Hard Times   Saturday, January 19, 2019






I wrote this poem in January, 2009, early in the onset of economic times it took near 10 years to climb out of, remembering as I wrote hard times in Texas twenty years earlier when I was responsible for more than $100 million a year in unemployment insurance payments in my 12-county area of responsibility mostly to laid off oil industry workers and supporting industries that went bust.

It was very hard times, making me forever distrustful of oil industry promises of prosperity.




hard times

I read
in the papers this morning
about the guy
who killed his wife
and all five of his kids,
the oldest,
a girl just ten,
and two sets of twins
2 years old...

hard times...

I've seen hard times
and stories like this
before

the oil bust of 1986,
when a whole industry
disappeared, unemployment rates
up to 30 percent or more

Houston
high-fliers
selling their toys,
their sport cars and limos,
their boats, their million dollar houses,
their custom shotguns and hunting leases
in the brush and cactus chaparral

(he who dies with the most toys
wins, that had been the life for many)

suddenly ,
rich
now poor
all the toys gone
living in a one-bedroom apartment
on the wrong side
of the wrong place,
driving,
not their silver Porsche,
but a '73 Ford Fairlane,
engine missing every third stroke,
bumper in the rear near dragging,
rear windows permanently up or down,
stuck in whatever position last passed,
side mirror dangling on the passenger side,
living on Big Macs, hold the fries,
wife gone, kids gone,
adios loser, they might as well have said,
looking for any kind of job,
willing to flip those Big Macs, but so many
applying for the same bad jobs,
kids and rough-hewn rough necks,
hands thick and scarred from work on rigs,
and several guys I knew,
formerly rich white guys from Houston
who might still have better dreams...

and all the others,
never rich, but always steady,
working the same job since they
dropped out of high school, taken to the job
by their father or their uncle
or a neighbor who vouched for them,
got them hired on,
never done anything else,
never thought of doing anything else,
fifty years old, never out of work,
never had to look for a job,
never understood the gut-paralyzing desperation
of the true desperation,
of no prospects,
down to begging for jobs that pay
less than a quarter what they made before,
no chance,
no way,
losers...

hard times...

back again









Doing it all again, a little shorter than usual.


Me
hard time



Me
ennui



Michel Anania
A Most Familiar and Infallible Rule: Four Austin Pieces



Me
no days off



Manuel De Unamuno
Throw Yourself Like Seeds



Me
the NRA is a-scared of me



Me
on the death of a patron and friend
six white-haired men



William Meredith
Original Aversions



Me
a red balloon
fat man dancing



Me
my cat looks like Charles Laughton

Alice Walker
Poem at Thirty-Nine



Me
a few barku



Marge Piercy
In Wait



Me
old pals



Me
how I came to dream of gnawing Bambi's bloody bones
















Some days...











ennui

always liked that word...

sounds like some  rare
African antelope
or anteater
from South America
or maybe a bird
high in the trees
on some small South Pacific island,
crying

ennui...
ennui...
ennui...

maybe I caught it from the birds...

12 hours sleep last night
and another hour already this afternoon
and I feel like I ought to go back to bed
right now...

the sun seems dimmed,
sound smothered
as if through a thick wool blanket,
brain like a blind dog
in the fog,
all sharpness
dulled,
all passion
banked,
curiosity buried in a burlap bag
on a dull plain
under
suburban crap grass

I
think
I'll quit this poem

my fingers
are tired of typing
















First, I have this, a new addition to my library, a Christmas present from my wife, a poem from Continuous Showings by Michael Anania. The book was published by MadHat Press in 2017.

Anania is a poet, essayist and fiction writer. He has published twelve collections of poetry and is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the faculty in writing at Northwestern University.

He divides his time living in both Austin and on Lake Michigan.












A Most Familiar and Infallible Rule: Four Austin Pieces

         for Joe and Mary Doerr

1.

Prokofiev and cactus, river-
stone cracked into the parkway,
this morning's bright cumulus
rising into a cirrus brushwork;

the dead fawn at the curbside
is just a stain now, bone fragments
and bird droppings, wisps of fur
like pencil marks on concrete

outside the coffee bar, stray talk
and grackles; inside, laptops,
screens up, their keyboards clicking
like bugs against a windowpane

2.

"actually," she says, both hands
lifted, as though the world itself
had been caught in a cat's-cradle
she holds into the air, waiting

for her companions to reach down
through it, her own bright finger-
nails extended, and pluck the strings,
something actual humming there;

or reach through with both hands,
fingers almost Balinese, to extract
an intricate complementary web,
"I see, actually, yes, of course."

3.

is it four or ten? both, perhaps;
Mozart-quick phrases giving way
to phrases, and Haydn, as well,
picked out of time and spoken,

strings, certainly, Campion,
Picinnini and Dowland -
a wooden boat, Greek or Frankish,
its stakes held fast; or wood merely

or wood plus the Persian for string,
the vessel well-founded and rigged,
like dichtung, then, steamed and watertight,
and so set forth, landlocked, in song

4.

if we placed three oranges
along the igneous overlay,
there were the live oaks
grapple into porous stone,

bright notes above the deep
Cretaceous grey and rippling
lake water, a kestrel sun-struck
wheeling, in it's own time,

overhead,, the music proposed
in geologic space and momentary
rime or momentary space,
clouds adrift, and geologic time,



















This, another piece from early 2009, watching a diligent worker at work.















 no days off

a cool 
and sunny 
Saturday morning.
time to take the family 
out for a walk before the chores
of the day begin

a stop-off
for coffee and fresh apple juice

I see them out front
at an outside table, mom
and dad and three little girls
and their terrier pup
who watches each
coming and going, ever alert -

no days off
in the family-protection biz













Next from my library, this poem is by Manuel De Unamuno, a Spanish Basque essayist, novelist poet playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and classics, and later rector at the University of Satamanca. Born in 1864, he died in 1936.

The poem is from Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, an anthology published in 1992 by HarperCollins.

Perhaps it is my current condition, but I read this as a exhortation to a blocked artist, writer or other creator.















Throw Yourself Like Seeds

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live in the man in whom life is  abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start them turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seeds as you walk and into your own field,
don't turn you face for that would be to turn it into death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what's alive in the furrow, what's dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds,
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

                           (translation by Robert Bly)










.




From 2009, but tragically still could be written today.

The photo is from a Beto rally for Veterans.











the NRA is a-scared of me

been reading
the NRA people
are scared that I'm gonna
take away
their pistols
and their hunting rifles
and their AK-47s
and their machine guns
and their grenade launchers
and their anti-tank mines
and their bunker-buster missiles
and whatever, if it makes
a bang they want it-
makes their dicks grow, you know,
and they're sure I'm going to take it all away
and leave them alone with their inadequacies,
and I would of course, if I could,
but I can't, and the lily-livered,
chicken-gizzard politicians in Washington
are suew as hell aren't going to risk their weekly
pay-off by doing it, so that's the way it is,
at some point, you or me or both of us
is going to be blown away by some
NRA card-carriyng pencil-dick wacko
with mother issues and an NBA certified
shoot-all-the-motherfuckers-with-one-trigger-pull
50 caliber machine gun

all because his mother dressed him
in little girlie-panties and didn't 
quit breast-feeding him
until he was twenty-six years old


















From 2009, very short elegy and associated observation.















on the death of a patron and friend

a man
in constant 
motion

hard 
to think of him as
ever still


six white-haired men

six 
white-haired men
stand around the pit

watch the box
as it is lowered into the whole

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next
















This next poem is by William Meredith from his collection, Effort at Speech, published in 1997 by Triquarterly Books.
















Original Aversions

In all respects unready for a fall
They fell, our first progenitors, and these
Two traumas still disturb us most of all:
High places and our own unreadiness
Towers or wells unfoot us in our dreams
Repeatedly. Old-fashioned people still
Believe that nothing saves them but their screams
And that an unawakened fall would kill
Anticipation cannot really ease
The other trouble; waiting for the day
When such and such will happen or will pass,
It is not hard to wish your life away
Apart from angels winged and prevised,
Nobody likes to fall or be surprised.














Here are a couple of observationals from late 2009.












red balloon

little boy
in a shopping cart
says to his mother
as she pushes

he's
still my daddy, right?
so I still love him,
right?

my mind
is a'crush
with sad stories

none sadder,
then this,
I think,
and I imagine pain
radiating
from that cart,
across time,
across generations,
the world's pain
that is like a red balloon,
filling a little more,
the world's pain
an angry balloon
near to bursting...


fat man dancing

fat man
dancing, throwing
his arms to the
cool
clear
sky -

the kind
of bright autumn
day
when that sort of thing
happens













This is a poem from 2009 featuring my lovely calico, may she rest in peace.












my cat looks like Charles Laughton

my old cat
looks like Charles Laughton
in that Witness for the Prosecution

movie, especially
during her dramatic
protestations

when she wakes up
enough
to discover

her food dish
is empty -
same quivering

jowls
same fierce glare
from beneath stormy

brow -
though it is true
that cat has only one

eye
and one eye can glare
much more fiercely

than two,
giving her dramatic advantage
over Laughton

an advantage
undone by her willingness
to forgive

and forget
when allowed
to curl up on my lap

something
which Laughton
would never do -

but
still she
does pretty darnn good for a

cat















This poem is by Alice Walker, taken from her book, Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful, published by Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich in 1984.
















Poem at Thirty-Nine

How I miss my father.
I wish he had not been
so tired
when I was
born

Writing deposit slips and checks
I think of him.
He taught me how.
This is the form,
he must have said:
the way it is done.
I learned to see
bits of paper
as a way
to escape
the life he knew
and even in high school
had a savings
account.

He taught me
that telling the truth
did not always mean
a beating:
though many of my truths
must have grieved him
before the end.

How I miss my father!
He cooked like a person
dancing
in a yoga meditation
and craved the voluptuous
sharing
of good food.

Now I look and cook just like him:
my brain light;
tossing this and that
into the pot;
seasoning none of my life
the same way twice; happy to feed
whatever strays my way.

He would have grown
to admire
the woman I've become:
cooking, writing, chopping wood,
staring into the fire.












About ten years or so ago, I invented the barku, a poem in the spirit of haiku, 10 words on 6 lines. It was invented on a bar napkin while having a beer. Thus, the name.

Here are several of them from 2009.









a few barku

black clouds
on blue
sky
may rain
today
may not


```


great oaks
reach
for fat clouds
thirsty
day seeking
wet


```


farmer
kicks dust
needs
second job
to pay for
seed


```


flags shift
flail north
gulf winds
wet
smell of
fish












This poem is by Marge Piercy, from her book, Breaking Camp. The book was published by Wesleyan University Press in 1979.












In Wait

White roofs hump
against a perpendicular
sky of slate.
Smoke sags. The Charles
secret, solid,
mimics a field
pigeoncris, gullcross,
dogtrot over the long tides.
The loud planes cannot
push free, or land.
I keep thinking
the phone rings.
Muffled, locked
love in the mind
packed in silence
moves deified.
Your name. Your hands.
The tides creep in
under ice.















Remembering old friends passed.












old pals

old cat,
blind in one eye
and hardly seeing
out of the other,
sleeps just about
all day, curled
up on her pillow
head hidden
under her front feet,
snoring like thunder
on the near horizon,
rising from her lap
of luxury several times
a day to go stand by
her food dish, confident
someone will notice
and if we don't, reminding us
with a scream at a pitch and
volume possible for only
the oldest and wisest
of old cats, taking her
exercise on her way back
to bed, boxing with the
shadows on the wall
as she passes...

old dog,
with her creaky rheumatoid hips
and cataract-dusty
eyes, sleeps most of the day
as well, as near to us as she can
beside me on the floor in my office,
on the couch with us as we watch TV
or, when we're not there, in her bed
at the foot of our bed - old
ad slow but still treasuring her morning walks,
a chance to sniff out the latest news
of the day, impatient to start, beginning
to bark when we turn on the road that leads
to the road that leads us to our walking
area...

it's a slow and leisurely walk, no rush,
no hurry, bush to bush, tree to tree,
old cat, old dog, and me, old pals
wearing out together, seeing no reason
to race ever faster to the end
of our trail















The post is getting a little longer than I intended, so this is the last.












how I came to dream of gnawing Bambi's bloody bones

diabetes
does a number
of unhelpful things
to the body,
one such,
a reduction of testosterone
levels in men

some results
of this insufficiency are
lethargy,
mental fogginess,
weakens due to loss
of muscle mass,
and an overpowering desire
to crochet coffee table
doilies

of more serious
long-term concern is that
one of testosterone's functions
is lubrication of the brain
and when testosterone levels
decline
so does this brain lubrication
allowing the brain to dry up,
becoming all crumbly and crackly
like playdough
left out too long in the sun,
causing a dire drop in domino
win-loss statistics, among
other things...

the simple solution, a little steroid juice
applied daily
returns one to a state of vim and vigor,
reverses muscle deterioration,
and producse the important wet brain condition
as all the gray cells are bathed on a regular basis,
thus avoiding the otherwise certain state of
brain - crumble and crack...

aside from developing the hairiest back
and knuckles
within twenty seven square blocks
and the daily urge to go into the woods
and shoot Bambi,
negative side-effects are minimal

I am,
however,
left with a number of carefully crafted
coffee table
doilies
I'm thinking of putting on
EBay...

but that's another problem









y comment button no longer works, so if you would like to comment on this post, email me at allen.itz@GMail.com. I appreciate hearing from readers.


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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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