The Elephants Sing   Wednesday, February 07, 2018

I think we should all adopt an elephant, not for our backyards of course, but someplace more suitable for their ponderous habits.

Somehow, without knowing it, I was moved to write two poems about elephant song, the second without remembering the first.

Actually, not really such a mystery to me. For if I were to have a god, I would name it Elephant.

the elephants sing

sing their songs
on a ponderosa plain,
drumming with their massive feet,
bass stomping beats
that shake mountains
a continent away

of murder

songs of deep anguish
only their own kind
can hear them

familial communication
in the face
of genocide
by another kind, our kind,
the worst of us
our innocent brothers and sisters

knowing this,
seeing the evidence of this
can only make us weep, hate
their killers who count themselves
as among us, insulting us
with their claim of kinship

time now
to sing with the elephants,
tell their story as well as
well as ours, the blood lust
of our own dark

the elephants sing (2)

the elephants sing in a low rumble
that their fellows feel
through their feet'
we hear only the smallest and
highest register of their songs,
but feel the rest
if we are close enough
through sympathetic vibrations
in our chest, elephant
song, soul-stirring felt, even if
mostly unheard...

the wonder of song.
the elephants singing, the whales,
the dolphins, the birds, and Chavela Vargas,
re-inventor of the ranchera, exploring
in many shades of mystery and romance
in Mexican music, dead yesterday
in her 94th year, and the beautiful
Suzannah McCorkle, her magnificent voice like
a jazz angel singing softly in your ear,
quieted by her own hand,
by her secret depressions...

and so many more,
the singers
and the songs...

and the question about us,
about our urge to sing
when we need only to talk,
our wanting to rejoice through song
in the pains and pleasures
of our lives,
to the singer's songs
that bring,
like the elephants' low rumble,
a trembling to our hearts

This week I go again, for the last time, to my book New Days & New Ways, going to the second section, "Perils and Pitfalls of Poem a Day Poets," that I passed over before.

For someone, like me, committed to the poem-a-day discipline, there comes the day when the muse is silent and must be kick-started. In the best times, the poems that result, created by the genius of desperation, are like football's "hail Mary play" that sometimes become the most exciting play of the game.

I don't claim genius for the poems in this section, but they were all fun to write and the book, and all my other books as well are available at Amazon and anywhere else where eBooks are sold.

the elephants sing
the elephants sing (2)

if it's not the weather, it must be me

waiting for promised lightning

Jane Kenyon
Evening at a Country Inn

chalk up another day lost to literature

too dang late

Langston Hughes
After Many Springs
Quiet Girl
Autumn Thought

the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or just another damn day in the life of beginnings and endings

Carol  Coffee Reposa
For My Mother

even dogs need their jesus

Robert Pinsky
If the Dead Came Back

just because this poem is mostly about idiots doesn't necessarily mean it's a political poem though I'll admit it does make it more likely

Richard Eberhart

the war begins at midnight

Tom Kimmel
Back to Heaven

all fuzz-brained

B. H. Fairchild
Hearing Parker for the First Time


a real loss to poetry

George Oppen
Seated Man
Night Scene


Cold, dim days take their toll.

if it's not the weather, it must be me

get up and go
long gone these past weeks

my can do
now why do

I blame it on the weather

if it's not the weather
it has to be me

and if it's me
it's up to me to fix it

but my fix-it these days
just a lazy man's version
of fake-it

my get up and do
just plain

I really hope it's the

First of this week's "hail Mary passes" from New Days & New Ways."

waiting for promised lightning

pumping gas

pumping iron

pumping my fist
upon receiving a $5 coupon
at Bar-B-Que-Is-Us

Mary Sue in the back seat
of a "48 Hudson - oh
how soft
those seats and Mary Sue
(you don't have to read the above,
it's what I call
"priming the pump"
dropping a few irrelevant words
down the well
with hope that the addition
to the well of
through force of the Heimlich Maneuver
or some such science word
having to do with one force
activating a countervailing
will cause good words
to rise
to the surface
being irresistibly pushed there
by the irrelevant word)

meaning, according to the Heimlich
that an actual poem will start
below -

may be required
being as how
a process thing
and process things
else they would be called
like Jesus's face on a tortilla
or Jimmy not crackin' corn
when the master's gone away
or my 1906 computer
suddenly humming and buzzing
and computing
or the phone company guy
arriving before 11:59 or a service call
promised between 8 a.m. and noon,
or me getting a hot date
when I was fifteen years old
or next week,
whichever comes first...


where would we be without them,
the miracle of conception
and birth,
the miracle of divining wisdom,
the miracles
of Slinkies and Hula Hoops
and Rice Crispies
snapping and crackling and popping
every time
the miracle of meteors not crashing into the earth
like last time, except this time
making us the new dinosaurs, converting in the tar pits
into some form of fuel
for the finally and again
ascendant cockroach, no longer
getting squashed in kitchen corners,
that's why cowboy boots have pointy toes,
you know - being the squasher
this time, instead...

and the little circley thing is circling on a blue screen
which means the aforementioned pending poems
is still in process, but not so quickly,
so if you have something else
to do
you should go ahead
and take care of it
and I'll give you a call
when the processing poem
is processed, arisen, so to speak
from the depths of the force of the Heimlich processing
primal push
to relevancy
in this portion of the universe

but maybe since the phone guy
hasn't come yet
I'll just email
or maybe send a tweet
which I almost never do, fearing
being pigeon-holed
as just another tweeting

for promised lightning

The first poem from my library this week is this, by Jane Kenyon, from her book The Boat of Quiet Hours. The book was published by Graywolf Press in 1986.

Born in 1947 in Michigan, Kenyon died of leukemia in 1995. She earned both a BA and MA at the University New Hampshire and was frequently published, including four collections of her own poetry.

Evening at a Country Inn

From here I see a single red cloud
impaled on the Town Hall weather vane
that made them run and buck
in the brittle morning light.

You laughed only once all day -
when the cat ate cucumbers
in Chekhov's story...and now you smoke
and pace the long hallway downstairs.

The cook is roasting meat for the evening meal,
and the smell rises to all the rooms.
Red-faced skiers stamp past you
on their way in; their hunger is Homeric.

I know you are thinking of the accident -
of picking the slivered glass from his hair.
Just now a truck loaded with hay
stopped at the village to get gas.
I wish you would look at the hay -
the beautiful sane and solid bales of hay.

Here's another poem-a-day rambling.

chalk up another day lost to literature

I should write
something deep and important today

something grand with meaning
in this helter-skelter world, war and peace

in a page and a half -
that's what I should be doing today...

but I can't get my brain
past the woman in the booth facing me,

early old or late middle age,
tiny face almost lost under a big, puffy hair-do,

white stripes steaming back
from both temples

her little eyes wide beneath hair like a coonskin cap
with a bobbed tail...

I'm thinking this is a humorous image, then I notice
when she and her white-haired companion

get up to leave that she is wearing
very tight pants, wearing the very well, in fact,

and considering the factor of her rear
as I would the rings of a tree,

I adjust my age estimate sharply

and therein lies the problem -
how does one write war and peace

in a page and a half
when in the midst of tight-panted women in coonskin caps?

I'll bet Tolstoy didn't have to deal with such as this
and if he did he'd probably just clear his mind

by writing a hot sex scene
which I can't do

since there's no room for a hot sex scene
in a page and a half poem...

so I decide I'll have to write that
meaningful poem tomorrow as my brain

follows the coonskin cap and tight pants


right out the door

We do what we can but often when it should have been done.

too dang late

can I write
another morning poem
and if I did
would anyone care to read it

because what can I say if I did
that I haven't said

I can say the morning is cool,
and cold like yesterday
and wet, with mist and fog,
not like yesterday's clear and sunny sky

so I could say that...

the tree in the courtyard
is winter-clad, with yellow leaves
not shining in the sun like yesterday
but dull and lifeless
in the morning

and I could say hat

Jim the actuary
is acutarating just like yesterday,
but yesterday he wore
a business suit,
which is different from today
but the time to write
about that
was yesterday, not

it's the frame of reference,
it's just all wrong...

is just one of a long line
of yesterdays
and morning poems,
all of which,
as a conglomerate,
have talked about all the above
at one time or another...

except for Jim's business suit,
but that was yesterday
which means I had a chance
to write something different

but I blew the opportunity
and now it's just
too dang late...

Next, Langston Hughes, who, to the degree any one person can, represents the best of the Harlem Renaissance. The poems are from his book, The Dream Keeper and other poems, published by Knopf in 1994.

Born in 1902, Hughes died in 1967. A poet, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri, he was one of the innovators of jazz poetry.

After Many Springs

In June,
When the night is a vast softness
Filled with blue stars,
And broken shafts of moon-glimmer
Fall upon the earth,
Am I too old to see the fairies dance?
I cannot find them anymore.

Quiet Girl

I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.

Autumn Thought

Flowers are happy in summer.
In autumn they die and are blown away.
   Dry and withered,
Their petals dance in the wind
Like little brown butterflies.


I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began -

I loved my friend.

More from my 2011 book. And how familiar this little piece of 2011 is today.

the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or just another damn day in the life of beginnings and endings

I was going to write a poem
about how miserable everything is

now the lunatics
have taken over the asylum

how good things every where
are hightailing it for the low hills

how the bad guys
have stolen all the white hats
and posture and preen and pretend
they are the good guys
while the real good guys are all off
eating crackerjacks
and drinking lattes and smoking rose-tipped
mute and blind
to the ravages of their absence,
content in their philosophy of okey-dokey
pass the smokeys
while the world burns with the riders
of the
going "eeehaw" through the great  divide
of hip and hop and spit and spot
and drip and drop and pip
and pot and duck
and fuck
and clickety cluck
and eeehaw
we ride
they say
our grim teeth
and your run
your white ass
in the light of a dying moon...

you had your chance
they say
now it's our turn to ride

in the light of a dying moon,
we are the riders
of your inconsequential doom

you betcha

and I've gone old
my damn coffee's gone
and my left foot's gone sleepy
twitching like jello in a junk-jar
from jim-jam jarheads
and don't-know-jack spratt

and that's just the beginning
of it...

but nobody wants to hear all that
so I'll just stat over

junk this poem and write a new one
about blue birds and puffy-fluffy clouds

and shit like that...

This poem is by Carol Coffee Reposa, from an anthology of mostly San Antonio poets who formed a poetry collective some 15 years ago. The anthology is Keeping Company, published in 1996 by Pecan Grove Press.

At the time of publication Reposa taught English at San Antonio College. She is widely published and has appeared in regional and national anthologies.

For My Mother

You look fragile now,
A sigh in shapeless white
That tosses rail to rail, in your iron bed,
The door just like the other doors
That open on a road of disinfected tile
While monitors continue flickering
Lost messages
On rows of gray-black screens.

But I remember
When you clubbed a diamondback to death
Sun glinting off the hissing writhing skin
At even angles
Like the motion of our arms
Across the lake
Your body locked in measured reaching
As it pulled blue distance into breath,
A song in icy water.

And I remember
When you pounded Gershwin
On our dreary spinet
Filling hungry rooms with city lights
And scores of red silk gowns.

The old piano now lies mute
I touch it briefly
But my hands sigh helplessly
From key to key
And I must stop
To listen
For the rustle of red silk.

We all need someone.

even dogs need their jesus

everybody needs help

it was Frank Sinatra
who said in a Playboy interview
that he was in favor of whatever
got people through the night,
be it God
or a good book
or a beautiful willing
or just a fifth of Jack...

it's the getting through the night,
the facing life
and surviving that counts, or, at our best,
as Faulkner said, beyond just surviving
in the face of all, but

like my dog Bella,
my beautiful golden Belle,
previously abused, rescued by me,
by the chance of being there
when she needed a champion,
becoming in her eyes all that
she required in her simple dog life,
always at my side, with me at her side,
making it through her troubled night
of fearful dreams..

I am the One, in a religion trusting
only one god, no one else, trusting
me and no one else, her
protector and
savior from her
early pain...

and I am content to fill the role,
for as we all, even dogs need
their jesus

This poem is by Robert Pinsky, from his book Gulf Music Poems, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2007. A poet, essayist, literary critic and translator, Pinsky, served as poet laureate of the United States from 1997 to 2000.

If the Dead Came Back

What if the dead came not only
In the shape of your skull your mouth your hands
The vice inside your mouth  the voice inside
Your skull the words in your ears the work in your hands,
What if they came back not only in surnames
Nicknames, names of dead settlement shtetl pueblo

Not only in cities fabled or condemned also countless dead
Peoples languages pantheons stupidities arts,
As we too in turn come back not only occulted
In legends like the conquerors' guilty whispering about
Little People or Old Ones and not only in Indian angles
Of the cowboy's eyes and cheeks the Dakota molecules

Of his body and acquired antibodies, and in the lymphatic
Marshes where your little red boat floats inches
Above the mud of oblivion O foundling in legends
The dead who know the future require a blood offering
Or you one hand accuses the other both lacking any
Sacrifice for the engendering appetites of the dead.

Again, seven years later, and the same crackpots continue to screw over everyone and every thing.

just because this poem is mostly about idiots doesn't necessarily mean it's a political poem though I'll admit it does make it more likely

trying to write
a poem this morning
about how the wind is blowing,
shaking up the trees,
snapping the flag
over at USAA,
(I bet if I was outside
I could hear it
in the wind)
and the possibility of thunderstorms,
welcome rain,
and if it does come a good strong rain
I'll be out in my backyard
stomping and sliding
in the mud
when the first raindrop falls
flapping and rolling in the grass
like a bird chasing worms,
and the biscuit and gravy I had for breakfast
especially good this morning...

but politics
continues to invade, steady against
the wind, not just the national stuff
about which I have given up
in despair, resigned
to waiting for the next election,
retaining some hope
that all those insane fucks
from the last election
will be sent packing, back
to whatever hole they crawled out of...

not talking about those national
intellectual and moral
but the more local type,
the Texas Legislature, winding up
ins bi-annual, 180 day session
required by the state constitution,
dominated by Republicans, the same
kind of slime-sucking snakes
brought to us nationally by the last election,
ending one of the most dishonorable
sessions since succession,
like yesterday heading into the as frantic
days of the session, three pieces of last minute
the "lets-go-shoot-our-commie-professors"
guns in classrooms bill;
and the
voter id bill
and the
sanctuary cities  bill
and the
months to the next election seem to stretch
further and further away
every day
especially when I hear a couple of democrats
at the table next to me yesterday
fuming about how
we shot
bin Laden when we should'a given him
a party hat and party horn and brought him
back for questioning
but like in "Law and Order"
only after
having his rights read to him
in seven languages
and I'm thinking, holy shit,
are these the idiots who I have to look to
to get rid of the other idiots?

and see
that's why I'm tired of thinking about politics
cause it seems all you ever get is a  choice
of which idiots give you

but then,
it might rain
and I might go sloshing in it
and I've heard talk
that some folks are trying to talk Tommy Lee Jones
into running for Senator from Texas
and that's be almost as much fun
as sloshing in the

This is by Richard Eberhart, from his book Richard Everhart: Selected Poem, 1930-1965.

Eberhart, born in 1904, died in 2005, published 20 books, including more than a dozen collections of his poetry.


The six-foot nest of the sea-hawk,
Almost inaccessible,
Surveys from the headland the lonely, violent waters.

I have driven him off,
Somewhat foolhardily,
And look into the fierce eye of the offspring.

It is an eye of fire,
An eye of icy crystal,
A threat of ancient purity,

Power of an immense reserve,
An agate-well of purpose,
Life before man, and maybe after.

How many centuries of sight
In this piercing, inhuman perfection
Stretch the gaze off this rocky promontory,

To make the mind exult
At the eye of a sea-hawk,
A blaze of grandeur, permanence of the impersonal.

Adventures in un-fine dining.

the war begins at midnight

Chinese buffet
last night
at a new place
that fought back
all night

though the attack 
at the moment
no interest
in eating
most especially
of an Asian
having already
as much of my
as I ever 
hope to

remodeled bathroom
as it is


A recording and performing artist in his own right, Tom Kimmel tours widely. His songs have been featured in film, television and on albums by dozens of artists, including Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Randy Travis and Linda Ronstadt, selling millions of copies. These poems are from his first book, The Sweetest and the Meanest, published by Point Clear Press in 2006.

Back to Heaven

I love you like rain loves
a summer sidewalk.
I cannot stay here
but the warmth of
your rough surface,
as I embrace you
momentarily - even
as I begin to move
(rightfully, unavoidably)
familiar ground -
changes me in the
warming, sending a
part of me back
to heaven.


I watch the construction workers in my neighborhood
disembark from their vehicles,
long hair beneath ball caps
streaming ponytails down their backs.

They sport scraggly, untrimmed beards
below sunburned faces,
looking for all the world like the most radical,
dope smoking, acid dropping
back-to-the-earth hippies of my youth.

As I drive past I imagine them saying,
We are bound in many ways.
Here are the ways we are free.

It's those old atomic pills, get you every time.

all fuzz-brained

around Alamo Heights
near the coffeehouse where
I spend my morning, a chilled
overcast day, walking
trying to clear my head...

fuzz-brained this morning
from the little atomic pill
I took last night to get some

and it's nearly eleven o'clock
and I'm trying to write a poem
hours after I normally write my
poem and it does seem poets have
a daily shelf-life and mine has
expired and I am
for the poetry barge
that dumps expired poems
in the Mariana trench in the
or maybe that surplus van where
expired poems go
to be distributed to
the lyrically
starving for the word, even
old used-up words
from old used-up
overdue, past their sell-by dates
even for the Goodwill
a defunct poetry
scornfully refused
like a torn tee-shirt
with obscene words
screen-printed front
and back,
or a three-wheeled lawnmower
or a two-legged bar stool
complete wit its own
passed out bar fly,
or a wobbly, bottom-rusted
one-wheeled wheelbarrow...

and old, misused poet,
past distressed,
no good
even for the desperate...

I am desperate
standing on the corner of poetry avenue
and inspiration highway,
holding my little cardboard sign,
hungry for the word,
"will work for a poem," the sign says,
"veteran poet," the sign says,

"I'm fuzz-brained,"the sign says,
took a little atomic pill last night
to sleep, and now I'm fuzz-brained
and can't find my morning poem
anywhere - not actually all said
on the little cardboard sign,
but implied by the capital letters
and blood-red ink of the sign...


"help," it says, "send me a

"roses are red
violets are blue..."

"I'm all fuzz-brained,
how about you?:

Born in Houston in 1942, son of a lathe operator, B.H. Fairchild earned his BA and MA at the University of Kansas and his Ph.D. at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. He taught English and Creative writing at the University of California, San Bernardino and at Claremont Graduate University.

This poem comes from his book, Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest, published in 2003 by W W Norton.

Hearing Parker the First Time

The blue notes spiraling from the transistor radio
tuned to WNOE, New Orleans, lifted me out of bed
in Seward County, Kansas, where the plains wind riffed
telephone wires in tones less strange than the bird songs

of Charlie Parker, I played high school tenor sax the way,
I thought, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young might have
if they were, like me, untalented and white, but Ornithology
came winding up from the dark delta of blues and dixieland

into my room on the treeless and hymn-ridden high plains
like a dust devil spinning me into the Eleusinian mysteries
of the jazz gods though later I would learn that his long
apprenticeship in Kansas City and an eremite's devotion

to the hard rule of craft gave him the hands that held
the reins of the white horse that carried him to New York
and 52nd Street, farther from wheat fields and dry creek beds
than I would ever travel, and then carried him away.

Spooky morning times.


the fly-over lanes,
I-10 to I-35,
downtown is laid before me
under a shifting suppression of fog,
tall buildings like gray gravestones
in a dim graveyard, like relics,
old as the ancient
who buried their dead
along the river
that feeds the people

More questionable genius of desperation.

a real loss to poetry

it was a golden night,
no moon
stars buried
behind thick clouds
reflecting back to the ground
and streets and houses
the golden light of the city
never sleeping golden light
filtering through the trees
like spun gold orange shadows
in the golden night
and down at the creek, water
flowed in golden buckets of light
while the crickets
and the frogs farted
and oh crap
haven't I done this
and who cares
is a serious business
and ought to be about
serious things
how about
that helium
if I ate a ham
and helium sandwich
would I rise to the ceiling
like those balloons they give
to kids at the supermarket
who let go the balloon
and the balloon rises to the
ceiling which is lined with
balloons given to kids
who let the balloons go
red blue yellow green
what a bunch of colors
lining the supermarket
and what about if I ate
two ham and helium
sandwiches or maybe
would I float away
into the sky
if outside where
there is no supermarket
to keep me safe would this be
a new mode of green
energy for air transportation
great airplanes guided
through the air by
teams of pilots gorging
on ham and helium sandwiches
and what about
the porpoise Einstein
of the sea Aristotle
with fins Plato
with a snout and
a jolly smile what
do you call more than
one porpoise - is it
porpiees maybe and
what do you call a gathering
of porpiees not a "school"
because that's fish and porpiees
are not fish and not a "herd" cause
that's cows and horses and sheep
and porpiees are none of those
and not a "swarm" cause that's
bees and not a "flock" cause that's geese
and chickens and not a pod because
that's whales (which I think is
a silly name for something as
as a congregation of whales
it would be better if we called such
a gathering a "tundra" of something
else equally as vastly
gargantuan (but that's just me)
and at least whales
are mammals like
porpiees and not fish even
though like whales porpiees
like the water and frolic all about
in it at leas the porpiees I saw
at Seaworld like to frolic around
in the water so maybe a group
of porpiees who travel together
might be called a "frolic"
but that's just a suggestion

and anyway I could go on and on
because there's lots
and lots of important things
poetry should deal with instead
of getting stuck in frou-frou poems
about golden nights and cloudy skies
and absent stars and vanished moons
and crickets and frogs an what about
those frogs and the way they mate
in Amarillo has anyone ever written
a poem about that well I did
but no one else and that's a real
loss to poetry

I'm telling you
a real loss

Here are two short poems by George Oppen from Collected Poems of George Oppen, a New Direction book published in 1976. Born in 1908 and died in 1984 was a poet best known as one of the Objectivist group of pets. He abandoned poetry in the 1930s for political activism and moved to Mexico to avoid the attention of the House Unamerican Committee in Congress. He returned to poetry and the United States in 1958 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1969.

His Wikipedia entry notes that Objectionism was a movement emphasizing simplicity and clarity over formal structure and rhyme. I guess that makes me an Objectionist, which seems to include just about every poet I know.

Seated Man

The man is old and -
out of scale

Sitting in the rank grass. The fact is
It is not his world. Tho it looks

The machine that has long sustained him,
The plumbing, the sidewalks, the roads

And the objects
He has owned and remembers.
He thinks of murders and torture

In the German cellars
And the resistance of heroes

Picturing the concrete walls.

Night Scene

The Drunken man
On an old pier
In the Hudson River,

Tightening his throat, thrust his chin
Forward and the light
Caught his raised face,
His eyes still blind with drink...

Said, to my wife
And to me -
He must have been saying


Good bye Momma,
Good bye Poppa

On an old pier.




full moon
this morning
slipping toward the west horizon,
giant moon last night
at its rising, yellow as an egg yolk,
its face a-swirl with gossamer
clouds, dusky smudges
of mountains and craters
still visible, smiles
behind the veil, an invitation
to the night, invitation
to come again

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

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

  Just click the "Comment" tab below.


New Days & New Ways

Places and Spaces 

Always to the Light

Goes Around Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind

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

Seven Beats a Second


Sonyador - The Dreamer


  Peace in Our Time

at 9:47 AM Anonymous david eberhardt said...

google makes u sign in nxt trying name- see what happens

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