an hour now,
squadrons it seem, moving from code-named
place to place, number 46 going to this place
while number 27 is going here
and 86 is going there, all around mother Russia
it seems edging into the Warsaw Pact
countries, Poland, Hungry, East Germany,
Czechoslovakia, here and there, here
and there, squadrons of individual
planes or combinations,
identification and destination coded,
new codes I've never heard
before, something
happening, don't know what,
don't know what to
so hold on until I figure it out...

the chess pieces moving
for a new war? doesn't seem like it,
no report of bombers
just these strange movement,
presumably fighter-units,
that don't seem  to go anywhere but in circles...

Armageddon,might have been...

or, as it turned out,
no fighter-units,
no code named destinations, just
taxi cabs, dispatched
to street addresses all over

atmospheric bounce sending signals
never heard this far away
there origins

the cold war
stays cold, nuclear war averted,
and my midnight shift ends, time
to hang up my ears
and head out to the NCO club
for breakfast and a
a lot like yesterday,
another day,
another buck fifty-five
in first line defense of our country,
God help  our poor

affirming -
in war and peace
the important things never

         (Darmstadt, West Germany, 1967)

This piece is from  another of my poet-friends,  Dan Cuddy. Dan lives Baltimore and,  like me, is retired from public service.

A Dirty Coffee Cup

coffee cups with one side splattered with dried drops
streaks with the head of the comet at the bottom...
did not see fit to wipe the cup clean
like the sun wipes  a comet from its space;
comets do encroach, you know,
sometimes boom into planets,asteroids,
more often take the plunge into the sun
and like the sound "blip"

but the world is not on my coffee cup,
though of course it is,
including the head of a pin
is in the great universe that we imagine;
look at the infinitesimal energy
holding the macro-forms together;
just imagine the emptiness of our solid world

a  tangent from this circle of thought,
think  Night of the Comet,
people  reduced to sand,
the survivors with so much Gucci and Versace to choose from,

and all this from a dirty coffee cup

So far the new year has left me mostly with a sense of dislocation.

new pasture

I was talking to a rancher
one day
and he was explaining
how hard it is to move your cattle
to a new pasture, how like people
they are, wanting their favorite
places, their favorite grass,
their favorite trees
to lie under when the sun
gets hot in summer,
how they get moody nd
balky until they finally adjust,
except for some who just never
get comfortable with such a change
in their placid bovine life...

and I get that, I'm pretty much
like an old bull myself right now,
looking for new pasture, moping
and moody, seeking the comfort
of old in the new where
it will never be...

This poem is from another anthology, Spirits of the Age, Poets of Conscience, published by Quarry Press in 1989.

The poet is Claribel Alegria, from Nicaragua. Born in 1924, Alegria is a poet, essayist, novelist and journalist who is  major voice in contemporary Central America.

Mortally Wounded

When I woke up
this morning
I knew you were
mortally wounded
that I was too
that our days were counted
our nights
that someone had counted them
without letting us know
that more than ever
I had to love you
you had to love me.
I inhaled your fragrance
I watched you sleeping
I ran the tips of my fingers
over your skin
remembered the friends
whose quota was filled
and are on the other side:
the one who died
a natural death
the one who fell in combat
the one they tortured
in jail
who kicked aside his death.
I brushed your warmth
with my lips:
mortally wounded
my love
perhaps tomorrow
and I loved you more than ever
and you loved me as well.

       Translated by Caroline Forche

On to 2015.

Just to be clear, I don't vouch  for my Spanish.

abuelita de los  todos

the rotund little crossing guard, silver curls
trickling under the back of
her white crossing guard cap,
commands the intersection
with the authority of her  orange vest,
parades sternly across the rush-hour street,
little feet paddling fast against the cold asphalt,
like a mother duck
she pulls in her wake a gaggle of
tiny ducklings, all bundled,  head to toe,
against the cold

whatever else might befall them
as the day progresses,  her  little charges are safe for now
under her fierce shield...

abuelita de los todos -
la guarda bajo el sol naciente

This piece is by my poet-friend from Washington, Gary Blankenship.

This is the second part of a four part poem that is part of a long series of poems Gary wrote based on Whitman's Song of Myself. I posted the first part some weeks ago.

From Song of Myself - Prostitute

The crowd laughs at her blackguard oaths

They pour out of saloons ad faro dens
to pack the muddy street with their jeers
as when

the congregation taunted their neighbors
before they were hung as witches

the market rabble cried for Pilate
to let the guilty man go

in accordance with the law
the village set out to stone the sinner

Course men pick up clods of horse shit
to bolster their nerve as they torment the whore
as when

a mob stormed the delta after rumor's a darky
raped a farmer's daughter three counties over 

sans-culottes jeered their enemies
as their tumbrel rumbled towards the guillotine

The women look from behind fly-specked
windows, toddlers clinging at their aprons,
and remember

who washed the Nazarene's feet
and dried them with her hair

The stray dogs slink away
before they become the target

Got into a discussion about encounters with famous people.

Decided to try to remember mine.

celebrity countdown

first off,
there was my contact with President Ike
when I was about 8 years old, saw
him in his limo as it passed, well,
the truth is I saw a bald head
in a limo as it passed, 
this being much like
the time years later in Paris
when I saw De Gaulle pass in a lime
on Champs Elysees or, well, again,
I saw a bunch of French police on motorcycles
pass, clustered around a limo that someone said
was De Gaulle

I did truthfully see
Brenda Lee
about when I was a sophomore
in high school, she was my age and
I was in love

the same year I saw Gilligan
from "Gilligan's Island" except
at the time he was still the beatnik
whose name I don't  remember in the  TV series
whose name I don't remember - this was
at a dance in a city seven miles
up from my home town

what he was doing at that dance
I don't know, I think he was paid
just to be there and walk around...

in the celebrity journalist
I bumped into Chet Huntley
in the library at Indian University
one night, he said "excuse me"
very politely just like a normal person,
except in the CHETHUNTLEY voice
familiar to millions of living rooms
across the whole U.S. of A. 

and there was Lyndon Johnson 
whose lecture at Texas State University
I snuck into after his retirement, also
stood with a group of students
standing round him after the lecture,
my most lasting impression that he was one
pretty darn big son-of-a-gun

and then, far down the president scale
there was George Bush when he was governor
of Texas, back when he was already thinking
he would make a pretty darn good president
(the first of a number of errors on his part)
speaking at a couple of my offices
to a group of welfare mothers about his
welfare reform plans, and I remember his ease
with his audience, all of them thinking, I'm  sure,
like me, what a damn fine fella he was

and finally, I almost forgot, I  met
the other half of Huntley/Brinkley team
at  chamber of commerce banquet
where he was padding his retirement
 by taking very large fees for ten minutes
of rambling rambles that didn't make any sense
at all, and I remember thinking how sad it was
that the chamber paid him so much
and also how he really should have quit
while he was ahead...

I'm thinking now, after completing
this list poem, that beyond these people
I'm probably the only other famous
person I know, more famous than
by high school math teacher
who will never the less be much more fondly
remembered than me, mostly for her
great  legs, even though she was pretty old
at the time,, probably almost  40

Miguel Hernandez, born in Spain in 1910, was a goatherd as child. With only two or three years of formal education, he taught himself through constantly using public libraries, even as he continued to herd his father's goats. Reading indiscriminately at first, through his instinct and genius he introduced himself to the poets of the Spanish Golden Age and later to the modern poets, he published his first book of poems at 23. He made his first visit to Madrid in 1931 and again in 1934 where he met Neruda and Aleixandre who helped him develop his own style. He was imprisoned at the end of the Spanish  Civil War where, after two years, he died of tuberculosis at the age of 32.

His poem is from the anthology Roots and Wings, Poetry from Span, 1900-1975, published by White Pine Press in 2005.

I Have Plenty of Heart

Today I am, I don't know how,
today all I am ready for is suffering,
today I have no friends,
today the only things I have  is the desire
to rip out my heart by the roots
and stick it underneath a shoe.

Today that dry thorn is  growing strong again,
today is the day of crying in my kingdom,
depression unloads today in my chest
a depressed heavy metal.

Today my destiny is too much for me
And I'm looking for death down by my hands,
looking at knives with affection,
and I remember that friendly ax,
and all I think about is the tallest steeples
and making a fatal leap serenely.

If it weren't for...I don't know what,
my heart would write a suicide note,
a note I carry hidden there,
I would make an inkwell out of my heart,
a fountain of syllables, and goodbyes and gifts,
and you stay here I  say to the world.

I was born under a rotten star.
My grief is that I have only one grief
and it  weighs more than all the joys together.

A love affair has left me with my arms hanging  down
and  I can't lift them anymore.
Don't you see how disillusioned my mouth is?
How unsatisfied my eyes are?
The more I look inward the more I mourn!
Cut off this pain? - who has the scissors?

Yesterday, tomorrow, today
suffering for everything
my heart is a sad goldfish bowl,
a pen of dying nightingales.

I have plenty of heart.

Today to rip out my heart,
I who have a bigger heart than anyone,
and having that, I am the bitterest also.

I don't know why, I don't know how  or why
I let my life keep  on going every day.

         Translated by Robert Bly

Last year, seems like just yesterday.

empty streets

empty streets
the city bound
by mist d deep  fog like the pretty girl
tied to the railroad tracks,
Snidely Whiplash
somewhere lurking,
rubbing his little paws together 
like a rat over a chunk
of soggy, stinking


a dreary Saturday
to wake up

the tiny sparrows seem
as the gather around the cookie crumbs
I left on the window sill

big storms
I have to drive to Austin
in an hour

This piece is by Arthur Rimbaud. It is from the Illuminations section of a book that includes both it and his more famous (or infamous) Seasons in Hell.

My son and a friend of his recorded a CD of improvisations that was initially sold with my first book, Seven Beats a Second. Each of the ten improvised sections of the CD was titled with quotes from Rimbaud, including three from this piece,  "a riot of perfumes," "faith in the poison" and "this is the time of Assassins."

Morning of Drunken Ecstasy

     Oh my Good! my Beauty! Hideous fanfare in which I  do not
falter! magical easel of torture! Hurrah for  the unheard-of-work
and the wondrous body, for the first time! It began amid
children's laughter, it will end there. This poison will  remain in
all our veins even when the fanfare sours and returns us to our
former disharmony.  But let us now, we so deserving, of this
torture, fervently muster the superhuman promise, the insanity.
Refinement,knowledge, violence! We have been  promised that
the tree of good and evil shall be buried in darkness,that tyrannical
properties shall be exiled,so that we can usher in the uncontaminated
perfection of our love. It began with a certain kind of disgust and
it ended - since we are unable to seize hold of this eternity here
and now - it ended in a riot of perfumes.
     Children's laughter, discreet attention of  slaves, austerity of
virgins, horror of the faces and objects in this place,may you be
hallowed by the memory of this vigil. It began in utter crudity,
and now it ends in angels of fire and ice.
     Little drunken vigil,  holy! if only for the mask with which
you have honored us. Method, we assert you! We do not
forget that yesterday you glorified every state of our lives. We
have faith in the poison. We  know how to give our whole life
each day.
     This is the time of the Assassins.

Still catching up on holiday poems.

the day after Christmas

the day after
Christmas, a quiet day,
no traffic, no ho's left

at the new coffeehouse
by the river, walking
my blond companion, Belle,
crossing under the Jones Ave bridge,
the sounds of hundreds of birds
recorded on a continuous
loop, different birds calling, a bird's land
river symphony, to wake the day
and me, art on this
Riverwalk Museum  Reach section
on or under ever bridge crossing, the aural art
of bird song under Jones  Ave.
and I am pleased to be here this morning,
this harmonious, singing morning
under a bright new-day sun
walking with my friend and faithful

welcome the sun;
welcome the birds;

welcome me and welcome you
to this new world morning,
another in a long line
not always
appreciated, not always
welcomed by singing

Next, two short poems by Lily Brown, from her book Rust or Go Missing, a book of interesting poems I mostly do not understand, published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center in 2011.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brown holds degrees from Harvard University and Saint Mary's College of California. Frequently published in a variety of literary journals, she was a PhD student at the University of Georgia when the book was published.

Sitting in the Car

Swallows fall from
wire, silver tributes

to the sun - who comes
here? Deer-faced cows

in the open range.
The black bird tucks

her wings. Swallows
all from wire.We

pass. Sideways,we are
bodies; one dimension,

being moved.


I am watching TV. We expect  too much
from each other. Our faces are made
of stairs.  Each step hardens.
Each case concludes nothing.
I am floating
down the stairs
after a morning
of  serial drama.Fantasy
plays its part; TV weds me
to reverie. A sailboat's a vessel.
A sailboat on the stair.
I've let you box  my insides.

Here are a couple of pieces from my year at a military base near Peshawar, West Pakistan in 1968-69.

morning song

a path wound its way
along the brick wall
that separated
our oasis
from the desolate
all around

from the sentry camp
on the other side
of the wall
I heard a soldier
begin to  sing,
a plaintive
morning song,
the soldier, not so far
from home as I, but
homesick just the
his song strange
to my ears, but

as natural s the sun rising
another of the soldiers
joined in with a flute,
its high clear whistling
and the deep-voiced
soldier singing
pierced the early hour,
reaching, in my mind,
through the cool corning air
to the mountains  beyond
the desert badlands,
then, even further,
to breach the walls
and move


graze their sheep
in the afternoon  sun
as men in the village
in the shade
of a large  banyan tree,
the murmur of their voices
drifting through the silence
of the dusty street, whispers
on the weak desert breeze

This piece is about a visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, during the same period as above.

It was a good time in Afghanistan, with a benevolent, forward-thinking king, a relative  prosperity, a time of reforesting the barren mountains and valleys. The horrendous tragedies to come were still unknown to most, especially me.

But there were those even then making their  plans.


from the brown mountain slopes
all around  us
rows of mud houses
hang over the rickety city below,
their shadows like a thousand black eyes

from the forlorn club room
atop the Spirazan Hotel
we drink cheap Russian vodka
and watch the dark mountain
watching  us

of blood and despair
follow  me to restless sleep

This is the last poem this week from my library. It is by Lorine Niedecker, and it's taken from the anthology American Poetry Since 1950 - Innovators & Outsiders, published by Marsilio Publishers in 1993.

Born in 1903, Niedecker lived most of her  life along the banks of the Rock River in Wisconsin. She supported herself in a variety of jobs including library assistant, a writer for the Federal Writer's Project from 1938 to 1942, stenographer and proofreader, to cleaning woman at a hospital. She did not speak of her writing  even to close friends she did not receive critical attention until late in her life. She died December 31st, 1970.

Who was Mary Shelley...

Who was Mary Shelley?
What was her name
before she married?

She eloped with Shelley
she rode a donkey
till the donkey had to be carried

Mary was Frankenstein's creator
his yellow eye
before her husband was to drown

Created the monster nights
after Byron,Shelley
talked the candle down.

Who was Mary Shelley?
She read Greek, Italian
She bore child

Who  died
and yet another child
who died 

And even yet still stuck in holiday poem land. This is the last of them, I think.

the first of my many mistakes

a damp morning
the day before the 
night before Christmas
and the coffeehouse backed
its opening from 7 to 8
so as usual I'm early,
waiting outside
with my dog pack

(two large dogs
packed into my small car)

and with me
and my dogs, the early
morning bicycle gang half way
through their morning  20 miles
decked out in their tight stretch pants
and tight stretch shirts
and dorky head gear
on their heads like the sailing
ship  rising out of the water
on the head of a giant in that movie
and the camaraderie of the bank gang
warms me
and I remember my old bike
from when  I was a kid and the thrill
of being free (never so free as  then)
and the wind blowing in my hair
and I wish I was that kid again, or that
I was  who I am now except with a bike
and stretch pants and a stretch shirt
and one of those stupid-looking hats
perched atop my head, all my own 
and I'm thinking, why did I ever
grow up

the biggest mistake
of my

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New Days & New Ways

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  Peace in Our Time

at 1:27 PM Blogger davideberhardt said...

can'pick any photo this time

rather profound piece by my homeboy cuddy

(wonder if he'll see this)

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