The Biological Imperative   Wednesday, February 21, 2018







Losers in the great game, carrying the seeds of civilization.

Extra points to anyone who recognizes the actress in the picture. Might need to ask your grandpa.











the biological imperative

the biological
purpose
of a man
is to seek,
find,
and impregnate
available women

male
brains
are configured
to support this purpose

women
by contrast
are biologically directed
to attract
men,
employing
whatever wiles
are culturally appropriate
so that they might
produce
and rear offspring

civilization
is the product of
sublimation
of these biological
imperatives
through alternate
modes
of creation

we owe,
in other words,
all we have made
of ourselves, all
out great cities,
all our great inventions
and scientific discoveries,
all our great art and literature
and music
to the inability
of the weak and
undesirable
to
get
lucky
on Saturday
night








Back to standard business with poems this week. My photos were all taken in Brackenridge Park, a 343 acre park, next to the zoo and the city's principal museum, including large wooded areas with the San Antonio River running through the middle. It is the second oldest park in the city, created in 1899 from land donated by George Washington Brackenridge. It is a lovely park that I visit often, walking along the river to watch the water fowl and along the various trails through the woods.

As I said, Brackenridge is the second oldest park in the city. The oldest, San Pedro Park, is the second oldest public park in the country, established for that purpose by King Philip V of Spain in 1729. The only older public park in the country is Boston Common. Though much smaller than Brackenridge, with only 46 acres surrounding San Pedro Springs, it is of much greater historical significance. It has been site of human habitation for 12,000 years and was the location of a Payaya Indian village known as Yanaguana. It is the original site of the city of San Antonio.




Me
the biological imperative

Me
thoughts and prayers

Barbara Tran
Love and Rice

Me
the Senator exposed himself

Bruce Weigl
The One

Me
cold and wet

Henri Coulette
White Slip, White Shoes
Even Now

Me
I dreamed

Iris Berry
Moshing with the Cosmos, Part #2

Me
I drove through Amarillo

Paul Auster
Fragment from Cold
Visible
Meteor

Me
the legacy

Hadara Bar-Nadav
Compose an Evening Sky

Me
Blue Ridge Parkway

Me
April in the Chisos Basin

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Emplumada

Me
deciding which kind is which kind

Frances Trevino
My Sister, She Dances
Southern and in Detroit

Me
the hefty woman has a hearty breakfast

James Galvin
Wild Irises on Dirty Woman Creek

Me
in the garden

Me
soft night broken















A poem of the moment. Eighteen school shootings in the first month and a half of this year. They're going to kill us all until they get down to killing each other.
















thoughts and prayers

well,
it's thoughts and prayers
time again

a question
for
all those thinking and praying
god-people

does it ever
occur to you
that maybe that god of yours
doesn't
actually
give a shit
about
your murdered children?

since
he/she/it
seems to still
favor
the
National Rifle Association
over
those murdered children,
maybe it's a thought
worth
thinking
in the middle of all that
other
thinking
and praying













First this week from my library, this poem is by Barbara Tran, taken from Poetry Nation, "The North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry," published by Vehicule Press in 1998.

Born in 1968 in New York City of Vietnamese descent, Tran received her B.A. from New York University and an M.F.A. at Columbia. She is an award-winning poet and editor.















Love and Rice

He jumped off the water buffalo and I knew we'd be married.
He turned it easily, pushing its head to the side.
The range diep trees were like blazes of sun
just hanging in the air below the clouds.
Untainted masses spread across the sky.

I told Mother that night he was my lover.
He knew nothing of it.
I thought of nothing else as I wrung the sheets.
That he was my cousin didn't matter,
there was no room for shame.
Grandmother would notice the sun setting
and know her clock needed winding,
know she had missed her bananas and rice.

The first time I touched him, I thought of nothing but fruit.
There was no electricity then; night came early.
I took a long bath, pouring water
gently over my body, watching it drip
between the wooden slats.
Soon, I'd be carrying
a weight inside me.













This is an old poem from 2007. Who would have thought it would still be so timely today.














the senator exposed himself

the senator
exposed himself,
the self
he kept hidden
from everyone he knows,
the self
he let live and breathe
only among strangers
and the echoing tiles
of public restrooms...

how sad
it must be to live
an incomplete man,
concealing a hidden life
from family
and even from closest friends,
denouncing the life
in others
he must always deny
in himself

the senator
exposed himself
and is ashamed,
and it is that shame
wherein lies
the tragedy
of his life










Next, here is poet Bruce Weigl from another anthology, The Best American Poetry 1994, a Touchstone Book published in 1994 by Simon & Schuster.

Born in Ohio in 1949, Weigl is a poet and a teacher at Lorain County Community College. Enlisting in the U.S. Army when he turned 18, he served three years, including a year in Vietnam, ending his service there with a Bronze Star. As a civilian he earned a Bachelor's Degree at Oberlin College and a M.A. Degree in Writing/American and British Literature at the University of New Hampshire and, later, his Ph.D. at the University of Utah. He published his first volume of poetry in 1979 while teaching at the University of Arizona.











The One

To the long mill's shadow
and stink we shared
with drunks who pissed
on the heater of our common
john I go back.
To the bedroom I shared with my sister,
my bed squeezed
tight against the cool wall
so I could hold my body there
hot nights in the mill noise
until my legs stiffened
and I felt that hum.
In the corner of that room
is the word and the sound
of the belt.
My tall father
thin and muscled
from mill work,
his hair black thick and curly,
his jaw long and square like mine
and his smile
when he swung down on me
could not be resisted.
Through dark the belt
flashed across my back
though I knew he beat me
out of love
as when he finished
I knew to climb inside
the darkness of my arms.
I knew the world would
stop spinning uncontrollably
and the convulsions
stop rippling
and my mother
would come touch me
with such care
as if I were teetering
at the edge of the abyss
and lead me back into my lie,
her fingers
whispering in my hair
that it would be alright,
and later still, after beer,
after the moon had risen
to its proper place
and the night
could allow some forgiveness
he calls me into his lap
and tells me I am the one.

           from American Poetry Review














A tiny poem for a small moment.














cold and wet

cold and wet
but birds, hundreds of them
on a wire, sing
anyway

the first lesson
I learned 
today












Here I have two short poems by Henri Coulette from The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette, published in 1990 by The University of Arkansas Press.

Coulette was born in Los Angeles in 1929 and died in Pasadena in 1988. He earned a bachelor's degree at California State University, Los Angeles. After studying at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, he returned to California where he served his entire career on the faculty of California State University.













White Slip, White Shoes

Her laughter is like crystal on a crowded shelf -
this woman in the white slip,
this girl in the white shoes; and her right arm
in a moon journeying,
a half-moon combing the long darkness...

Wantonness is made of olives and the crushed rose.
I have lifted, with these hands,
her ass, magnificent of the catlight,
and Omar in his tower
knew no burden half so sweet, poor guy!


Even Now

The whites of your eyes are blue,
and you show them, evading
my comic, desperate look.

Your nipples are soft, even
now as you come, and you come
so softly, without shudder,

without moan, that I must wait
the coming of your boredom,
and that sigh, before I know.

I am like a stranger, cold
as daybreak, and you are like
a sleeping house, warm and locked.













From 2008, a nightmare.












i dreamed

i dreamed
i could not dream

and made insane
by a
never-dream world

i huddled
in a dark, dreamless
corner

the sound of logic
pounding
like hailstones

on my roofless
dream-starved
head











This poem is by Iris Berry, from Sirens, "Five Femme Fatale Poets," published by Sisyphus Press in 2008. An interesting book, the only anthology in my library with a nude photo of one of the contributors.

Included in the book, from a critic's description of Berry: "Like the water-nymphs of lore, Iris Berry, temptress of Silverlake, the punk-generation's poet scribe of Hollywood Babylon has seduced the hearts and minds of countless pirate-kings, outlaw-minstrels, beatnik-desperadoes, and junk "n" roll bank robbers with her hypnotic elegies and rhapsodies, gossamer words, and empathetic story-telling..."









Moshing With the Cosmos, Part #2

the sugar's finally kicking in...
it helps with the jones
and I can't fucking believe it
not this again
this one snuck by me...
after all
the mexican tar
the china white
the synthetic white
the off white
the bupernix
and cocaine kicks
and crack
and god
and hate
the three day Nyquil kicks
and the 14 day codeine home detox
time after time
sweating sneezing
freezing, puking
and wretching leg shakes
charlie horse
bad dreams
the kick doctors
and the 3 hour
bus rides
selling cd's
mine, yours
and whoevers
digging for quarters
begging for fronts
at 4 in the morning
empty, promise loans
from tired, beaten, innocent
and disgusted family members
friends dropping like flies
bouncing checks and breaking hearts
all that bad madness
I think of all the pain killers I took
when I didn't have any real pain
at least not physical pain
just psychic
and now I really need it
now I have real physical pain
and I can't even handle
a couple of codeine 3's
for 5 minutes
without getting
a habit
and a jones...
it's some kind of cosmic joke.

















Here's another short, personal-message poem.
















I drove through Amarillo

I
drove 
through 
Amarillo
once

with 
any luck
it'll
never
happen
again














Here are three short poems by Paul Auster from his book, Collected Poems, published in 2004 by the Overlook Press.

Auster, born in New Jersey in 1947, is a writer and movie director whose books have been translated into 40 languages.












Fragment from Cold

Because we go blind
in the day that goes out with us,
and because we have seen our breath
cloud
the mirror of air,
the eyes of the air will open
on nothing but the word
we renounce: winter
will have been a place
of ripeness.

We who become the dead
of another life than ours.


Visible

Spools of lightning, spun outward
in the split, winter night: thunder
hauled by star - as if

your ghost had passed, burning,
into the needle's eye, and worked itself
sheer through the silk
of nothingness.


Meteor

The light, receding from us once again,
in this furtive, unappeasable
birth
of mineral-memory
and home, as though here,
even our names, anchored
to the glacial prow
of silences, could furrow the land
with longing, and scatter, over the life
that lies between us, the dust
of the smallest stone
that falls from the eaves
of Babel.








This poem is from very early 2009, several days before President Obama was inaugurated. Who could have imagined how much better George W. would look, by comparison, just nine years later.












the legacy

it's
a January-looking day,
dark and damp,
looking like it might be about 3 degrees
and, figuring wind-chill
it just might be...

walking The Oaks
with Reba,
sniffing and peeing
and loving every minute of it,
but not me

for me it's just too damn cold

cold...

you wonder how cold these days in January
must be for George Bush,
given the grandest kind of chance
to make history,
to do great things,
knowing for the rest of his life,
beginning next week,
that it's over
and he screwed it up...

history-maker,
on the exclusive list of all-American
fuck-ups
that ever school child will study,
Lincoln, Washington, FDR on this side,
the great ones,
and on the other side,
the Presidential Order of Fuck-Ups, Buchanan,
Harding, Nixon, and near the top of that dishonored list,
Bush II, who couldn't ever make it
to the nice-try list,

cold...

a cold day for me,
but it will be warm for me next week,
next month,or even in the next several days...

but for him,
even Texas heat will not warm
hat cold knot of failure
lodged at the base of his spine
on even the hottest of days in July and August...

his legacy to
live with












This poem is by Hadara Bar-Nadav. Born on Long Island and raised in New Jersey, the poet began writing a the age of six. She graduated from William Paterson College in New Jersey with a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English with a focus on American Literature. At the time the book was published, she was completing a Ph.D. in English with concentration in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has published several collections of poetry, including Lullaby (with Exit Sign), from which I took this poem.










Compose an Evening Sky


that resists. Neon-lit with greasy oranges and pinks. Funereal flowers weep
entire, damp with wilting. Clutch a tourists postcard of the slivered night
(which means we're just visiting). Father, I am poor once more without you.
This bloody weather rubs me thin. This breath. Skinned ribs. Snow geese
cry overhead, a proscenium of crumple and din. The phosphorescent scar
of the moon turns its pocked cheek.

Now descends a blackened-blue scrim clotted with lint. A molting of just
moments before. Azure decomposure. Erosion's humble fate. This edgeless
blankery poor without you. Your palace nightly disintegrates.













This was one of our more round-about trips, took us through eight states.













Blue Ridge Parkway


standing
on a ridge, looking down
on autumn i full display,
reds and browns and yellow and gold,
the forest a kaleidoscope carpet
laid over valleys
and hills

strong cold front
coming in behind us,
cold wind
like a silver serpent 
coiling under my coat,
catching us
every time we stop
for photographs

but
too much beauty
to pass by
without storing it
to see again
and again,
willing to be cold
as it takes to record
the colors














Most of the photos in last week's post were from the Chisos Basin in the Big Bend National Park. It's a favorite destination for us for long weekends. Can't take the isolation for more than a couple of days but every hour we stay is an hour of harsh beauty and peace.














April in the Chisos Basin

April
in the Chisos Basin
high above the tan caliche sands
of the Chihuahua Desert that spreads
all around  us...

fog moves across the basin,
drifting through peaks
and canyons
like a cotton snake
stretching, contracting...

with the rise and fall
of the mist
we are sometimes lost
in its gray shroud,
other times we are above it,
like the gods of Olympus,
immortal in their eternal ether,
under stars that shine
night and day
for their pleasures,
above the moving clouds
that cover all the realm
of their corporal
creation...












This poem is by Lorna Dee Cervantes, a poet you read often here because I like her very much. The poem is from her book, Emplumada, published by The University of Pittsburgh Press in 1981.

Cervantes is a feminist, activist poet who is considered one of the most important Chicana poets of the last half century.













Emplumada

When summer ended
the leaves of snapdragons withered
taking their shrill-colored mouths with them.
They were still, so quiet. They were
violet where umber now is. She hated
and she hated to see
them go. Flowers

born when the weather was good - this
she thinks of, watching the branch of peaches
daring their way above the fence, and further,
two hummingbirds hovering, stuck to each other,
arcing their bodies in grim determination
to find what is good, what is
given them to find, These are warriors

distancing themselves from history.
They find peace
in the way the contain the wind
and are gone.
















From 2010, a mystery, how does the world decide such things as this?
















deciding which kind is which kind

so i was
in the bookstore

and i saw this little boy
run up to his mom

with a book,
"mommy, I want this book"

he said
"you can't have that book"

she said,
"but I want it"

he said,
"you can't have it"

she said,
"it's a girl's book"

so he says,
"okay mommy"

and heads back
to the children's book section

to find
a boy's book

and i'm left
with questions

like
whose job is it to decide

which kind of book
is which kind of book?

is it the librarian,
after she returns all the returns

to their proper shelves
and straightens the magazine racks

and makes a list
of the overdue books

not returned today,
does she go to the children's

book section
and search every book

page by page,
cataloging the little boy penises

and the little girl vaginas
that distinguish one kind of book

from the other kind of book
and mark it with the appropriate stamp

so no mistakes of identification
can lead a little boy to reading

a little girl book
and vice-versa

and does she keep a list
of which kind of book each kind of book

is?













Two poems by Frances Trevino from her book Catetana, published by Wings Press in 2007.

In 1999, Trevino was a fellow  for the National Endowment for the Humanities for integrating U.S. Latino Literature in the secondary classroom. At the time of publication she taught British Literature for the San Antonio Independent School District. Currently she teaches at the University of Texas, San Antonio.












My Sister, She Dances

she sips sangria
purses her lips
to savor
the little bit of sour
and orders new pitchers
by the hour
tells me
girlfriend
don't pretend
look at you
lookin' like
you wanna be me
she spins in the middle
of mustached mariachis
shakes herself
fine like that
they tell her
andale mujer
one more time.


Southern and in Detroit

I do not like the empty buildings
in Detroit.

Cradled in whispers
of angry ghosts
rocking in river breezes
white and smoke stacked,

engines dead and rusting,
barges humming along the river way,
slow, tired, and achy.

And now, more than ever,
I miss the South.














A morning observational from 2011. Ah, the unfairness of it all.


















the hefty woman has a hearty breakfast

she's
kind of hefty,
well north of stout,
I'm saying,
but from the three eggs,
scramble,
and stack of buttermilk pancakes
she's packing in
for breakfast
it doesn't seem to bother her

meanwhile,
being no lightweight
myself,
I stick to my more
responsible
nature
with porridge
in skimmed milk
and a single piece
of dry toast

and feel
quite
at peace with myself
for it,
judging no
the stout woman
for her pleasures in the morning,
finding it admirable
in fact,
to see her fortitude
in the face
of her continued absence
of a view of her feet,
jealous, a little,
of her full and hearty breakfast
in comparison
of my prisoner-of-war ration
of gruel

and though she seems
such a healthy, happy person,
despite her disregard for her own well-being
and the feelings
of all the stoutish people
around her,
sticking to their
dank dungeon swill
while she engages breakfast
like a skinny person,
it seems she mocks our own efforts
at adipose reduction,
which is why
we all
hate
that fat woman and
her three eggs, scrambled,
and full stack of buttermilk pancakes

damn
fat woman!

and
on top of everything else
she will probably
outlive us
all











My last library poem this week is by James Galvin, from his book, X, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2003.

Born in Chicago in 1951, Galvin earned a BA from Antioch College and an MA from the University of Iowa. He is the author of seven collections of poet as well as a novel and a prose meditation on the landscape and the people of the Wyoming - Colorado borderlands.

The title of this poem reminds me of Howling Woman Creek that crosses highway 87 north of San Antonio. The mystery of where these names come from - like who was the woman and what was she howling about, or, below, how dirty was that dirty woman the creek was named for.













Wild Irises on Dirty Woman Creek

Stars leak mixed feelings
over sheer lightning's weft of echoes.
You, I can't get over your shoulder blades,
Like music from the center of the earth.
I want to live happily.
You can have the ever and the after.
You are quite lifelike, but you can't fool me.
I know the unearthly when I die from it.
I'm not talking about the body's mutable components -
I'm not talking.
Look - wild irises, like every spring.
In the salacious green of Dirty Woman Creek.














From 2012, a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden off Broadway, an old quarry converted to a garden of water and greenery. Was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden during the war, returned to it's original name at war's end.















in the garden

school of koi -
cold, shallow water 
rainbow huddle

```

waterfall
on green rocks -
sun-bright pearls fall to puddles

```

steep climb,
solid rock protrudes on either side -
heavy gravity for old knees

```

rock concert next door -
ka-thunka ka-thunka - pale
water dimples, rivulets of green

jitter-bug the koi

```

young boy
stands on high rock
in fearless-explorer pose

mother clutches tight the air
on either side

```

Eden,
lush green oasis
in a granite cup

clothing not
optional

```

gardener
waters his jungle
daily

paid by the beauty,
always wishes for rain

could drink tea,
watch his garden grow
without him

















An early morning poem, just as the day begins.














soft night broken

rumble
from the dark sky,
C-130s practicing takeoff and landing
exercises at Kelly Field

a train passes
two blocks east, great diesel
roaring, steel on steel,
wheels on track clattering

ambulance passes
on Broadway,
siren's wail bouncing
off buildings, leaving behind
the tang of panic
in the air

soft night broken
by the insistent rush
of day breaking

the sky lightens
to pale blue, noisy
morning

lights
come on
at the coffeehouse
and my day begins like
a locked closet door
opening











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Poetry

New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces 






Always to the Light




Goes Around Comes Around




Pushing Clouds Against the Wind




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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