Horst-Wessel Sing-Along Anyone? (Capturing the Zeitgeist)   Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Racism,sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and all the rest are reflections of the same fears of mystery and the unknown, essential a fear of being inadequate to survive in a society that requires some measure of merit to achieve a position of security and comfort. Racists, sexists, all the others fear competition with others who might turn out to be their betters.

the roof that doesn't leak

the blues man
about it...

you can teach
a wife beater
not to beat his  wife,
he says,
but he's still a wife beater
it's like racism in America...

I grew up in it -
segregation so pervasive
that in the innocence of youth
I didn't even know
it was there

my university
not desegregated
until my sophomore year,
and I begin noticing, little things
it seemed at first, the restaurant where
I spent many late night in grand discussion
with my student peers, the monochromatic
clientele, my classmates, and servers
and the other diners, not making a mark
on my conscious until  one night I  learned
that "the colored" were  fed out the back door...

a life like that,
man/boy/child in a routine world,
so much change since that now I struggle to remember
how it felt to live in an all-white world...

but how  much change, really?
the clear, plain-spoken, out-loud racism
of 1962 learned away, minds and souls changed
we thought, but then this past year
it became clear that all that was learned
by the racists was to  lower their shouts
to whispers, racists by habit in 1962
but not hard conviction, the county club
racists leaned, at least,
to be embarrassed
by language that earlier was a common part
of conversation,
the disparaging jokes about "Martin Luther Coon,"
the jokes about the niggers and how all they wanted
in life was "loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place
to shit" (that piece, told by one of Nixon's
cabinet  member aboard Air Force One, an appreciative
crowd, including god-fearing Pat Boone,
the wholesome "white Elvis"
beloved by the Sunday church crowd, laughing
along with the rest...)

those days passed, we thought for sure,
the filth of it gone from us, until the election
and the pig who in a few days will demean his office,
his country and you and I, loosed the bonds,
released the Gracken of racist talk, racist thought,
racist assumptions, the racists rising again,
surging through our culture again,
and it seems the last 40 years of  decency,
or at least 40 years the hope for decency dawning,
washed away  like the sand of a barrier
island in a night of high, destructive

and those of us who held hope for us, who even
enjoyed occasional moments of pride in our
progress, illusory as it  turned out to be...
the hard lesson learned -
in America...
we silenced
the racists for a while,
but they are still 
and now they rise
like the roof that only doesn't leak
when it doesn't rain

More poems, more photos.

Actually enjoying the photos so much I'm thinking about doing an all photo post.

The poems this time including some from my second eBook, Goes Around, Comes Around, 85 poems from my daily poems in 2010.

It's a dirty job,  but someone has to write my obituary. And what writer doesn't want to write their own.

what I would tell my friends when I die

the flesh and blood and bone
of me, that temporary carriage
that propelled the essence of me
through the limited term
of corporal life
is gone,
burned in the fires
of the end of times for me...

and in that burning
released again the essential element
of me back to rejoin the greater home
from which I came, that universe
of drifting parts and pieces
that spun together to form the temporary me
that for a brief spell walked the earth with you...

if you remember me as that fellow traveler,
remember that of all I prized, kindness
was the greatest, kindness not as I practiced it
but as seldom attainable savior of our kind,
kindness as antidote to a world of little caring...

but also remember me as the greater me
I have become again,  all the little bits of me
joining in all the little bits of all there is, all around
you, the every thing of every time, all the time...

remember me as a tiny piece of all of that,
the flower alone in a meadow,  remember
the flower for a tiny piece of me is part
of its bloom

remember the fox the edge of the meadow,
nose twitching as it searches for the scent of danger
in the grass, for I am there, a part of the fox and a part
of the grass which scent it investigates and
a part of the danger it finds or does  not

and the lightning that streaks across the midnight sky,
I am there too; remember when you see me, smell
the ozone of me

the summer breeze that carries the sweet scent
of lilac, that is also the smell of a part of me

and the beach, I am not the tide, but in the moon glow
that shines lie silver the wave caps, that sends
the beach crabs to dancing for their mates

I'm there too

and all the newborns,
babies of my former kind, puppies, kittens, the barely
been born, the calf, the foal, the cow, chicken, the pig
and lions and tigers and bison and beavers and bears

all born with elements of me
in them

exercise your kindness to them as you would to me
because I am part of them as I am part of you and
we are all part of all

understanding that in whatever kindness
we bestow it is to ourselves
our kindness
is given

First from my library this week, a poem by Charles Harper Webb, from his book A Webb for all Seasons. The book was published  Applezaba Press in 1992. The book is a collection of poems about the fictional character "Weeb."

Webb, educated at Rice University and the University of Southern California, is a poet, professor, psychotherapist and former singer and musician.

 Weeb Gains the Upper Hand

The way a butt might blunder
into a needle in a haystack,
my vision slides down the Amtrak
aisle, and come up with a man
picking his nose.     I focus
on the spiffy young executive
and his hump-back hooter.

His right forefinger digs,
twists, lingers,  pops out
balancing a sticky prize.
Rat-like, his eyes dart here
and there. Casual, as if lost
in money-making mediation,
he slips his finger into his mouth.

He  licks his lips, smiles,
feels too late my eyes
all over him. He flushes.
Thoughts squirm across his
face. Did he see? Naw.
Coincidence. Smart Aleck!
Fruit! What does he know?

"Everything!" my smirk
assures. Pleased to grind
my starving-artist's boot into
his fat -go-getter soul,
I lick my finger, wave it
at him while my eyes crow
"Hi. Eat boogers,  don'tcha."

Here's the first from Goes Around, Comes Around.

I wanted to write something outrageous today

I wanted 
to  write something

but it's still too close
to the election 
and my outrage
is hung on empty

so I thought I'd write
something serious instead,
 serious consideration
of the nation's and the world's
but that only ignites
and howling hysterical
then I was thinking
I'd write about
but I'm  getting kind of old
and my memory isn't as good as it used to be,
not so stiffly resistant to the lassitude
of time
so maybe I could write
about love,
no one's ever too old
for love they say, but that's the problem,
poets young and old
have been writing about love
for ten thousand years,
longer than that if you believe the drawings
on the walls in the caves of Poontanghia,
so how could I possibly compete,
what new is there to be said about love
except that I caught it and unlike
a three-day cold, it has stayed
with me, fevers morning and night for 40 years,
resistant though the liquid flow of time
to all natural or supernatural events 
that might deny and

I could write about my lover's legs
and the amazing way
they join at the hip
but I don't want to get too graphic
this morning
because that would be outrageous
in this august company
and I'm completely out of outrage 
since the last

Vandana Khanna was born in New Delhi and has lived most of her life in the United States. She attended the University of Virginia and received her M.F.A. from Indiana University.

The poem is from her book Train to Agra,  published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2001 and received the Crab Orchard Review First Book Award.

Hence, Monsoon

They watch each evening for rain,
the dry lightning - momentary blindness.
The boy arrives again to sweep the floors,
beat screens free of dust and flies. Twice
each day, he cleans, and still the house creaks,
mellows under the skin of the city, a shadow
that rusts each corner and basin.

On bamboo chairs with cushions that ease
the pain of brittle bones, they sit and shell
peanuts among the rosebugs.

Through open windows, lizards flee
the sun, cling to cool walls
as everything waits for the sound
of water slipping off the leaves,
the monsoon rain singing on marble floors.

Here's another from sometime in the past couple of weeks.

about the fish and the mystery galaxy

buttoning my shirt
in front of my bathroom mirror
and I notice
I have fish on my shirt,
bass, I think, and I look in my closet
and see I have several shirts
with fish on them, all kinds of fish,
not just bass, but trout and sharks and
barracuda and little tropical looking fish,
angel fish, and guppies and zebras and
black mollies and even just some plain old

and I am surprised
because I have no special affection for fish,
never attended to the study of ichthyology
or ever Saturday afternoon fishing
with a cane pole and a canal
and it is a true mystery

like the mystery of the new galaxy
just discovered, our closest galactic companion,
like a back fence neighbor, there it is,
dim stars, presumably been there all the time 
but unnoticed until now, even though
right next door...

I'm concerned about the prevalence
of fish shirt in my closet, mainly
because I put them there and didn't 
the appearance of a new galaxy
on the block, that should be a deeper
concern about what else is there in the neighborhood
that we don't know about, what dark secrets,
how many death stars,
alien predators building p their forces,
pre-invasion, the forces of good and evil
battling all around us with us on the dark sidelines,
unknowing, happy in our little ant hill
until the jungle gets napalmed... 

very serious stuff,
but truth is, I wasn't  responsible
for noticing the mystery galaxy, but it was
my job to notice all the fish shirts
until they grew into a school,  leaving me
on a personal level, more concerned
about the fish that got away
than any galaxy, no matter how mysterious,
that did the same...

Next, John Ashbery, with a poem from April Galleons, published by Penguin Books in 1987.

Posture of Unease

It all seems like dirt now.
There is a film of dust on  the  lucid morning
Of an autumn landscape, that must be worse
Where it's tightening up,
Where not everything has its own two feet to stand on.

It gets more and more simplistic:
Good and bad, evil and bad; what else do we know?
Flavors that keep us from caring too long.

But there was a train of thought
That satisfied on  nicely: how one was going to climb down
Out of here, hopefully
To arrive on a perfectly flat spit of sand
Level with the water.

And everything would look new and worn again.
Suddenly, a shout, a convincing one.
People in twos and threes turn up, and
There's more to it than  that.

But for all you I
Have neglected, ignored,
Left to stew in your own juices,
Not been that friend that is approaching,
I ask forgiveness, a song new  like rain.
Please sing it to me.

A great news day.

 it's a find day today

it's a fine day

the sun shines
on all of us, children
of the bright...

it's a find day

three pages
of dead people in the paper

only five younger than me
and one of those
i think
was lying...

a fine day
three pages of dead people
in the paper

and none of them was me...

From American Poetry Since 1950 - Innovators & Outsiders, this  poem is by William  Bonk. The anthology was published  by Marsilio Publishers 1993.

Bonk is a hard poet to pin down, there being several Bonks on the net with inadequate information as to differentiate. I just settled for an image of the  anthology's cover.

The poem's title refers to the ruins of a Maya city in Guatemala.

At Tikal

Mountains they knew, and jungle, the  sun,  the stars -
these seemed to be there. But even after they slashed
the jungle and burned it and planted the comforting  corn,
they were discontent. They wanted the shape of things.
They imagined a world and it was as if it were there
- a world with stars in their places and rain that came
when they called. It closed them in. Stone by stone,
as they built this city, these temples, they built this world.
The believed it. This was the world, and they,
of course, were the people. Now trees make up
assemblies and crowd in the wide plazas. Trees
climb the stupendous steps and rubble them.
In the jungle, the temples are little mountains again.

It is always hard like this, not having a world,
to imagine one, to go to the far edge
apart and imaging, to wall whether in
or out, but build a kind of cage for the sake
of feeling the bars around us, to give shape to a world.
And oh, it always a world and not the world.

The problem self-explanatory; the solution not so much.

I ought to be writing a Valentine poem

I ought to be writing
a Valentine poem,
I mean it's the day after Valentine
and I really ought to be writing
a Valentine poem
I'm terrible
at writing on demand
which is why I can never be
Poet Laureate
of anywhere
with all the demands on them
to write commemorative
poems, like can you imagine me 
writing a poem about the political conflict
of the Great Whig Convention of 1836?

I sure can't

(well, maybe if I was really desperate)


I  would rather write
about the people around me, the person in the crowd
who stands out as if spot-lit among the chattering

in this instance,
the young woman at the table
down from me,
skin dark beyond suntan,
hair black as moonless midnight,
Latina, I would say,
except for the smoky darkness
of her eyes, a suggestion to me
of the Indian subcontinent,
like the Russian folk song,
Ochi Chernye,
"Dark Eyes" - mysterious coal-smudged 

I wrote a poem about a woman
with such beautiful eyes, a woman I didn't know
but talked to occasionally at my old coffeehouse,
a woman with the most beautiful eyes
that led to think of that same Russian song...

It was a pretty good poem,
but I made the mistake of showing it to the woman
who mistook my appreciation of her beautiful eyes
for creepy stalkerness...

we never spoke again as she made sure,
to be on the other side of the coffeehouse
from me...


do you suppose there's any chance
at all
that I could pass this off as a
Valentine poem?

...I  didn't think so...

As beautiful as are most of the translations of his work, one of the many things I'm sorry about is that I don't speak or read Spanish and therefore can't read 1990 Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz in his own language. I can only imagine the beauty of it.

This poem is from his book Configurations, a New Directions book published in 1971.

The Memory

Imposes its tide
and repeats its own midday)
Gone      gone
                   Saint       scoundrel      saint
In beatitudes of hunger or drugs
Perhaps he saw Krishna
                                      Sparkling blue tree
Dark fountain  splashing amid the drought
Perhaps in cleft stone
He grasped the form of woman
                                                 Its rent
the formless dizziness
                                   For this or that
He lives on the ghat where they burn the dead

The lonely streets
The houses and their shadows
All was the same and all different
The car raced on
                           I was quiet
Among my runaway thoughts
(Gone       gone
Saint       clown     saint     beggar     king     damned
It is the same
                     Always the same
                                                Within the same
It is to be always within oneself
Closed up in the same
                                   Closed up on oneself
Rotted idol)
                   Gone      gone
He watched me from the other shore
                                                           He watches me
From his interminable noon
I am in the wandering hour
The car races on among the  houses
I write by the light of a lamp
The absolutes the eternities

     Their outlying  districts
                                          Are not my theme
I am hungry for life and for death also
I know what I know and I write it
The embodiment of time
                                        The act
The movement in which the whole being
Is sculptured and destroyed
Consciousness and hands to grasp the hour
I am a  history
                        A memory inventing itself
I am never alone
I  speak with your always
                                         You speak with me always
I move in the dark
                              I plant signs

     Translated by Lysander Kemp

Thinking in 2010 about what the world needed then and needs now even more.

habits of mercy

I was thinking this
about what I want to do
with the rest of my

and decided
it's the same thing
I want to do
with the rest of my

my wife at least once or twice

some good food

some good poems

 nice nap

with my better nature

& forgive myself
for all recent sins, known as well as secret
even to me

easier for some
than for others, those
with no true love
to kiss

no food to

no bed to sleep

no poetry
in their soul

with no key
to unlock the door to self, their
true self as unknown to them as
a strange passing dark
on the street

and most difficult of all for those
who can't find within themselves
forgiveness of themselves

ego-obsessed creatures that we are,
sinners almost from our first thoughts,
if we cannot forgive
how will we ever  learn to forgive

and if we cannot forgive others,
how can we ever live
in this world
that needs cleansed hearts
as much as it need clean air and water

habits of mercy
are what will  save this world;
human sins
by human sinners

Chitra Banerjee Divakaurni is an Indian-American poet, author and Professor of Writing at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

The poem is from her book Black Candle - Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The book was first published by CALYX Books in 1991, this revised edition in 2001.

The Quilt

The parrot flies to the custard-apple tree.
  The bees are among the pomegranates.
               I call and call you, little bride .
                          Why do you not speak?
                                 Bengali Folk Song 

Blue and sudden as beginning,
a quilt at the bottom
of the small mahogany chest
which holds her things.

She died in childbirth,
this grandmother whose name
no one can tell me.

He married again,
a strong woman this time,
straight backed, wide-hipped
for boy-children.
In the portrait downstairs
she wears the family diamonds
and holds her fourth son.

There are no pictures
of the wife who failed.

Her quilt leaves on my fingers
satin dust
as from a butterfly wing.

I spread it against
the floor's darkness, see her fingers
working it into the world-design,
the gul-mohur tree
bright yellow against the blue,
the river winding through rice fields
into a horizon where men with swords
march to a war
or a wedding.

As the baby grew she stitched in
a drifting afternoon boat
with a peacock sail.
In the foreground, young grass.
A woman with a deer.
She is left unfinished,
no eyes, no mouth,
her face a smooth blankness
tilted up at birds
that fall like flames from the sky.

A tiny experiment.

afternoons in early spring

an afternoon
in early

a beautiful woman

a dream
of being young 


an afternoon
in early

a beautiful woman

the dream
of being young 


an afternoon
in early

a beautiful woman

that dream
of being young 


one word

three different

three different

three  different

don't know which story
I want to tell

Mary Swander was born in 1950 and educated at the University of Iowa. She was Poet Laureate for Iowa from 2009 to 2011.

Her poem  is from her book, Heaven-and-Earth House, published in 1994 by Knopf.

Amish Phone Booth

The letter of the law is: no lines in from
the outside world. But this phone in a garage
down the road is fine, and a trip across
the field on foot enough to make you think twice
before a call. Above the receiver - chiropractor,

vet, weather report, all numbers penciled
on the wall. Below - a doodle of a stallion
with the caption S T U D. Bareback and buckboard,
they gallop in at night for help with a fire
in Chester Yoder's barn, they hay put up too wet,

or aid with a stuck calf who must be sawed
in half to get out. Doc, I'm not sure what to do.
This little room that doesn't travel by buggy or bonnets
nodding together after church. The Bontragers

had another. After thirteen boys, a girl!
After thirteen years, the thin line that runs out
to the transformer still ices, sways in the winter wind,
goes down with any little spring storm.
A person could depend on that thing too much.

More reliable, the fence wire, that runs from
Swander to Yoder to Miller, is never busy,
charges nothing extra, leaves no gap in between.
Better to walk out and tap a message that will
hum from post to post, a party line for everyone
to overhear.Better to ring your alarms out there
in the pasture where the cattle, the sheep,
the nanny goat, their cries bleating across
the grass, will listen, and  pass the word.
Please come, and bring the others this time.

Here's another from my 2010 eBook.

somewhere out there

this is serious business...

out there
interstellar star systems
are colliding

out there
an alien race
of whoozidoozits
is going extinct as their
methane atmosphere
is slowly replaced
by megaterlagon oxygen

out there
a spaceship full of
is approaching
the water-planet
Abosion XII
for full immersion

out there
Pat Boone is thinking about
a comeback tour

out there
a Republican
is suffering from delusions
of competency

out there
a bunch of foreigners who don't
even speak English
are bouncing balls off their heads
and calling it

I mean,
this is no dam time
for  jokes
and silly faces...

The next poem is by my poet friend, Arlene Ang, and is taken from her book Banned for Life, published by Misty Publications in 2014. This is her seventh book of poetry, including one in collaboration with another poet. In addition to her books, Arlene, who  lives in Italy, publishes frequently in literary journals and is frequently honored for her work.

No Explanation Necessary


The spilt coffee curls my toes.
I am a self-portrait of the missing person This is before
that bad haircut. Before the even worse
paint job.

I say Sit! and I sit.


I don't bark. I've grown
inwards into what I drink every day.
And every day I attract more and more lies.

Dear Sir/Madam, I begin
my letters. I want to complain about
the air conditioner. Then, something happens
to the letter R. It is not home.


For money, the next door family
is moving. For kindness they leave me their parakeets.

And some books no one had
the knack to burn. I film the departure
in stages: rain, claustrophobia,armlessness, cyclops.


I'm hungry. I swing the door
back and forth to feel the wind on my face.
Worry is my favorite
flavor of toothpaste. When I say this
I'm thinking
end of the world.

The worm turns, another way to say karma.

the certainty that night will fall

a woman at a table
across the room,
hair drawn back tight,
face pulled tight
like a mask that wants
to scream,
reading the riot act
to the man
with her
at the table

he bows his head
takes it,
remembers the axe in the
and how good it feels
to swing the heft of it, feel
the bit of its blade
in a tree 

giving him
hell this morning
the certainty that night
will fall...

This short poem is by Adrienne Rich. It's taken from her book, Dark Field of the Republic, Poems 1991-1995, published by W. W. Norton in 1995.

Food Packages: 1947

Powdered milk, chocolate bars, canned fruit, tea
salamis,  aspirin:
Four packages a month to her old professor in Heidelberg
and his Jewish wife:
Europe is trying to revive n intellectual life
and the widow of the great sociologist needs flour.

Europe is  trying/to revive/
with the Jews somewhere else.

The young ex-philosopher tries to feed her teachers
all the way from New York, with orders for butter from Denmark,
sending dispatches into the fog
of the European spirit:
I am no longer German. I am a Jew and the German language
was once my home.


Another futile attempt to fix the ills of the world.

poets on every street corner

If was going
to write a poem

about what I would do
if I could run the world

sitting here now

I realize
I don't know what to do either

I'd like to see rain

every Thursday
and sunshine and blue skies

the rest of the week

in the winter
when there should be snow

and blue skies
and children skating

on iced over ponds
and cows in the fields

blowing clouds
through their noses

and palm trees on beaches
for those who don't like

and big waves for the surfers

and clear, clean streams
slow moving

between tall green trees
for us who prefer to float

and people learning to shake off
bad times

likes dogs shaking off wet
a big shake

beginning with flapping ears
passing down to big

shimmy shakes
of their rear

butts like a Mixmaster
in overdrive

and no icky things
in dark corners

no snakes
and no spiders and no

poison lizards
or animals who like to eat people

and no fatherless children
or old people

rotting in isolation
and inattention

and no one dying
of diseases they couldn't afford to cure

and no backaches or

or rashes
in hide-away places

and no people who eat too much
or people who never get to eat

as much as they need
and no drunkards or drug addicts

or gangsters
who shoot children from their cars

and no priests, preacher, ayatollahs,
rabbis or other parasites on the human soul

poets on ever street corner

proclaiming truth and love and silly songs
for all who will listen

and people who will listen to all the poets
on all the street corners

and return their love
and maybe throw money

and no Republicans,
they should be at the top of my list

instead of here
at the


For my last pieces from my library this week, I have two short poems by Sidney Wade, from her book, Stroke, published by Persea Books in 2007.

Born in 1951 in New Jersey and educated  at the University of  Houston and the University of Vermont, Wade currently holds the position of Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Florida where she has taught since 1993.

It strikes me that both of these poems seem strangely prescient to have been written in the early 90s.

Doomsday Verse

In the dying order, they go first,
the little ones. The war heads
have decreed it. They are to be  married
to the machinery of death and shepherded
by blank-eyed marshals to the altar.
The power of the powerful will not falter.
Democracy and freedom, etc. etc. etc.
Our vehicles possess a raging thirst.


In the desiccated lies the windy ones  thunder,
in  the heat of each day more concentrated in dismay.

than the last,  while fanatics fan the daily burn
and the social contract withers in disarray,

the dog days dog and the hollow nights fall.
I am helpless to stop them. Instead I sprawl

in the pool of glossy words.  They are all I have
to irrigate the old an green and fluent mundo.

And here it ends for the week.

time  between time

the still
of a winter day ending...

early dark,
sun down, time-constrained
street lights not yet

a passing memory of day
in the back of our eyes
as night takes first
tentative steps into
its dominion,
its black collar
drawing tight
on the cloak
of dark

a passing moment
in the city,
a time between time,
a time s old as time when 
the wheels stop  spinning,
as pages in the great book
of all life and space
are turned

it's the same 
in the mountains
except  there,  in the unsullied
dark, you can count the stars
as,  one by one, they come
to light

a night under stars
in the city

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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


Sonyador - The Dreamer


  Peace in Our Time

at 1:17 PM Blogger davideberhardt said...

will try reading more- swander seems prose to me- why cut lines like that? asbury i have never understood nor liked-
best photos (wish poetry was as straight forward)- 1, 3, 4 14- the shades of black and white- nice

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