Remembering the Caves   Saturday, June 30, 2018







Remembering the Caves

so it's like this,
we preserve memories in our brain
and when our brain
dies
so die the memories stored there

but there are also
memories that
reside in our genes
that do not die with us
but are passed on to our
offspring, memories
encoded in genes
that are part of the
inheritance,
just as are the rest
of the genetic
mix that makes us

generational memories,
passed on and passed on
so that some part of us
remembers the cave,
remembers the man-things,
the almost-us Neanderthals
who we remember
as we remember so many
other fantastical things
beyond our experience,
things we explain through
tall tales and myths and
fairy stories...

and beyond that,
it is said all living things
animal and plant
have these genetic memories
just as all living things
have consciousness, the
whooping cranes
in their Texas winter home,
finding this refuge every year,
not through some trick
of navigation, but because
they've been there before
and remember it,
generations of genetic memory
remembering its comforts
and where it is and how
it got there

and also the forests
and the prairie grasses
and the sunflower
who turns its face
to the sun before
the sun rises, knowing
from generations that it will
rise and that it will rise
in the east and generations
of warm sun memory tell it
when it's time to turn...

science, learning from
myth, myth suggesting
new science, and with each
new thing we learn,
new mysteries, all knowledge
an accumulation of ignorance
addressed, universal
consciousness, memories
from all becoming
part of all...

where have we heard
that before...

`````

this,
the state of knowledge
expanding
today,
theory,
always questing to be
challenged, questing
to be debunked

what does a poet
know of this
and what advice
can such a dabbler
provide?

not much...

only enough to consider
one suggestion -

maybe we should all talk
to our petunias today,
though, we do not expect
them to talk back, science tells us
there is a good chance
they will hear
and warm themselves
in the genetic memory
of kind words
spoken
by those who
in the far past knew them
better than
we...

talk to them,
and listen,
just in case they decide
to speak...








I had intended my standard new poem, old poem, poem from my library format for this issue, but instead it's an all-me issue with just a couple of new poems and all the rest old memory poems I wrote in January, 2014. I guess I was just stuck in memory mode, writing memory poems for my daily poem contribution almost every day that month. It's more than 45 years of stories, mostly travel memories, from which I chose enough for this issue.


remembering the caves

wait, don't dial up the hot line just yet

dust to dust to dust

worn and worn out

come the resurrection

a great way to start the day

good old days

an unscientific answer to the mystery of the disappearing  ancients

gravity's gold

and all the summer birds are out just for me

hanging on

cold truths of life and death in black and white

caution and commitment

future past

history's young victims

a cemetery

seasons changing around us

stalked

remember me the story of it

Animas in the a.m.

moonscape

and a damn straight-shooter I was













A story that pretty much summarizes my contribution to the security of the United States of America. The day in 1967, on duty in Darmstadt, West Germany.










wait, don't dial up the hot line just yet

the atmospheric bounce is helping,
pushing the radio signal across a
continent, reception 5 X 5, perfectly
clear...

I've been monitoring the movement
for over an hour now,
squadrons, it seems like, moving
from one code-named place to another,
number 46 going to this place
while number 27 is going over here
and 86 is going there, all around
Mother Russia, it seem, edging
into the Warsaw Pact countries,
Poland, Hungry, East German,
Czechoslovakia, it could be, here and there,
here and there, squadrons or individual
planes or combinations of planes,
types unknown, new codes, new code names
I've never heard before, something happening,
don't know what, don't know what to report,
so hold off until I can figure it out...

chess pieces moving for a new war?
doesn't seem like it, no report of bombers moving,
just these strange movements presumably fighter units
that don't seem to go anywhere but in circles...

Armageddon,, might have been...

or, as it turned out,
no fighter units,
no code-named destinations, just
taxi cabs, dispatched
to street addresses all over
Moscow...

``````````

nuclear war averted,
my midnight shift ends, time
to hang up my ears
and head over to the NCO club
for breakfast and a
beer,
a lot like yesterday,
another buck fifty-five
in first line defense of our country,

God help our poor
country...

affirming -
in war and in peace
the important things never
change












In the Texas Panhandle, a road trip in March, 1981. Don't know why I went there, don't expect to ever go back.













dust to dust to dust

wind howling
outside the car

sand popping
against our windows
like tiny fingers tapping,
blowing across the highway
thick as mid-winter fog
on a Gulf coast morning

tumbleweeds
fly in front of us and behind
like prickly missiles
shot from a silo somewhere
in Iowa or Kansas

a big one,
the size of a small car,
rushing at us broadside,
tossed airborne,
right over the top of us,
one side to the other...














Remembering a visit to the Kickapoo Reservation near Del Rio, Texas, about twenty-five years ago. It was a business trip, speaking to the tribe leader about hiring a Kickapoo speaker to help with unemployment insurance claims.It was before the casino, the people very poor, fighting generations of poverty. I suppose things must be better with the casino there now, but I wouldn't bet on it.












worn and worn out

there's
a difference
between worn and worn out

worn
is a history
not yet complete;
worn out
is the end of history

worn
is the Kickapoo woman
I saw at the tribal center,
a short woman, old and round,
wrinkles upon wrinkles,
hands rough, fingers stubby and twisted,
nails yellowed like talons, eagle
talons, fierce talons, fierce hands,
fiercely old and round and short, teaching
Kickapoo chants to day care  toddlers
in the morning, Spanish and English to older kids
in the afternoon...

a woman well-worn by hardship and sorrow
and loss and long nights and days too hot and bright
picking cotton under West Texas sun; a woman worn also
by determination and joy and birth for every death
and passion and a love for every disappointment
and the daily drive to
a future she
will never
forsake...

worn out
is the boy I saw walking
along a narrow reservation road,
sniffing glue
from the red shine of a Coca Cola can,
one of life's casual
deaths
pending final notice,
walking nowhere,
worn out
from a relentless, unforgiving
history
ending any day
now...

```````

worn
is me now,
with every rising sun
and every darkening night

worn out is
not me
yet













A second poem in this post remembering Mesa Verde in Colorado. These memories are from 1979.














come the resurrection

the path down and back
is steep and arduous, especially
for older people,
though benches along the way
provide a place to stop and rest,
a moment to breathe thin air
and listen to the wind
passing between the canyon walls,
the stubby trees
restless in response

birds call along he way
but go silent
among the ruins,
homage to the ghosts
who patrol the bare adobe rooms,
guarding the ancient walls
until those who left
return again, pull from storehouses
the grain and seed they left behind
for this very day of resurrection...

we are silent visitors,
with the birds, waiting for the
thred of soft
footsteps
so long absent from their homes














Even in the worst days of summer in San Antonio, the morning starts cool with a soft breeze, raising false hopes that are dashed about mid-morning when the heat starts building.

This is one of the new poems included in this post.


















a great way to start the day

it's
7 a.m.
and the birds
in the open-to-the-sky atrium
are singing like it's audition day
for "Birds got Talent"

a great way to start the day,
even better
if the coffee was better
and the waffles
weren't so 
dry

but
still there are the bids
and the soft breeze
blowing in,
stirring the trees
with the temporary cool
of an opening day
to summer
again














Memories from Colorado in 2008 and my early days in 1948 intertwine in this poem from 2014.

I'm on the left in the picture, next to my younger brother and my mother and father, probably 1950 or 1951.









good old days

shack
in a pasture
below a green mountain forest

wood for fire
stacked high against one wall

ready for the next cold
and lonely
winter

very large
iron pot beside the house
like the one my mother
used to heat wash water
over an open fire,
my older brother's job every
Monday morning -
fill the pot with water
and light the fire
while I fed the chickens
and gathered their eggs
for breakfast

reminder of early days
long gone, this pot,
like the shack
in a pasture under
the mountain forest

old days

good old days,
some would say...

my mother
stirring clothes
in our large iron pot
would not agree














Several nights high in the mountains. The first time in 1963 in New Mexico. That memory seasoned with later memories of the dwellings atop Mesa Verde in Colorado.

















an unscientific answer to the mystery of the disappearing ancients

a dark night
high atop a mountain

the closest I've ever been to the night sky

and the stars
deep and bright
in the clear, dark sky,
seen this night
more than ten thousand feet
above earth smog
and lazy-drifting surface fog

and I feel
like a space creature,
visitor from one of those bright
sharp pricks of light above,
marooned, perhaps, on this muddy bog
of a tiny world in a flyspeck system
of the poor side of the galactic tracks
of the universe

a space creature,
struggling in its last days
to get here,
high above the stark below
for one last look at his brilliant overhead
home...

like
the Anasazi natives
of this dark-night, wide-open sky region,
their disappearance a mystery to those
who have never seen the stars
from here, the stars those ancients saw,
an impenetrable mystery
for those who never felt the power
of the heavens seen
through this thin mountain air, who don't understand
the draw of home, who don't understand that,
those we call them the first peoples
were really the last peoples of their kind,
gone home

leaving us
in our dark-caved fears
behind













A memory from Santa Fe, 2013.

Our dog Bella was new to us, a previously abused rescue and we knew that, aside from me who she always wanted to be beside, where ever, whenever, she tended to see threat everywhere else and respond with furious barking. I was concerned how she would react to the crowds at the plaza. Turned out that, as long as she could be close to me and seeing no apparent threat to me, she could enjoy the passing crowd just as much as I did.











gravity's gold

Bella and I, her golden fur
blazing like the bright
of a second sun shining, and me,
devote disciple of the church
of intermittent napping,
sit together on a park bench
in the central plaza crawling
with people, seeming all
tourists, the only likely
resident habitues, the aged hippies
sitting behind us strumming
guitars, talking about everything
from starships to moon shadows
on the plaza in dim early
morning...

the tourists who pass,
old couples, pretty girls
with accents, all stop
to talk to Bella, to stroke
her head, as if she were,
indeed, the sun with the sun's
gravity, pulling them
to her orbit...

while she, usually so distant
and unwelcoming to anyone
who is not me, more
like a cold far star than
the warm draw
of an afternoon sun, basks
in the attention

doesn't want to leave
when I get tired of
sitting














Let's face it, I have.

I'm an old man and I like what I like. And a big part of what I like is pretty women and coffeehouses.

Another new piece from a week or so ago.


















and all the summer birds are out, just for me

so
he's a short fella,
dark blue, new-looking Levies
tightly belted over a white, short-sleeve shirt,
incipient ducktails, would remind me
of Elvis in one of his early movies if Elvis
had been so vertically challenged,
but why am I talking about this would-be
hip-shaker when the moment
of short-shorts in great number
has
arrived
and the coffeehouse is awash
in long, tan leg, bare right to almost
their howdy-do and how-are-you...

finally
a summer day and all the best summer birds
are out
and singing just to
me












This memory from Jerome, Arizona, 1993. We came upon the town without knowing what was coming, fascinated when we got there, this small town hanging onto the side of a mountain.















hanging on

switchbacks
down the side
of the mountain,
the town on one side
of the road, sheer
drop to the valley below
on the other, shops
and restaurant
jilting out over the edge
on stilts...

an old mining town
hanging onto the side
of the mountain through
boom and bust and back to
tourist boom attached
to the mountain
by whisper and a prayer,
out-of-towners
like us
grazing where intelligent
mountain goats might hesitate
to tread...

it is exhilarating,
this dry air, this human quest
for destiny and wealth
and life despite all obstacles,
ridiculous,
when you think about,
that nice, lush valley below
inviting, a place to build
a flat and friendly
Utopia

instead,
those early arrivals
decided to build a life in the high clouds
of Olympus...

````

Dee goes shopping
in the little roadside shops

Chris throws rocks at the valley

still a smoker at the time, I
sit on a rock and try to
breathe



















A poem, written in 2014, from a memory of driving through Colorado in February, 2008..

,








cold truths of life and death in black and  white

atop a rise.
a mound of earth
an ancient burial ground
looking out over
a snowed-over field
white field
black skeleton of a winterized tree
thin black line of a frozen creek
five black horses
led by a white horse
ghost against the snow
legs lifted high
above the snow

crossing














Silver City, New Mexico, a day and a half visit in 2006. Touted as an arts community but nothing impressed me except for a grand old coffeehouse.














caution and commitment

fine-looking woman,
mid-thirties,
dark hair, dark eyes, shapely,
dressed to kill, or at least
draw serious notice

here for the second day in a row...

obviously lonely,
wants to talk, sit and talk,
and talk and maybe more, it seems

and for a moment,
a very brief moment
caution and previous
ommitment
waver

but do not break













A little different, a supermarket observational.

Again, a new piece from last week.













future past

on the right
a very old woman,
a tiny heap of clothes
shuffling down the sidewalk,
layers of clothes, sweaters, coats,
rough shirts, tattered house slippers
on swollen feet, baggy pants
billowing like sails of an ocean schooner
as it braces a gusty sea,
cold even on this hot summer day,
always her pale, skeletal body, cold

on the left,
a teenage girl
a slim, trim girl in her prime,
dark hair blowing like the woman's pants.
dark eyes shining as she escorts grandma to the supermarket...

on the left,
the girl, her future so far ahead she can't even imagine it,
satisfied with the day and what it brings..

on the right,
the old woman, arm in arm
with her past, her years of glory and beauty,
like a volcano, red memories, how she loves
the memories of her years of passion and bright fire
and how she loves walking with the memories
walking beside her...

the girl will someday know,
the old woman will never forget














This one, a very old memory of Kabul, Afghanistan, 1968. In their fifties and sixties now if they survived the terrible years, I mourn for these children and the richness of life the most probably never had.

On the left, my son, just a couple of years younger than the Afghan children at that time.
















history's young victims

walking beneath
my second floor window
in their school
uniforms,
walking in a disciplined line
led by their teacher,
I could hear them singing,
their high, light voices
waking the thin mountain-air
morning

joyous morning
then,
a peaceful moment,
sweet and innocent moment
in a strange and foreign
place...

a morning
and a moment
I will not forget

a memory
struggling against the cruel beast of history

a memory
that cannot shield these children
now, anymore than I could shield them
then...

```````

remembering...

trying not to think
of what happened to these
beautiful, singing
children
in the terrible years since

these children, victims of
the beasts
who came through the years and bloody seasons
to devour their time
and their place,
their life and the innocence
of that morning












This poem was based on a memory from 2003. Traveling on  Hwy 170, a small road that runs along the Rio Grande from Terlingua to Presidio, sometimes on the same level as the river, sometimes high above it.











a cemetery

a cemetery
near a low mound
between the highway
and the Rio Grande

the humble markers
of poor people
from the cluster
of casitas
I passed a quarter mile
back, small houses
of native stone, like
the more elaborate markers,
the ones not of rotting wood,
crosses, bowing toward the ground,
native flowers
gather at the base of some,
stone or wood, nothing,
stone or wood or flowers,
around the indentations
that mark the oldest graves,
the unmarked, the never marked,
those of transient markers
no match for the inevitable
decline of time that leaves these
shallow dimples
over a grave in which nothing
but a few scattered bones
remain, poor people,
cowboys and shepherds
who lived and died,
then faded to nothing beneath
dry badland
soil...













This one, relatively recent, the Blue Ridge Parkway, 2011.













seasons changing around us

late getting there,
the park closed for the season,
so we are alone,
mile after mile of rolling hills
covered with all the colors
of autumn, spreading across
hill after hill,
like a box
of Crayolas spilled
in the summer by some child,
left to melt in the sun
when mother called,
hardened now
in the cold,
the multicolored streaks
running where
summer flow had taken
them...

an early winter storm
follows us,
closer behind
ever time we stop
to take in the fragile beauty,
its seasonal end
approaching,
buried snow on the hills
so bright before,
the surviving glory of the lost season
passing
all around and ahead...

we leave the parkway to stop
for the night
and in the morning
find our intended route
over the mountain blocked
by very heavy snow...

we take the low route
and leave the mountains behind
for another day















This from Big Bend National Park, October, 2006. A beautiful place, no TV, no cell phones, olvely to spend a couple of days, the longest I've ever been able to take it.
















stalked

early morning

walking a dark path
from out cabin to the lodge

thinking in the dark night
of the bears and cougars that roam
these mountains
and the desert that surrounds them

a rustle in the forest

and another

and another

and I walk faster,
peering into the shadows ahead
hoping to see
the welcome light
of the lodge

a sinister form
pacing me through the trees
and I think of the breakfast
that could have waited for daylight

and the ominous form
steps into the path in front of me...

a large doe
and a fawn following close behind

they look at me,
sniff, flick their white tails
and bound into the trees on the other
side of me

just passing through...















The Grand Canyon in 1988. In those years, my mother, still alive and with her full mind, went with us on family vacations, entertaining our son, five years old at the time, in the backseat as we drove.
















remember me the story of it

she had wanted to see this
most of her life

imagining it
from the backseat
for fifteen hundred miles
on our way there...

but age brought great fear
of heights and she
couldn't get out of the car
to see it

afraid
so afraid
the solid earth
would sink away from her,
would be gone,
the minute she put her foot on it

wants me to describe it
for her
wants me
to tell her the story of it...

so I can remember
having been here, she said,
so I can remember it
and what it was
like














One of my favorite destinations is Durango, Colorado, where we stay in a hotel by the Animas River two blocks from downtown.

This memory from 1997.

















Animas in the a.m.

5 a.m.
walking main street
downtown

dog impervious to the cold

not me

across the railroad tracks
past the hotel

slick sidewalk
alongside the Animas River

snow deep on both sides
river iced at the bank

solitary duck
climbs frost-glistened
rock
mid-stream

slips
scrambles
honks


no other sound
but the rustle of the river
as it eddies and curls and slides
over rocks

across the river
five deer gather
in a clearing

graze
silent as the morning

a car crosses
the bridge at the end of the block
light reflecting on snow
all around
tires crunching froze-crisp ice shell on the road

and the deer
flipping their tails
flee
high-leaping















This is another memory from 1968, mid-flight from Peshawar, West Pakistan to Kabul, Afghanistan. A lesson I saw from the air that we later had to learn on bloody ground.













moonscape

mountains
high and bare

our small DC-3
struggles

as highest peaks
pass below within

arm's reach, it seems
from my window seat

life below
if there is such

must be harsh
and hard

with hard people
harsh and unforgiving

to those who intrude
without invitation

as centuries
of armies and great generals

learned - from Alexander
to, now, ourselves

ruing the lesson -

if you decide you must fight here

make sure first you have
the merciless moonscape mountains












I keep seeing all those pictures on Facebook of human scum standing proudly beside the elephant or giraffe or whatever else they killed and now want to tell my own story of the hunt.

This is the last poem for this issue, and the last of the new poems.














and a damn straight-shooter I was

the first time
I ever killed a living thing,
except for flies and mosquitoes
and spiders and cockroaches
and ticks in my dog's ears
(and hamburgers and hot dogs
and pork chops and fried chicken),
I was six or seven years old
with my new BB gun
and tired of shooting cans
and spotting a sparrow
on a tree branch
I took aim and shot it
in the head, right behind
its eye and it fell to the ground
and I went to look and saw
the small drop of bright red  blood
nestled in the soft gray feathers
behind its eye where I had shot it
and never killed another living thing
the rest of my life until I went
into the military and shot spiders
in their webs in the corner
of the barracks with rubber bands
and a damn straight-shooter
I was











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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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