The Thing Most Worth Thinking About   Friday, April 05, 2019







the thing most worth thinking about

so
to begin, the scientists
who study the science of way-old
things have named the "Iceman" - the mummy
discovered in a melting glacier in the Alps
as possessing the earliest known
tattoos...

dead for over 5,000 years and preserved
in the ice, it seems he was a hunter-warrior
suffering from many of the same physical ailments as me,
except that he died in his thirties while I'm still
hanging on in my seventies..

also he had some obvious war-wounds that I have
avoided and he also has tattoos,
which I have also avoided ...

the tattoos, five on his lower legs and ankle and one
on his wrist, are all at bone joints and possibly
a very early attempt at relieving pain -
something like the practice of acupuncture, invented
by the Chinese three thousand years after the Iceman
and two thousand years before our own time...

this notice leading, in the article I read, to an intense
discussion about the effectiveness of acupuncture.
a a medical procedure, some declaring reports of
its effectiveness to be poppycock (this being a scholarly
article - such technical language is not unusual) and
others responding by declaring that anything
people do for five thousand years must be effective.
which doesn't strike me as a particular effective,
argument since the Iceman had war wounds
and all those years later we still have warriors
with war wounds and I don't see how that proves
the effectiveness of war as a prescription for health
and wealth...

but that's a whole other argument that I don't find
so interesting, nor do I find the whole
business of tattoos
pleasing...

what is interesting is the wonder of finding
a five-thousand-year-old corpse
sufficiently preserved
to allow for medical investigation

but the other thing, the big kahuna -
the fact that the glacier that for five thousand
years preserved the body is
melting

it seems to me that's the one thing about the story
most worth thinking about...









No new poems this time around, just old  poems from 2016 and poems from books in my library.

That's it.


Me
the thing most worth thinking about

Me
a 72-year-old fat man

John Barr
Deer Xing

Me
flotsam floating in a frothy Finnish fjord

Sharon Olds
The Connoisseuse of Slugs

Me
27 February 1933

Valerie Berry 
walking man: Rodin

Me
door wide open

Joanna Klink
Some Feel Rain

Me
three red deckchairs

Lorna Dee Cervantes
Valentine

Me
guess they really liked the drummer
so proud of his despair
Easter morn

Anne Sexton
The Lost Ingredient

Me
the stoic

Susan Griffin
Chile

Me
when Einstein met Bergson

Ted Kooser
Mourners
A Winter Morning
A Happy Birthday

Me
half-bright
flag
heaven
the hush
living the bi-life











This is a piece from 2016. Add three years to the fat man and everything else still applies.





a 72-year-old fat man

so I'm a 72-year-old fat man

but wait...
poetry is about truth and beauty
and while there is no beauty in a 72-year-old fat man,
truth is still important and the truth is, though
I really am a fat man, I'm not as fat a man
as I used to be and I will not be 72 for a
couple more weeks...

so
abiding by the poetic requirement for truth,
it should be more correctly stated that I am an
almost 72 years old and not-as-fat-as-I-used-to-be man
and additionally, the further truth is that like so many in my contingent
I hate change and mostly I hate change
(affirming that being the primary purpose of this rant)
because change means I"m going to have to learn new stuff
and I believe, fervently even, that at the age of
almost 72, fat, skinny, or perfectly formed,
such a man should already know what he needs to know
to live an almost 72-year-old life...

I mean, like many in my regiment, I always like
to read new stuff about stars and galaxies
and dinosaurs and ancient rites of ancient people,
and various other oddities and monstrosities of life
unknown before my time, but I only like to learn such stuff
as long as I don't have to learn too much about it,
in fact,
I prefer to know just a little bit, just enough to know enough
to set my imagination churning,
because it is
a fact that my imagination churning produce much more interesting stuff
to know about than anything I would know about by actually knowing
real stuff...

and that works great for me, since I read
science news and other such material just looking for
stuff to fill me up like an over-ripe melon with pseudo-science
and interesting fantasy that I might expound upon here
and at other venues where actually knowing stuff
is not strictly
required...

but other than that kind of stuff,
the stuff I don't want to learn is the stuff
most sixteen-year-olds already know and I figure
if sixteen-year-olds already konw it why in the world should
an almost 72-year-old not-as-fat-as-before man bother with knowing
 it too because it just seems to me that such a man
ought to already now
just about everything he actually needs to know to make it
through his day...

as to the rest,
well,
take my computer, so old its almost steam-powered,
but old as it is, it is my faithful friend
and like any  of the other friends
I've buried or expect to bury within the next few years,
I dread the time when its time is up
and I have to go out looking for a new computer friend,
just like I hate the idea of going out and finding new regular
friends when the old ones
bite the dust...

it is oh so much more complicated...

learning a whole new set of demands and expectations and idiosyncrasies
and all the other stuff that goes with maintaining a healthy and productive
relationship...

like my phone and my wife's new car - I've been talking on a phone and diving
for near on 60 years and none of what I learned now seems relevant
to making a phone call or driving over to the corner store
for a Baby Ruth, except that the complications now on both the phone
and the car almost make me hesitant to go out in the world
without a tag-along second grader to keep me legal and in the technical
loop...

and, ah, Baby Ruth, now they're a constant in mu life but I'm finding them
harder to find in the candy aisle

is that the next indignity, Baby Ruths becoming another historical oddity
confined to glass display cases in museums of the latest antiquities,
leaving me to learn all the particular rules
and wherefores and whereupons
of a Snickers or Mars Bars?

wouldn't surprise me...

but then as a not-as-fat-as-he-used-to-be man with almost 72 years upon this
twirleybird
planet

is that on that planet
not much does...








From the book, published by Story Line Press in 1999, this short, sad piece by poet John Barr.

Anybody driving in the hill country at dusk knows to be watching both sides of the road for a deer about to make the worst mistake of their short life. You never know, though. I was surprised once by a group of pigs that I had to weave and dodge through at 70 miles per hour.




Deer Xing

Sitting on sixty, we moved through Illinois.
In fast slow motion, farm by farm,
Wisconsin, like a realm whose deer
dream cars and leap, came near.

They panic, the wardens say,
but this one was intent,
crossing a lane to charge. The impact
of a deer in the air was a near wreck.
With a buckled front, but otherwise no harm,
as we stopped and backed.

Sprawled in the ditch, wide-eyed,
the doe looked surprised that it had died
instead of us. As if that was the accident.











Several short shots from 2016.




flotsam floating in a frothy Finnish fjord

fog and bright
sun
driving from the first
into the second
crinkles my eyes
all the way up to
my hat brim...

~~~

driving to Fredricksburg this afternoon
rub up against my German
heritage, eat me
some of that ooompa
sausage

~~~~

cars
sniffle past the roadside wreck
like dogs
around fresh blood

~~~~

wine tasting at
1 PM

sip sip sip spit
sip spit
O'
kay

but
sip sip sip sip sip
sip sip sip
into the
wee dim hours
of
evening
makes
for
a
long trudge
to closing
time

~~~~

big blue bus
big white truck
in between
a shiny yellow
Smart car

how the bug must feel
when it sees the
shadow
of your shoe coming down

~~~~

did I mention
the bright
sun?

I did?

did I mention
the dense
fog?

I did

well
I guess this
poem

is over









The book, published by Alfred A, Knopf in 1995, was a Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets.

Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University and Columbia University. She is author of many poetry collections and winner of numerous awards and honors.




The Connoisseuse of Slugs

When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that. What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the ends,
delicate and intimate. Years later,
when I first saw a naked man
I gasped in pleasure to see the quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.









I wrote this three days after the presidential election, 2016, still in shock.




27 February 1933

27 February 1933,
the Reichstag burns
and the die
is set

I imagine I can feel this morning
how a Jew must have felt
that day, the beginning
of deadly betrayal
by his
own countrymen

I am afraid I must take it personal
this time








This poem by Valerie Berry is from her collection published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2001.

Originally from Indiana, Berry, in addition to writing poetry, is a physician living in the San Francisco Bay Area.




walking man: Rodin

Something gnawed his man,
took off his head, his arms, left
the rest standing in mid-stride.
His torso hangs in rips and chunks,
imperfect nakedness born by
hunger so big that raw inertia
is all that's left. Faceless, hand-
less, turned away, the hole where
his right kidney should be
is mouth enough.

                          Below the wound
that was his genitals, thighs curve
in perfect agreement, take weight
without quivering. Knees lock
in form extension. a gesture signing
to bend is to weak. Farthest from
the pain, his toes grip the step he
won't complete, fused by the work
of denying what kills him - bronzed
moment of another man, walking.









Written in late October, 2016. maybe a premonition. 




door wide open

despite the bright sunshine
there is a smothering embrace
of apocalypse in the air

dead animals
on the highway
a deer, dead in the city
where a deer shouldn't be

I feel the effect
of sleepless nights
and dreams of a slate
where stories unfold always
changing

like the hand of god
writing on the wall but
always amending his story
and losing his place

leaving
our earthly door wide-open for the
horsemen









This poem by Joanna Klink is from her book published by Penguin Poets in 2010.

At the time this book was published, Klink was teaching at Harvard University. This is her third collection. She also appears frequently in poetry journals such as the Chicago Review and the Boston Review.




some feel rain

Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark s
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When if falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
in carries Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can't be
snapped. Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation.The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground  in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm taints until
the second they are plucked.You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
district. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you










I wrote this in mid-September 2016, the beginning of Autumn, my favorite of the four seasons.



three red deck chairs

three
red deck chairs
under seven small oaks
waiting
for the return of familiar bottoms
to take their place
under the cool bright sun
of autumn's second 
week

rejoice!

open your countenance
to the splendors
of this life

throw wide your arms
and rejoice

your chair
and the morning
and the beauty of our turning
star-child await 
you








Born in San Francisco in 1964, Cervantes is an award-winning Chicana poet and activist. This poem is from her book published by Arte Publico Press in 1991.



Valentine

Cherry plums suck  week's soak
overnight they explode into the scenery of before 
your touch. The curtains open on the end of our past.
Pink trumpets on the vine bare to the hummingbirds.
Butterflies unclasp from the purse of they couplings, they
light and open on the doubled hands of eucalyptus fronds.
They sip from the pistils or seven generations that bear
them through another tongue as the first year of our
punishing mathematic begins clicking the calendar
forward. The land like seasoned rocks on the
decks of the cliffs. The take another turn
on the spiral of life where the blossoms
blush & pale in a day of dirty dawns
where the ghost of you webs
your limbs through the branches
of cherry plum. Rare bird,
extinct color, you stay in
my dreams in x-ray. In
rerun, the bone of you
stripping sweethearts
folds and layers of he
shedding petals of
my grief into a
delayed holo-
gam - my
for ever
empty
art.









Next, a couple of shorties from 2016.



guess they really liked the drummer

read last night
at the coffeehouse

not poems,
but from my recent book of fiction,
Peace in our Time...

an experiment with drum
accompaniment

worked well,
sold
four books

I guess they really liked
the drummer


so proud of his despair

walking Bella
in the cold, dim morning

thinking of the poet
at last night's open mic

mumbling
dark and terrible visions

into his lap

so enamored
with life's blackest nights

so captivated
by his misery

so proud
of his despair


Easter morn

tiny girl laughing,
dancing
on the red brick cobblestone patio,
pink dress swirling,
pony tail flying, small curls
at the end, a mother's loving touch

her brother, barely older, sun glasses perched
atop his dark hair, studies the bag of prizes
from the Easter egg hunt,
counts each prize
and counts
again









Anne Sexton included this poem in her collection published in 1960 by Houghton Mifflin Company.




The Lost Ingredient

Almost yesterday, those gentle ladies stole
to their baths in Atlantic  City, for the lost
rites of the first sea of the first salt
running from a faucet. I have heard they sat
for hours in briny tubs, patting hotel towels
sweetly over shivered skin, smelling the stale
harbor of a lost ocean, praying at last
for impossible loves, or new skin, or still
another child. And since this was the style,
I don't suppose they knew what they had lost.

Almost yesterday, pushing West, I lost
ten Utah driving minutes, stopped to steal
past postcard vendors, crossed the hot lot
of macadam to touch the marvelous loosed
bobbing of The Salt Lake, to honor and assault
it in its proof, to wash away some slight
need for Maine's coast. Later the funny salt
itched in my pores and stung like bees or sleet.
I rinsed it of in Reno and hurried to steal
a better proof at tables where I always lost.

Today is made of yesterday each time I steal
toward rites I do not now, waiting for the lost
ingredient, as if salt or money or even lust
would keep us calm and prove us whole at last.









My dog pretty near my constant companion, with me almost always, except those places she is not allowed to be. The poem is another from 2016.



the stoic

she is my dog
and she knows that
as my dog, she is entitled
to go with me wherever I go
except that I'm going into the diner
for breakfast and they don't allow dogs
so she's stuck in the car and I say goodbye
be a good dog I say, but she doesn't look at me
sits in the front seat and stares straight ahead neither
left nor right and definitely not at me in grim determination
jaw set alone, alone forever alone the horror the
horror oh the horror like but like Colonel
Kurtz she endures she will not
look the lonely horror
she will not look
at me and
Jesus
on the
cross
she
suffers
jaw set
eyes
straight
ahead
stoic 
as the
Zeno
of
Citium
(a stoical guy
was he)
she 
suffers
in quiet
resolve









The painting above (The Two Friedas, by Frieda Kahlo) is on the cover of Like the Iris of an Eye, a poetry collection by Susan Griffin, a poet and feminist activist. I couldn't find but one mention of the book online and that reference didn't include the cover. Since the painting and the artist who painted it was obviously important enough to the poet to use if for her book cover, I decided the find the painting and use it instead of a cover image.

The book was by Harper and Row in 1976. Even the publisher didn't mention the book.

This is the first time a book in my library has so almost perfectly disappeared on the Internet.




Chile

My daughter pleads with me
for the life of our goldfish
souring in a tank
of ancient water,
"I want them
to
live," she
says.          Late at night
I pass the green tank
still full of guilt.
I have chosen
in the hierachy of my life
to go to work,
to shop, to cook, to
write these words
before saving the fish;
choices surround me.
Nothing is ever right.
Every breathing space
asks for help;
dust multiplies in the
                     hallway;
lecture notes fly away
through windows which
need glass and paint
and in the back of my mind
some where
is a woman
who weeps
for Chile
and shudders at the
executions.
All along she
has been
pondering the social order
and her
worried thoughts
slow
my
every movement.









when Einstein met Bergson

Early in the twentieth century Albert Einstein met French philosopher Henri Bergson for a discussion about physics and its meaning. The Frenchman, much better known at the time than Einstein, did not argue with the physicist's theory of relativity, only the relevance of it to greater understanding. The theory, Bergson said, was only the theory of a clock, saying nothing about the meaning of the clock relative to time and nothing about time itself.

Einstein was dismissive, "The time of philosophers does not exist," he told the audience. His theory, he said, was not about a clock but the relativity of time and space. Among the implications of the theory is the merging of time and space into a single four dimensional whole called "space time," that contains not just now time but all time, including all that has ever happened and all that ever will happen.

Time not as a progression of discrete events, but a box of all events, that is where Einstein's math led him, and now where, with each validation of his math we find ourselves.

~~~~

I went to the grocers
to buy a of bread
but stumbled on the farmer
growing the wheat for the bread
and myself again spreading peanut butter
and jelly on the bread I was just now/then/when
and saw there my wife, a new born,
suckling at the breast of her mother, and the
box within I lay, and the mourners forgetting
me as I brought my bread and ate my peanut
butter and jelly , spilling jelly on my shirt
as I bought it at Walmart and the poor man
who bought my jell-stained shirt at Goodwill
and I think I will go back to bed and there I
am sleeping in the box while the farmer
harvests the wheat and I eat the bread
while I watch my wife
suckle at her mother's breast while I lie
in my box forgotten as the four-horned
natives of Alpha Centuri throw rocks
at my two-legged ancestors
and the beat goes on, somewhere
here and someplace else, the clock ticking
while the French man rolls his eyes
and Einstein throws the dice...









Last from my library, three short poems by Ted Kooser from this book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The book was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004.

Kooser, previous Poet Laureate of the United Stares, is a retired insurance executive with ten previously published collections of poetry. At the time the book was published he lived on a farm near the village of Garland, Nebraska.




Mourners

After the funeral, the mourners gather
under the rustling churchyard maples
and talk softly, like clusters of leaves.
White shirt cuffs and collars flash in the shade:
headlights on deep green water.
They came this afternoon to say goodbye,
but now they keep saying hello and hello,
peering into each other's faces,
slow to let go of each other's hands.


A Winter Morning

A farmhouse window far back from the highway
speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.
Against this stillness, only a kettle's whisper,
and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame.


A Happy Birthday

This evening I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand









Finishing this post with several short posts.




half-bright

brisk 
morning walk
on a half-bright day

half-bright myself,
recovering from a week of weird,
Bella leads me through
our normal
traces

and I leave her to it,
not quite back up to deciding
where to turn
and when
to stop...


flag

a peach tree stands
near-bared by overnight winds

atop
the tallest branch
a single blossom
pink flag of spring's arriving


heaven

light April rain today in March
slow and comfortable
like a warm
dog
curled beside you on the sofa,
sleeping head resting
in your lap deep
breathing dog
heaven


the hush

dusk
creeps soft-footed
down the avenue, pushing ahead
elongating shadows of night

a screech,
the hungry song of an owl
hunting

the heavy thud of wings pushing air

then silence

the hush of death hanging, wide-wings spread
over the quiet night


living the bi-life

more than 40 years
in a bi-cultural
bi-lingual
family
and I often forget
how it was back when I knew for sure
what was going on
around

me









my 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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