Scorched Earth Policy   Wednesday, July 05, 2017

scorched earth policy

a burned out
section of the forest,
about a quarter mile along
the side of the road
and all the way down the mountain
slope, across a canyon, to rise again
on the next mountain over
like a midnight wave
of burned out pine,
tall black spikes of char-coaled trees
going clickety-clack
against each other, like the sound of dominoes
at the American Legion Hall...

a breeze rising
from the dead canyon
with the heavy scent of dead fire,
the breeze
rustling through the black stumps
like whispering ghosts
of forests gone,
remembering finer,
greener
days








Standard issue, me (old and new) and from my library. Pictures, too.


Me
scorched earth policy


Me

sense memory


Me

oughta be


Me

deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009


Alex Stolis

Outdro with bees


Me

secret identity revealed


Alice Folkart

Big Brown Belly
Mr. John Chase


Me

tiny girl drinks her juice


Yang Wan-Li

Chilly
Eating Frost to Sober Up
Drinking at Night
In the Canal Locks at Hung-Tse


Me

a door


Jane Hirshfield

A Scale Weighs the Outer World in Pounds and Ounces


Me

Old John's looking kind of worn these days


Mary Jane Ryals

All At Once


Me

another's loss


Tap Lin

are you okay


Me

Sunday quiet


Bharat Shekhar

Killing Time


Me

the short and the long of it


Joan Oliver (AKA Peer Quart)

Paid Vacation


Me

a night at the races


John Updike

Frankie Laine


Me

something for the observational poet to keep in mind











Start this week with a memory, trying to remember how it felt when my life was early on and so different.










sense memory

watching the 
construction workers
gather for their day's work,
yellow vests, steel-toed boots,
tool belt hanging low, red hardhat
low over their eyes or a a jaunty tile
depending on mood

and I think back to my own construction
days, trying to remember, after 40 years
at a desk, the feel of it

the hardhat, mine yellow, tight on my head,
sweatband wet by fifteen minutes
into the day, a clumsy thing atop my head
until about a month in and it began to feel normal,
working under a poem without it unthinkable

and the first week,
the first summer, digging anchor holes
in the hard-packed caliche
of Rincon Ranch on the border,
as desolate a place as I'd ever been,
a day and a half digging a six foot hole
by hand, turning the digger hour after hour,
sweat running down my back, arms, neck, gathering
at my crotch like I'd peed m pants

and the sweet shade under the truck, the only shade
but for creosote bushes already claimed
by rattlesnakes, ham and cheese sandwich
in my lunch box and water and water and more
water, a few minutes of sleep on hard ground,
then back to work, every day for the first two weeks
I did the work...

and later, 2 a.m. -

the planned outage, downtown Harlingen,
the excitement of the night, the lights, the trucks
idling, a new line strung all they way through town,
through the alley between Harrison and Tyler,
pull the old one down, string a new one, cross arms
dressed with glass insulators, lifted to the top of the poles,
the new wire pulled end to end, all to be finished
before the world and downtown wakes again at 7 a.m.

the night at South Padre, another planned outage, 
digging anchor holes in beach sand,
like Sisyphus pushing his stone uphill...

the clean-up after a small tornado, lines down,
water ankle-deep, marooned in the truck
until it could be confirmed the lines were not
live, 105 degrees, 80 percent humidity, the problem,
the heat and the humidity...

three summers between college, hard work
but fun, the camaraderie of the crews, the jokes,
the near fights when the joke went too far

all for minimum wage, $1.10 an hour, the most money
I'd ever made, the most money I would make
for several more years...

after all the years of comfort, when daily challenges
were not physical, I wish I could remember
the feel of it, the feel of the sweat, the pleasure of the muscles
flexing, doing the day's work, the ache at the end of the day,
and the sun, sometimes I remember it best of all, as when
deplaning on an asphalt runway in Saudi Arabia,
the sun, not a friend, but like a long-forgotten acquaintance
in a strange place

Rincon Ranch -

day one; summer one
the river gurgles on

I can hear it
a whisper
backing the bird
who calls from its
secret place










Another memory of something that never happened.

Should add, the Caddy in the picture is a 1951 model, but not a Fleetwood. If it was, it'd be another half block longer.











oughta be

I always wanted to own a convertible
but I refuse to be one of those old men
in the convertible they wanted all their life
and finally have one,
paunch pushed hard against the
steering wheel,
bald head blazing red from the
sun

except if it was a 1951
Cadillac
Fleetwood
convertible
like the one I saw parked
at the church in 1959

O how I wanted it!

still do...

and I'd be willing
to burn my bald head to the bone
if I could have it

some things
a man shouldn't have to end his life
without

but then
a whole lotta things from 1959
never worked out like I
thought they
oughta













This is an old poem from a day or two into 2009.











deep thought to be thunk in 2009

Dedicated to all the deep thinkers at "National Review," Weekly Standard" and the like as well as all those deep thinkers formerly occupying high levels of government currently seeking to hock their GWB magic decoder rings.

as with many people
I like to think deep
thoughts
about things I know
nothing about

an explanation,
some might say,
as to why
all
the world's problems
I solved
last year are back on the table
today

balderdash,
as we
deep-thinkers like t say

obviously
the world wasn't paying
adequate attention

meaning
I'm just going to have to
deep-think
louder in
2009










First from my library this week, I have this piece by my poet friend Alex Stolis. It's from his chapbook, How to Drink Yourself Sober, published in 2008 by Amsterdam Press.









Outro with bees

            How's hope feeling today
            Tired and sick of this place
            Red wine is fast at the tip of your glass
            Sayin' I'm gonna ruin everything...everything
                                                                       Neko Case

I'm contaminated
by thirst
my back
room ideas
are nothing
more
than ploys
to keep you
off my mind


I know a man who wants to look like Henry Bataile, he knows the sun is an outlaw -
understands that stars are disciples of a lost cause. The last martyr left standing is the one
who gets to make all the rules so I don't want to take my arm from the fire. The pain makes
me thirsty but I need all the truth I can get. There was a girl, from some suburban tract in Dub-
lin CA, who looked like Neko Case. She knew what I wanted and wasn't afraid to tell me. I hear
she's in Connecticut now - an artist/writer with two kids and a husband who loves Dianne
Arbus and Son House. She was a friend who branded me with her sincerity I never looked like
anyone but me and if the sky is the limit my wings are too heavy to carry we home.















Coffeehouse observation.








secret identity revealed

the girl
who never smiles
laughed
loudly
for reasons
unknown

SNICKLE, SNICKLE, SNICKLE

booming across the room
blowing bubbles through her nose
as she hooted

and what a revelation
it was...

thus was the grouch's secret identity
revealed










A couple of months ago,I wrote about my poet friend Alice Folkart who passed on a bit more than a year ago. I still think of her often, leading me to go out and look for some of her work I don't think I every read before. I found these two, very much "Alice" poems, in the Spring, 2011, issue of Loch Raven Review.









Big Brown Belly

Mr. Big Brown Bell
sips a can of Bud Light
out of a brown paper bag,
balance o the railing
by the Salvation Arm Thrift Store,
sizing p strolling tourists and locals,
deciding, between swigs,
who would be good for a handout,
a buck for another beer.

Warm tonight - no shirt,
his enormous belly, brown,
smooth as polished koa wood,
a nine-month protuberance
hanging over the top of his dirty jeans

"Spare change?" he asks,
looking sweetly a the
respectable Midwestern couple
in matching Aloha outfits loud with Hibiscus

They ignore him, he's not their idea of Paradise,
consult their maps and continue toward the park,
which, after dark, is full of men like him.



Mr. John Chase

Mr. John Chase,
gray of hair, gray of face,
wrapped in rags,
toting bags,
swollen feet, across the street
shuffles slowly

Mr. John Chase
inches along, his walker four-prong,
nails thick and black, so curved
I want to clip them off,
but don't scoff at him
as he stumbles along.

Mr. John Chase
died years ago, yet still appears
in the creekside bushes and has for four years
since h cam home from war
and wasn't anymore the man he'd been.
That's out sin, not his.

He hobble along toward his final night.
It isn't fair, it isn't right. He goes slowly.










Don't remember what coffeehouse I was keeping in 2009, but it's where this one came from.

Come to think more about it, I think this was a breakfast poem from The Egg and I.










tiny girl drinks her juice

little girl
sits,
waits for mom
to finish her
morning
phone call
to
friend
lover
spouse
hairdresser

(who
knows)

mysteries
and stories
abound
in our every-
day
world

tiny girl
drinks
from her juice
box,
sucking
on the
straw
never leaving
her mouth

eyes
above the straw
like small blue
diamonds,
blue
ice
beneath
bright blond
curls

surveys
the room
eyes
like a blue flame
flicker,
watching every-
thing, every-
body

mysteries
and stories
abound
in her every-
day
world










                                           
                                                       

Again from my library, here are several short poems by Sung Dynasty China poet, Yang Wan-Li. The poems are from the collection of his work, Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow, published by White Pine Press in 2004, with translation by Jonathan Chaves

Yang, one of the "four masters of Southern Sung poetry, has been largely unknown in the west until this translation.Born in 1127, he died in 1206.









Chilly

I stuff the heater with wood,
                and put on all my clothes -
but only drinking a cup of wine
                makes me really warm
People say the cold is unbearable after frost,
but they don't realize that there's springtime
                 in the wine pot.


Eating Frost to Sober Up

Hung over from last night's wine -
my chest is heavy, my stomach upset.
Below the railing on Peony Bank
I break off a ball of frost
                   and roll it own my tongue.


Drinking at Night

I drink alone in my cold study,
huddled close to the brazier.
The wine is fresh - just strained this evening.
The candle is short - left over from last night
I chew on a piece of sugar cane as big as a rafter
and eat tangerines sweeter than honey.
When the wine takes effect, a poem comes to me;
I grope for my brush, but I'm too high to write it down.


In the Canal Locks at Hung-tse

Blocking the canal locks are cakes of ice
waiting for the people go open the gates.
When the gates are opened just two or three turns
the ice rushes through with a sound like splitting jade.












A door in New Mexico.









a door

a door
into the mountain
of the Mountain Kings,
to the land where they sleep
after their game of bowls,
a door to the outside
where they play in the shine
of the mortal worlds
and the mortal peoples
who don't believe
until that night when passing
they spy a door
open just enough
to shine the hallucinatory light
of the underworld
and the games the Kings play
within
while mortals sleep

and,
on such nights,
pray
to the Mountain Kings











Next from my library, I have this poem by Jane Hirshfield. The poem is from her book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Given Sugar, Given Salt.









A Scale Weighs the Outer World in Pounds and Ounces

A winch,
with its drag drum and hoist drum is strong.

Grief is stronger,
yet weighs no ore than the pattern
of leaf and son on the bark of a tree.

Joy, too is strong,
yet changes no more than the cloth of a curtain
pulled open rather than closed.

Emotion - handless and eyeless -
runs through the body like current through copper wire.
Equally innocent of its ends, equally voracious.

A scale weighs the outer world in pounds and ounces.
The sum does not alter,
whatever happens within and between us.

One will feel this a blessing, another as horror.











From 2009, a coffeehouse companion for many years.













Old John's looking kind of worn these days

Old John's
looking kind of worn these days

at 82, he's looking
not a day under 70

a good 5 years
older than he looked

a year ago

it might be the hat
or the relaxed fit jeans

old men
should not wear

relaxed fit jeans

makes'em look like
they forgot their ass at home

when they left out
in the morning

producing strong perception
of two symptoms of aging men

asslessness and
memory
loss








The next poem is from the anthology North of Wakulla, published by Anchinga Press in 1989. The publisher is in Tallahassee, Florida, but I admit to having not a clue what or where is Wakulla  until I looked it up. Turns out it's  a county in Florida, population in 2014, a bit over 31,100.

The poem I select is by Mary Jane Ryals, a professor in the Business department at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and poet laureate of Florida's Big Bend Region, 2008-2012









All At Once

     Tow roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took all five,
being a lover of travel. At the same time,

     One black road led to a Minit Mart. Inside it was empty.
Nothing on the shelves. Not even a Nugrape.

     Another narrow brown path twisted me through a mountain. On
both sides were steep walls of granite, faces carved into the
walls. The gray lips talked to me of danger and soybean futures.

     The next was a blue cobblestone alley opening into an avenue
which led through the narrow streets of a medieval city. In the
bustle, I spoke to a pawnbroker through her window.

     The fourth took off into green sand. I walked over dunes
heard the ocean chitchatting. Washed ashore was a red brain,
a trusting brain. It told me it felt it was missing a leg.

     Down the fifth, the purple road, through not the last by any
means, I saw a naked woman in the dark. She was spray-painting
roses, water blue, irises cinnabar, wisteria canary yellow, daisies
the shade of plums. She laid them carefully on on the ground,
circling them in ribbons. She was completely invisible.

And there were many more roads.

What I found might not be what you're looking for.










Every loss ripples for every island is linked through the universal sea.








another's loss

a poet
writes of a friend's
loss,
a son lost at sixteen,
the age when horizons open
and the world beckons
as it never has before and never
will again, the time of great promise
denied...

it is a loss
I cannot imagine at any age,
though I have
and sometimes still do,
at midnight, unable 
to sleep, aching knees and back
denying sleep,
a time when all the greatest
fears gather at bedside, among them,
the call that upends life...

my son,
grown now, had his rough years
growing up, and
of course, a child's
rough years are a parent's rough years
to share,
and he made it anyway,
and his mother and I made it with him
as we were with him when silent fears
filled restless nights...

now
it is as it always is, news
of another's loss reminds us
of all we have to lose...








The next poem is by Tao Lin, taken from his book Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, published by Melville House in 2008.

It's an interesting, excellent book that's hard to use here because it's theme, poems about a very human-seeming hamster, takes longer to explain than the poems are long. But I did for this week, find one that doesn't specifically speak of the hamster, though if you read the rest of the book, it's clear the hamster is the narrator of the poem.





are you okay?

i don't think telling someone "don't feel sad" will console them

you need to do whatever you can to make them feel better

whenever your actions make them feel sad

and not stop until they feel better

read my text message and think about it

you just never seem happy with me anymore

even if i make you laugh

i think the damage i've done has become irreversible

i'm surrounded by endless shit

i can't move

where are you

i just had a dream where i came to nyc but i didn't tell you and i took
     the subway

to your apartment and waited for your roommate to come out so i
     could sneak in

the i went into your room and crawled under your sheets from
     from the end of your bed

and crawled to your face and kissed you then pet and hugged you

and we fell asleep

happy birthday

i drew you and ugly fish comic

will you visit me today?

i want to hold you

and kiss your face

i miss walking with you at night












A quiet morning, summer 2009.











Sunday quiet

things to do
today
but

I'm not ready
to start
yet

enjoying
this quiet Sunday
morning

a good breakfast
a cup of thick
black

coffee
and through the windows
the beginning

day
at just that point
of sunrise

when the streetlights
begin
to flicker

off
the traffic on I-10
in Sunday

quiet

a few people
early-risers like me
and the truckers

the never-stop
truckers
headed west on I-10

El Paso
and all points west
to the Pacific

as all else
is still
sky overcast

with a promise of rain
and the smallest flicker of movement
in the oak trees

I am an
oak
enjoying he smallest flicker

of movement
while I can
knowing

Sunday is a temporary state
of mind
soon broken

for
still
the storm is coming










The next poem is by my poet friend Bharat Shekhar, a freelance writer currently living in New Delhi, shown here signing his new book. Before choosing to freelance, he worked as a researcher and lecturer in history and in the IT field.







Killing Time

Schrodinger's cat
is the timekeeper of moments.
Inside each one
she is both alive
with infinite possibilities,
and at the same time
already poisoned
by the single choice
that we will make
when its time comes.

Thus time dies,
continuously,
and we read  its obituary,
moment by moment
in that cemetery
we call past
where we bury
Schrodinger's cat...
moment by moment,
while imagining that
she still lives on












Another observational










the short and the long of it

a short man
on cowboy boots,
a judge,
in with friends
for morning coffee

reminds me of the
opposite
at the doctor's office
yesterday - a mainly
geriatric practice,
lots of people and
creaky bones , at 73, I'm
about in the middle
age range of patients
waiting to be seen

one of them,
a man about my age,
white hair and beard
like mine,
a very tall man
with very long lets,
thin legs, encased in
slim-cut
jeans

old man,
impatient
like most of us
elders, but he,
rising up from his
chair, extremely long
legs unfolding as he rises
like Neptune rising
from the sea

pulled 
back down by his
wife, don't make a scene,
I can imagine her
saying

as if an impatient man
with extremely long legs
who makes a scene
every time he stands up
cares about scenes

but he does care about
his wife
and doesn't want
to embarrass her
so he folds his extremely 
long legs and sits
back down beside her,
grumbling under his 
breath, frowning, but
obedient, as I suspect
he usually 
is

(not an extremely tall man
myself, though tall
enough to understand
the intimidating power
of a short woman,
having been married to one
for, lo, these many years)









Here is a poem by Joan Oliver (pen name Pere Quart) from another anthology, Modern Catalan Poetry, published in 1979 by New Rivers Press, with translation by David H. Rosenthal. The poet, born in 1899 and died in 1986 is considered one of the most important of Catalan's poets, in large part because of his rebelliousness and social commitment.

After months now, living in the land of the Pig, I understand this piece as I might not have before.








Paid Vacation

I've decided to go away forever.
Amen.

Tomorrow I'll come back
because I'm old
and have very sensitive feet
with swollen corns.

But I'll turn around the next day,
revived by disgust.
For ever more. Amen.

The day after that I'll come back,
like a carrier pigeon,
as stupid as he is,
not nearly as honest,
or as white either.

Poisoned by myths,
with saddle-bags full of curses,
skinny and rebuffed, sleepy-eyed,
a prince naked down to his dream,
Job of the pigsty;
tongueless, castrated,
pasturage for lice.

I'll take the train of paid vacations.
Holding on to the edge.
The land which was our heritage
flies from me.
It's a stream between my legs
that rejects me.
Grass, piles of stones;
love's signs dissolving in shame.

Oh land without a heaven!

But look at me:
I've come back again.
All alone, almost blind from leprosy.

Tomorrow I'm leaving
- I'm not fooling this time-.
Yes, hes: I'm going on four paws
like a great-great-grandfather,
along smugglers' trails
right to death's black line.

Then I jump in the burning darkness
where everything is foreign.
Where the ancient God of our parents
lives in exile.











Not a bettor, but I love to watch the horses run, even though I don't get to do it often.

This race from 2009.









a night at the races

fourth race,
Chocolate Delight,
the horse of my dreams,
tall black horse,
coat gleaming like a boot camp
spit-shine,
great broad Hulk Hogan
shoulders
on the delicate forelegs
of a midnight
flyer

seventh horse
in a seven-horse race
at the first turn,
fourth at the last,
then a rocket-powered
blast
through the homestretch
finishing
a nose ahead of the
also-ran

a three-dollar win
on a two dollar bet
and the evening is made

and the other eight races
that night -

enough to say it'd been better
if my Chocolate Delight
had been running in
all of them










Last from my library this week I have this poem by John Updike, memorializing the singer Frankie Laine (a favorite of mine at the time as well). The poem is from Updike's book, End Point (and other stories), published in 2009, the year of the author's death, by Alfred A. Knopf











Frankie Laine

The Stephen's Sweet Shop, 1949.
Bald Walt at work, "butterflying" hot dogs -
splitting them lengthwise for the griddle
and serving them in hamburger buns -
while Boo, his smiling, slightly anxious wife
(a rigid perm and excess, too-bright lipstick),
provides to teen-aged guzzlers at the counter
and in an opium den of wooden booths
their sugary poisons, milkshakes thick as tar
and Coca-Cola conjured from syrup and fizz.

A smog of smoke. The jingle at the back
of pinball being deftly played. And through
the clamorous and hormone-laden haze
your slick voice, nasal yet operatic, sliced
and soared, assuring us of finding our
desire, at our old rendezvous. Today
I read you died at ninety-three. Your voice
was oil, and we the water it spread on,
forming a rainbow film - our futures as
we felt them, dreamily, back there and then.












The problem with observational poetry, a caution to myself.










something for the observational poet to keep in mind

turns out
the insurance actuary
who has his oatmeal
at the coffeehouse every morning,
eating his oatmeal,
studying rows and columns
of numbers,
is not who I thought
he was...

a shy fella, seeming eager
to be friendly, but also seeming
not sure how to do it
having no talent for the kind of small talk
that is the conversation de jure
of people who know each other
but occupy the same space
at a diner or coffeehouse every day...

he seemed a simple type to me,
a type I defined as the most basic
middle-aged
middle-class
drudge
with nothing of interest to say
beyond the quiet "good morning"
that has passed for most of our conversation
for the weeks we've been seeing each other
in the morning...

a quiet man,
a fish out of water
lying dry and glass-eyed on a river bank,
except there is one thing
he really likes to talk about
if opportunity is provided -

music...

a concert pianist in the past,
and a symphony conductor, too,
he loves to talk about music,
about his small symphony
in Oregon 
(he's certain I never heard of it
and he's right)

and the man who seemed so bland
has his own strong opinions
about the classics,
like giving Mozart credit
for the growth of his music
(the unfinished "Requiem"
the masterpiece Mozart was working up to
all his life, says the actuary),
but the greater prodigy and uncontested
genius of western classical music
in Mendelssohn he insists

```

I don't know about that
and will be interested to talk about it
on future mornings,
but this poet
is most interested today in the
lesson just learned..

art can be a valid outcome
of observation
and imagination,
but truth requires a deeper
digging...

something 
for the humble observational poet
to keep in mind









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:


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 I welcome your comments below on this issue and the poetry and photography featured in it.

  Just click the "Comment" tab below.






Poetry

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






Fiction


Sonyador - The Dreamer





                                                            


  Peace in Our Time



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Links
Loch Raven Review
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