Swimming the Mystic River   Monday, April 09, 2018









swimming the mystic river

in the fifteenth century
Korean astronomers, searching
for omens of the future,
found a new star in a cluster of stars
they called Wei

the star that hung in the sky
for two weeks,
then disappeared into the dark night

the reason for the sudden appearance
and quick disappearance
was a mystery at the time almost certainly
not considered a good omen
I suspect...

now the mystery has finally been solved by present day
astronomers, six hundred years
after its first unfolding...

for the poet, it is not the solution
that interests,
it is the six-hundred-year-old mystery
and its solution as evidence of the science of man, learning
in increments, the clandestine inscrutabilities
of the universal clock
and all its moving parts, picked apart, studied,
until each little mystery is solved, proof
that we can know, if we can survive the interim,
not all, for parts of all are beyond
all understanding, but, like working a jigsaw puzzle
piece after piece from the edges to the heart
of all unknowns, to that which
astounds us knowledge so rare as to brush the shoulders
of ancient mystics, the desperately sought intuitions
that carried us from the caves to the stars...

I will follow this trail, rarely understanding it,
until the end of my days, confident
at the end, confident that in the community of my  kind
there will always be others like me, others who will continue
to swim the mystic river even
when I am lost to the
search...









Here it is, another pretty standard "Here and Now."

The photos this time are all from Texas mid-coast, Corpus Christi, where I lived for fifteen years, and a couple miles further up the coast, Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, and Rockport-Fulton, all pictures taken before the last hurricane, the destruction from which they still struggle to recover.


What I have, I hope worth waiting for.


Me
swimming in the mystic river

Me
approach with caution

Jimmie Durham
Columbus Day

Me
in the time of emergence

Maxine Kumin
How It Is

Me
morning sight

Inge Muller
How

Me
unlike some, I've been born only once

Jack Marshall
In the Shadow of the Poisoned Wind

Me
National Women's Day

Laura Boss
At the Nuclear Rally

Me
somewhere out there

Dan Cuddy
A Train of Thought Without a Train

Me
From "On the Cusp of Confederate Winter" (Places and Spaces)

Me
"In the early days of the war..." (Peace in Our Time)

Max Cox
Natural Causes

Me
on the river

Amiri Baraka
The Minute of Consciousness

Me
"Onward Christian Soldiers" (Sonyador, the Dreamer)

Me
John Henry wakes
the train again















Beginning with a morning coffeehouse poem from a couple of weeks ago.















approach with caution

a poet
informs me that yesterday
was World Poetry Day...

I'm glad I missed it
because I don't like the idea
of poetry
spread out on a rock
like a frog deep-thinking,
getting little blisters
on his pale frog
belly
from the sun's midday
burn

poetry
should be like dirty sex,
restricted to the dark
hours of midnight
obsessions

(like the beautiful Asian woman
in the coffeehouse this morning,
neon bright
orange
stretch pants...

approach with caution)











This poem is by Jimmie Durham. Born in Houston in 1940, Durham is a sculptor, essayist and poet living and working in Europe since 1994. He has long claimed to be a Cherokee but that claim has been denied by all three of the recognized, historical Cherokee tribes. Despite that he was active in he civil rights movements of Native American in the 1960s-70s and served on the central council of the American Indian Movement.

His poem was taken from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, published by Harper Collins in 1988.













Columbus Day

In school I was taught the names
Columbus, Cortez, and Pizzaro and
A dozen other filthy murderers.
A bloodline all the way to General Mills,
Daniel Boone and General Eisenhower.

No one mentioned the names
Of even a few of the victims.
But don't you remember Chaske, whose spine
Was crushed so quickly by Mr. Pizarro's boot?
What words did he cry in the dust?

What was the familiar name
Of that young girl who danced so gracefully
That everyone in the village sang with her -
Before Cortez' sword hacked off her arms
As she protested the burning of her sweetheart?

That young man's name was Many Deeds,
And he had been a leader of a and of fighters
Called the Redstick Hummingbirds, who slowed
The march of Cortez' army with only a few
Spears and stones which now lay still
In the mountains and remember.

Greenrock Woman was the name
Of that old lady who walked right up
And spat in Columbus' face. We
Must remember that, and remember
Laughing Otter, the Taino, who tried to stop
Columbus and was take away as a slave.
We never saw him again.

In school I learned of heroic discoveries
Made by liars and crooks. The courage
Of millions of sweet and true people
Was not commemorated.

Let us declare a holiday
For ourselves, and make a parade that begins
With Columbus' victims and continues
Even to our grandchildren who will be named in their honor.
Because isn't it true that even the summer
Grass here in this land whispers those names,
And every creek has accepted the responsibility
Of singing those names? And nothing can stop
The wind from howling those names around
The corners of the school.

Why else would the birds sing
So much sweeter here than in other lands?

















This is from my 2014 book, New Days and New Ways. It is my last poetry collection so far. I followed it with apocalyptic fiction, a full length novela told through flash fiction bits and pieces.















in the time of emergence

an old Navajo chant,
speaks of the time of emergence
and I think
of the all-there-is emerging,
not a product
created by the hand of god,
but a creation
that emerges from the mind of the all-mother/all-father,
creation not a single event, but a job of work,

completed over the course of a week of seven god-days,
but a continuing process of never-ending creation,
a creation flow, an emergence
of ever-deepening truth.
like night emerges
and from the nigh a day emerges
and from the day a night;
like the sea emerges from the deep, breaks
on shores far from where its water-essence began,
then returns to the deep that sent it,
and back again to the same or different shores,
far-traveled, enriched by its journey,
like rain on hay left in the field over night,
the fire of creation processing within,
its musty odor rising again with the fallen rain
to become a cloud, drifting over continents,
over prairies and mountains and cities
and great forests, across the oceans, bringing
the musty smell of wet hay with new-falling rain
around the world and back again to mowed fields
where it began, like we begin,
in a moment of passion emerged from one of us
to another, then the continued emergence
through a life of ins and outs, comes and goes,
contributing as we come and go our own passions universe
we are part of again, flowing through our time until our end
in a moment of death-ecstasy, souls singing as we rejoin
the all there is from whence we came...

our part of the great emergence
complete,
until we, like the sea, return again to new and different shores,
enriched
by our time drifting in the creator's emerging
conscious













This poem is by Maxine Kumin. Born in 1925, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1981-1982 and winner of many other honors. She died in 2014.

Her poem is from The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol 2 published in 2003 by W. W. Norton.















How It Is

Shall I say how it is in your clothes?
A month after your death I wear your blue jacket.
A dog at the center of my life recognizes
you've come to visit, he's ecstatic.
In the left pocket, a hole.
In the right ,  parking ticket
delivered up last August on Bay State Road.
In my heart, a scatter like milkweed,
a flinging from the pods of the soul.
My skin presses your old outline
It is hot and dry inside.

I think of the last day of your life,
old friend, how I would unwind it, paste
it together in a different collage,
back from the death car idling in the garage,
back up the stairs, your praying hands unlaced,
reassembling the bits of bead and tuna fish
into a ceremony of sandwich,
running the home movie backward to a space
we could be easy in a kitchen place
with vodka and ice, our words like living meat.

Dear friend, you have excited crowds
with our example. They swell
like wind bags,straining at your seams.
I will be years gathering up our words,
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.














Another coffee house morning poem, one of possibly too many.













morning sight

I think
of an early expedition
through the crags of a copper canyon
as the rising sun breaks the ridge-line above, pushing
shadows in retreat from the first burn
of morning light

I think of climbing
step by step,
handhold by hand-hold
up the steep-slope wall to where
the sun calls morning
bright

I think
of the scent of ancient fires
rising from the sharp rocks below, and
the sun-lit mesa laid out in juniper and cactus
and tiny desert flowers blooming red and gold,
and among them, butterflies in orgasmic flight

I remember
the joy of this morning sight...














The poet is Inge Muller; the poem is from German Poetry in Transition, 1945 - 1990. The anthology was published in 1999 by The University Press of New England. It is a bilingual book, German and English of facing pages. The translator was Charlotte Melin.

Born in 1925, Muller was drafted into the air force as a helper during the war and later worked as a secretary and journalist. She wrote radio plays and  and children's verse prior to her suicide in 1966.










How

How can one make poems
Louder than the cries of the wounded
Deeper than the night of the starving
Quieter than breath from mouth to mouth
Harder than life
Soft as the water that outlives the stone?
How can one not make poems?

















This is another poem is from my 2014 book, New Days and New Ways.

















unlike some, I've been born only once...

unlike some,
I've been born only
once
and, seeing as how
I feel like I made a pretty
good show
out of that one shot, feel
no need to be born
again,
even though I recognize that,
on a deeper level
I am a being of universal elements,
and thus certain to be born
again
as I have been born before
uncountable, uncountable times
for the parts that make me
are as old as the universe
and so must be of all the things
I have been, things
near to home and far-away-lost
in the vast unknown regions where
stardust
still drifts -
so vastly traveled are my parts,
so vastly traveled I must be as well, so
varied and old and well-traveled
I am a marvel...

look around you at the vast everything-ness
that we are, have been, and will be a part of
and consider how marvelous
I am
and you as well..

sometimes I think of the me that was a daffodil,
how beautiful I was, much more beautiful
than I am now, though rooted and consequently
less curious than the proto-cat I was,
roaming with early felines,
newly-created to hunt the me
that was the deer, or the beaver, or the small mouse
hidden in high grasses,
or the grass I might have been, or the wiggling worm
that fertilized the grass-of-me with my worm
dropping...

so many places I have been;
so many beings I have been, so much more
than twice-born will I be in the  thousand thousand
millennia ahead,
so much more to be,
so much longer to be all those things...


I can only imagine those who think of themselves,
as limited to only two, how they would be
so very jealous
if they understood even a little of what
they could have
instead












This is by Jack Marshall, taken from Atomic Ghost, Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, published by Coffeehouse Press in 1995.

Marshal was born in Brooklyn 1936 to an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother of Jewish heritage. Recipient awards as a poet and author, he grew up speaking Arabic in a Sephardic household, ruled by traditional Arab/Jewish culture, attending Hebrew School as well as public schools.












In the Shadow of the Poisoned Wind

In Arctic latitudes, almost another
planet, Laplanders herd their radiation
laden reindeer down from their mountain

feeding grounds. Without a sound now
they glide like robes of royalty, billowing, breathing
sleeves of vapor, tiara antlers, thick

fur glowing dark as mahogany
fattened on vegetation watered by nuclear rains.
To be slaughtered, and not eaten. So we

go into what has been gliding
toward to meet us from so long ago
we have seen coming against the black

velvet of galactic space
the many pouring down to the one
wave not  yet broken. Shadow

on ice, here and gone.















I believe it is a poet's duty to take proper note of important national holidays.
















National Women's Day

see
reminders
all over that today
is National Women's Day,
and jeez, I thought all along
that was every day...

I need to remind my spouse 
that I have been over-performing
that one-day-a year requirement for
for over 40 years, and, given that,
can I please have the day off
tomorrow...

maybe go
somewhere where I can
smoke cigars and drink whiskey,
ogle pretty women
whose day it is today, again
and again and
again...





















This poem is from Unsettling America, "An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry" published by Penguin Books 1994.

The poet I selected from the book is Laura Boss, founder and editor of LIPS Poetry Journal.













At the Nuclear Rally

thinking of my father
who died of cancer of the pancreas
now linked to radiation

thinking of my father
who worked for the Atomic Energy Commission
that ran security checks on him
questioning our neighbors n Woodbridge

thinking of my father
with a pen in his pocked
who could add four columns of figures
in his head but stayed poor
working for the OPA
while colleagues took
expensive presents

thinking of my father
who embarrassed me, singing in the car
with the radio on as I now do
who returned from government trips
with marzipan strawberries, bananas, grapes
who cooked Sunday breakfast of chocolate
French toast (his special recipe)
and let my mother sleep late

thinking of my father
who was born Jewish
but never went to temple
never was Bar Mitzvahed

thinking of m father
who smelled of Chesterfields
who never hit, never spanked me
told me he was glad I walked home
with the only black woman
in my high school class

thinking of my father
who would have been at this rally
next to me tonight

















This poem is from my second eBook, my third collection of poetry. I published it in 2011, the first of thee books that year.


















somewhere out there


this is serious business...


somewhere
out there
interstellar star systems
are colliding

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

somewhere
out there
a spaceship full of Baptists
is approaching
the water-planet
Abrosion XII
for full immersion
baptism

somewhere
out there
Pat Boone is thinking about
a comeback tour

somewhere
out there
a Republican
is suffering from delusions
of competency

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

i mean
this is no damn time
for jokes
and silly faces
















This is by my poetry-friend Dan Cuddy, who excels at these intricate, streaming, personal poems, full of one blazingly great line after another.



















A Train of Thought Without a Train

nothing
there
painted white walls
some discoloration if you really look
and a cobweb at the corner on the ceiling

no books for the imagination
no coffee to help me stay up all night
toss, turn
get up
sit
look at white walls
which reflect all colors
though if I turn the light off
they are dark walls
I imagine shadows moving over them
like angels
though I don't see any wings

I would like to talk to a disembodied angel
but they would probably speak French
I don't speak French
Though I can read a little

no pen or paper
and in the dark no light
brilliant observation
unless brilliant light
they you are blinded
would see an angel then
no shadow
angels have no shadows
they leap like light
but that is figurative talk
angels are immaterial
dance like the aurora borealis
but more willfully I imagine
determined whiffs of wind
angels are as transparent as window glass
I imagine
they speak in a subterfuge of words
they hop on nerve-endings
dance on the tympanum of the ear
like a soft breeze

angels are always a suggestion
never indigestion
as Dickens wrote when writing about Scrooge

do angels sing?
too anthropomorphic
their comings and goings are like ballets
leaps and twinkling toes
but natural, not learned, not practiced
no aching bones, sore muscles, stubbed toes
and though
I would like an angel that looked like a young Tuesday Weld
angels only have beautiful minds
not bodies
they meld like a melody
each an instrument
but a collective
a thousand rivers into a bay
and which is which
and who is who

don't know
wish it were so
the world is too opaque
a white or dark wall
not a widow















This is an excerpt from "On the Cusp of Confederate Winter," one of five long poems for my book of travel poems, Places and Spaces. The scene is North Carolina.

Like all my books, Places and Spaces is available at Amazon and most everywhere else where eBooks are sold
















the colors now
are mostly shades of red and brown...

on a hill
surrounded on four sides by forest,
a horse enjoys a pasture all his own...

I notice how all the pastures and grass lands
are cut short, manicured as if for golf

only the woods  seem to harbor the wild...

in a dell green as spring, a small church,
white clapboard with a white wooden steeple
rising twice the church's height...

on a hill behind the church, rows of tombstones
in rank and file, climbing the hillside like steps
to an afterlife that, if we are all lucky, 
would look exactly like this green little dell
and this white little church..













I have done two books that were not poetry collections. Both were experimental, each trying to tell an extended, novella length story through a series of flash fiction pieces or very short short stories. The first tells the story of a young boy growing up in South Texas, not an autobiography, but memory of the time and place where I grew up.

The following is from the second of those two experiments. Titled Peace in Our Time, it is an apocalyptic, science fiction tale of humanity being attacked by an enemy they don't understand and whose secret is not revealed until the very end.

As this very short introduction to the book indicates, it is not a happy tale.

But it, like all my books, can be found at Amazon and most other place where eBooks are sold.













In the early days of the war...

In the early days of the war, back when most had shoes and my baby sister was a virgin and I was in love, and we did not yet know the taste of horse or pigeon....

We had so much to learn.


















This poem is by Max Cox. Born in 1956 in Illinois and recipient of many  honors, Cox teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina.

His poem is taken from Under the Rock Umbrella, "Contemporary America Poets from 1951 to 1977." The anthology was published in 2006 by Mercer University Press.














Natural Causes

Because my son saw the round hay bales -
1,200 pounds apiece, shrink-wrapped in white plastic -
lining the fields,
we have had to search all evening
for marshmallows.
Two stores were out. Another
had one stale and shrunken bag.
The forth had three bags, but no wood for fire,
so we went back to the first.
And I needed newspaper to start the kindling,
which is how I know Earl Softy died Monday,
at home, in his sleep, of natural causes. So rarely
we know how we know what we know.
Don't turn the page. Sit with us a while,
here by the fire in New Hampshire.
Have a marshmallow.
Because my wife and I love each other
and wanted something of it, and more than that, ourselves;
because my little son has imagined heaven in the pasture land,
even death tastes sweet.













This is from my next to last poetry collection, Always to the Light, from about 2014. As with all my books, available of Amazon and most everywhere eBooks are sold.

And an example of why Van Gogh painted so many self-portraits. He couldn't afford a model, another way in which I am an artist like Van Gogh

Maybe some day I'll send the ladies at the old age home into a swoon by posting the uncut picture.














on the river

two eggs
one pancake
and four sausage links -
five dollars ninety-eight cents

4:30 in the very early morning

early breakfast in Del Rio, Texas,
County seat of Val Verde County,
on the river,
150 miles west of San Antonio, and 400 miles
southeast of El Paso, with a population of about 45,000,
the largest collection of Texas bodies and souls
between the two, not counting Cuidad Acuna
on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, where
the lights in Boy's Town make cigarettes glow
a sparkly, shimmering gold and a slender young whore
dances naked in a dim-lit courtyard among
scattered tables with 16-year-old boys,
college carousers, tattooed rough necks from the oil fields,
leather-faced cowboys and fat businessmen belching beer
and three-for-a-dollar cigar smoke, watching 
every slow, sweat-oiled move, every one of them,
man and boy, looking for something at a place
where they're sure to never find it...

look but don't touch,
for touch costs more than the price of a bottle
of Mexican beer

but
not a lot more...



















This poem is by Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) was a writer of poetry, drama. fiction, essays, and music criticism. He earned many honors and taught at several universities. Born in 1934, he died in 2014.

His poem is from American Poetry Since 1950 published by Marsilio Publishers in 1993.










The Minute of Consciousness

You pay for it, for sure, dont let nobody tell you you don. You pay.
In all the ways, possible, through the traps, moon light taps collecting
absences, and kisses, lovers trail through the imagination lighting fires
throughout the civilized world, destroying primitive man's "progress"
to the obeisances of spirit, the salary of the blind.

It is a path song. Mountains pass under and over, cold birds to to blink.
A rope hung from way up, tied to a leader, spirit, a system, an old teacher
himself, tied up higher movn just a lil higher.

Sometimes you want to know is it worth it. The deprivation, the trying
narrow decision, move on, move on. You want to know sometimes when the
           world
beat down around you, the planet groans from so much pain, the pointless
murders ad idiot laughter from the merv griffin show then you know that


what you do is what the ancestors prepared you for. The lighting of the flame
The moving of the rock. Then the feeling in tuned and turned slowly our turn itself

hits a certain note, a mighty pythagoras, the sound, the color.

















Since I've already in this post included a piece from one of my non-poetry books, here's a piece from the other one, Sonyador, The Dreamer.

This was the first of the two books and the first of my effort to write a novella-length fiction through a succession of very short stories.

Though parts of the book are from my own life, my intent was not to write an autobiography or memoir, but a kind of biography of the time and place,, seen through the eyes of a small boy growing up in it.

This story is from the early middle of the book.












Onward Christian Soldier

     Sonny found Jesus at the Baptist mid-summer tent revival, then lost him just about as fast when it turned out that the Jesus he found was very closely associated with the revival preacher, Billy Wayne Claxon, short and a tad tubby, with a $500 platinum-blond pompadour, and who concluded his mid-summer soul-saving by running off with the First Methodist preacher's wife. When the tent folded and left town, it went east. Bill Wayne and the preacher's wife, Mildred Fitz-Hooley, went west, taking all the love offerings with them (about $2,000 worth of soul-saving, as it turned out.)
     Sonny had gone to the revival with a friend, Eddie Rassmuson, who got saved at every revival, then lost the faith a couple of weeks later, until it was revived again at the next tent show. He testified hard and often, but it never seemed to stick.
     It was a whole new experience for Sonny, grew up in a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran church, no jumping, no stomping, no shouting, no testifying, and definitely no amening after every third sentence of the sermon. Amening was the exclusive prerogative of the preacher, best, it was thought, that the congregation leave him to it.
     The business of earning God's grace was a very serious business to these old German farmers, more Old Testament by their somber nature than New. They were serious people and they were pretty damn sure religion wasn't in any way about or conducive to having fun. They did sing during their worship services, with organ accompaniment, but only if voices were kept low, even for soul-stirrers like "A Mighty Fortress is our God" or "Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War," and the organist activity was confined to a fumble-fingered old woman who couldn't keep time with a bass drum or recognize a melody when she stepped on it.
     When it came right down to it, whichever way it might be, Sonny had some doubts about the whole God business, not seeing that it made a whole lot of difference in the way most people lived, as even those who amened the loudest, jumped the highest, or testified with tears streaming down their faces on Sunday morning were just as likely to be out on Saturday night with the biggest sinners in town (and there was never any doubt who they were), doing the same things as the biggest sinners, treating other people on Monday morning ever worse than the sinners did. (They, the sinners, being not yet clued into the cleansing power of confession and therefore more cautious in their moral dealings with others.)
     Sonny was pretty much ready to set aside the whole thing, belief being not particularly comforting or reassuring to him. He had tried, but revelations that came to him were mostly on the negative Doubting Thomas side and he, being by this time relatively comfortable with trusting the clearness of his mind, began to see the whole thing as mainly about people who didn't share his comfort and clarity when it came to their own mental self.
     But of course, he didn't share any of this with anyone, that not being, in his time and place, a smart thing to do. He was much too young to leave this town and strike out on his own, so best it was to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself.
     "Someday," he'd say to himself, "I'll find someone to talk to about this."
     Of course, he had no way of knowing that there were a lot of people in his little town who, if induced somehow to honesty, thought exactly as he did, but who, like him, were smart enough not to talk about it.
     It's the way of very small towns. Everyone has secrets they are sure are theirs alone.















Last for this post, a couple of small poems from a couple of weeks ago.













John Henry wakes

the thin squeal of a train
braking a block
away,
heavy metal on heavy metal,
iron wheels
on iron tracks
screeching...

reverberates, sweeping though
downtown's tall stone,
the squeal resonating
from one building to another
and another and
another...

even 
John Henry
is awakened,
hear the echoes
in his grave,
struggles to rise again
to the call



the train again

the train again...

block away,
every morning at 7 a.m.
(except maybe Sunday when I'm not here
and cannot attest to its passage)
through the city to Sunset Station
from whence its track
head west and south...

I've taken the western route,
the blowing desert rolling past,
sometimes a smug of mountains
on either side...

America rolling past. I hope it's not all bought destroyed
before I can go that way again the great dreams
of a nation fenced in by the money-changers
who have taken for themselves the Temple...

Temple America - 

guard yourself from these times











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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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Links
Loch Raven Review
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