White -Boy World   Tuesday, August 06, 2019

white-boy world

when I was a kid
we crossed the border often,
a place where grown-ups
could get mixed drinks and fine game dinners

and I could explore El Mercado,
wander the aisles of pottery and and silver and glass
and herbs and spices and wooden toys, all
amid the sweet smell of leather - leather belts, leather saddles
and the bullwhips we always had to take home,
try to make them crack like Lash LaRue and Whip Wilson
at the movies on Saturday afternoon...

later, teenagers, we'd pile into our car
and cross the bridge to pay our respects
to the bars and whores in Boy's Town, a rite of passage,
naked women dancing in the hot, humid night
so close we could smell them sweat...

and, later, cheap dentists
and hundred pound sacks of sugar, subsidized
on that side of the river, shortage-driven prices skyrocketing
on our side...

it was a white-boy world we knew
in those early days, a white-boy border, mythical, subsidized by our
white-boy dollars, tourists in sombreros, night clubs, lions
on leashes roaming between tables, how quaint it all was to the mid-west farmers,
while others, too stupid to understand
they weren't in Kansas anymore,
drunk on the mail plaza, pissing in alleys, introduced to the justice
of a beating in a Mexican jail...

it was not real,
of course,
this white-boy world,
but like all who benefit
in ignorant innocence from oppressions they do not recognize
and oppressors they do not know,
we were satisfied with the way we thought things were...

until, as was inevitable,
the other world beneath the myths we believed,
the real world, asserted itself
and white-boy worlds in that place, and other places
far and unknown,
would fall to the forces of reality
with rewards and nightmares of its own...

The plan for this post is to have some poems from my library, some new poems from me (unfortunately becoming increasingly rare) and some old pieces from 2013, including some remembering my time as a taxi driver in the mid-sixties.

Planning didn't do much good last post, we'll see how it works with this one.

A couple of new poems from the coffeehouse.

first impressions

soft-spoken fella
with purple hair...

probably a gay guy,
I think

or maybe not,
maybe just a polite, soft-spoken
with purple hair

I know how appearances
can be deceiving, with false
conclusions concluded

often mistake me for
a lumberjack - perhaps
due to my obvious delight
in flapjacks

beats me

a busy mind-morning coffeehouse,
coffee grinder, milk steamer, construction
across the street, multiple
conversations compete to banish
unproductive silence

at one of the long tables
a group of eight young women
join the babble

and at another long table
across the room
a group of four old women
and two old men

how the old men got there
is a mystery to me,
it's like Groucho said
about the time he shot a bear
in his pajamas

how the bear got into his pajamas
he'll never know

The first two short poems from my library is not actually in my library yet since I just bought the book it's in, Poem Pictures, two days ago. The book is by San Antonio poet Rohn Bayes who I just met at the coffeehouse where I currently lurk in the mornings. The book is beautifully illustrated by color photos, taken mostly, but not necessarily exclusively, in San Antonio

the tree the flag the steeple

each their own banner
against the sky the sky
it's own banner against the tree
the flag the steeple leaves
falling thru the sky on this
autumn day in december flags
fall and steeples only slower
with less lilting grace the acceptance
brief moment of weightlessness
that a leaf feels before
it touches down

the sunset of my city

and the skyline of my city
to be happy and to see the beauty
of my city the beer of my city and
the basketball team of my city
to adjust the dial of my city so it is just right
the christmas tree of my city
the trees of my city and the buildings of my city
i am my city
i am glowing like a city

From my taxi cab days and nights, brief but enlightening.

the dispatcher

the dispatcher
was one of the finest fellas
I've ever known

a precise looking man,
always sharp,
freshly ironed, razor-creased
khakis and short-sleeve shirts,
brown loafers, shined,
a short ride from bald, such hair as he had
carefully oiled and parted

long thin fingers
and nails well-attended,
usually smoking,
flicking his ashes into n ash tray
with a careful tap
of his index

a gay guy except
in 1965 homosexuals
hadn't gone gay yet, not
in South Texas at lest,
so what he was
in South Texas
in 1965 was a queer,
an identification
in the common vernacular
that he, being not one to promote discord,
probably wouldn't

he was a dentist
from someplace back east,
with a family
he told me one night
on a 2 to 2 shift
before the bars closed
before it got busy
with dead-end drunks falling out
on the sidewalks
waiting for a ride
and it was still quiet...

he had a  prospering practice
he said,
and a picture perfect family
until caught out
being queer
(the exact circumstances of that
never asked, never told)
and as a result, lost
is practice
and his family and, on the road,
ended up in deep South Texas just a few miles
from the Rio Grande and the border

he didn't know how he ended up where he was
he old me,
but liked it and had stayed going on
ten years at the time we were talking

he was,
as I said, a really nice guy
and I was pleased to call him friend
even if for just the short time
I worked with him..


turned out
about ten years later I ran into him

the taxi company went out of business
when the owner died
and he was a veteran (Korea) and, as was my job,
I was trying to help him find another job

and for some reason, I don't remember what,
I needed to visit him at his home

we were both ten years older,
me not so green as before and he, a little balder
and a little grayer with what hair he had

he was living with a young Mexican guy,
skinny as a stick,
and bony chicken chest,
long greasy hair hanging over his eyes

a fella on the prowl who had found himself
a bird's nest on the ground,
living there with my long unseen friend,
sharp razor eyes behind his hair, watching me with barely concealed
hate, afraid I was competition, a threat to the easy life
he had gathered for himself there
with the older man, and the truth is, my first instinct
was to gather him up and kick him out on the street
for being such a sleaze
and for taking advantage of one of the finest men
I had ever known...

but what can you do
when shadows conceal
deep need
and the choice to live as one wants
is so repressed
and so captive to hate and fear
that one has to live with his dark nights
as best as he can...

I was truly happy to see my friend
and would have enjoyed a chance to sit and talk with him again
but couldn't with the barely literate companion
of this so-literate man
thinking already of the revenge he would take
as soon as I left...

so I left, feeling very sad for my friend
and all others who lived in such circumstances of denial,
never for them the life they wanted,
those who could never find the fulfilling life
that is our natural birthright, finding happiness
only in shadows

I gave him a referral to  job
at a convenience store
and I would see him every once in a while
when I stopped in to buy cigarette,
seeing him,
this oh-so sad man,
so happy
to see

Another taxi piece.

the scrawny, pint-sized drunk guy

2 A.M.

the time when the bars sweep out all the barflies
before they close

this particular barfly
was a scrawny,
and very drunk

the belligerence
usually associated with each of these conditions
multiplied exponentially
by the concurrent
of the others

I could tell
even before he got into the back
of my cab he was
flags at high mast

he mumbled something
I couldn't understand as he got in
and I turned around
to ask him to say it again
and noticed he had a
a switch blade eight - nine inches long
with the blade out

this dickhead is trying to rob me,
I thought,
and I'd have given him everything
in the cash box,
but in the box was not just the cab company's
but my 33 percent commission as well,
$6.38, my hard-earned reward
at the end of a twelve-hour shift

I kept track of my cut as the day progressed
and there was no way that scrawny,
was going to get any of it...

heroics were not required
as the guy, very, very drunk, like I said,
so drunk
he dropped his knife
in the space between the front and back set
and in the drunken process of trying to get it back
wedged himself between the seats

"well hell"
I heard him say
as I opened the back door
and tossed him out on the street

then drove back to the
my shift over
for that very long day...


but I kept the knife,
sold it the next day for $2.00
to a large happy-faced guy who I was assured
would do no evil with it

the $2.00
good news for me, increasing my take
for the long day before
enough extra
in those days for a pack of cigarettes
and a beer
which I could nurse
thinking of all the stories I was going to get
out of my god-awful

Next from my library, Leroy V. Quintana, one of my favorites. The poem is from his book,  The Great Whirl of Exile, published in 1999 by Curbstone Press.

Poem for Myron Floren

What could be more boring than shuffling
into the gym to listen to some square
from Lawrence Welk's band play the accordion
just because his niece, who's got to be a big square
herself, convinced the principal, no cost to the school?

But he never gave us a chance to doubt him.
Yeah, he was a square squeezing some old-
fashioned tunes out of an instrument as popular
as acne, but we quickly learned to say hip
in his language; it didn't matter what you did,
it was how much you loved it that counted,
as well as doing it in front of  the disbelievers
shamelessly, but not like the Marine Corps
recruiting sergeant, who also charmed   us when
his turn came around the end of our senior year.

A taxi driver remembers.

the Mr and Mrs.

don't know
what they did
in the rest of their lives
but on Thursdays
and Fridays
they went dancing
and drinking

I'd pick them up at 8
at their hillside split-level
on the north side
and take them downtown,
always to the Glass Hat,
a posh place
with patio dancing
on top of the Crystal Building
at Tyler and 1st,
and then pick them up again
at 1:30, them being too classy
to hang around
until they got thrown out
on the sidewalk
at 2

and I'd take them
both always drunk
and sometimes
traces of blood
on the sides of their mouth, a
multicolored kaleidoscopic array
of new and old bruises and
all the way home
to their house on the north side
they'd either be making out
near to the point of fully-dressed fucking
or they would be hitting
each other, first her
then him, then her, then

and I'd sneak a peek
in my rear view
to make sure they weren't
doing any serious damage, but
never interfered because,
bottom line,
they tipped better
than anyone else I ever
carried, and, besides,
I caught them looking back at me
when I was checking on them
in the mirror
and got a strong sense
they were getting
an extra kick out of my

a weird kind of club
they had for themselves, it seemed,
some kind of very strange
kiss-kiss, slap-slap arrangement
but I was a cab driver, accustomed
very quickly to all kinds of unusual arrangement
between all kinds of people,
stuff I could spend the rest of my life
trying to understand
but never will

my job,
to give them a ride
however they wanted to

a shy Mexican girl

I got the call
to pick her up several times a week

always behind Chacho's Bar
on Harrison St.

a beautiful, ebony-eyed girl,
all done up, didn't look like  whore

at all, always a 75 cent fare
to the Valley Hi Motel where she worked

in small, one-room cottages
beneath high palm trees

in wet, coastal winds

by a twisting, turning driveway
of circles and switchbacks

and small pebble gravel
crunching indiscreetly beneath my tires...

a small-fare ride from Chacho's with a dime for me
the a call-back 45 minutes later, for pick-up

and drive back to the alley behind the bar
where I picked her up, a shy Mexican girl

in a town not that large, protecting her reputation
even though I'm sure everyone

in the bar knew
what she did for a living...

and so it went
until one night the alley behind the bar

wasn't deserted as usual,
but crowded with men...

drive on, she said, as I slowed down
but it was too late, all the men's eyes

were on me and the cab, and especially her
out of place there, not looking like a whore at all

but as she stepped out of the cab
and walked between them

as the crowd parted
to let her pass

knowing as she walked that what is known quietly
changes everything when it is known out loud...


the last I saw -
her walking through Chacho's back door

hips swinging in her tight dress
like they never did before

looking like a whore now,

maybe she started doing tricks at the bar
with no longer a need to be discreet

maybe she went home and quit the business,
found a job slinging hash at a local beanery

maybe one, maybe
the other, I don't know -

she never called for me again

Next from my library, Another Language, selected poems by Rosemarie Waldrop. The book was published by Talisman House Publishers in 1997.

The poet has been a forceful presence in American and international poetry for over 40 years. Born in Germany in 1935, she studied literature and musicology at the University of Wuzburg and the University of Freiburg before immigrating to the United States n the late 1950s. She received a Ph.D from the University of Michigan in 1966.

She has published 17 well-received books of poetry.

As you can see from the poem, she is not a stranger to experimental poetry.

Difficulties of a Heavy Body

a sense of
his thirty-third year
his elbow


any kind of
he says
must be allowed to mature


an accident leaves him
and finally
the swallows


by way of
curiosity he is no hand
by no means
to depict
a woman


often he knows
a crowded room


just out of
his mother
he falls between the pursuit
and a case he'd sooner forget


he has a
female muscle
for impact


streets enough
to welcome snow


but knowingly succumbs to the
brown sitzbaths


his wife touches
a foretaste so vivid that
the sheen of
timber upsets


in going
this sort of


difficulties of a
heavy body
placed in
alternating gestures

the beat-up guy and his friend

of a night in a Mexican jail
he was
about the most beat-up guy
I've ever seen walking, except
he wasn't really walking,
just hanging on to his friend
as he shuffled him across
the Brownsville-Matamoros bridge

his friend had crossed the river
to get him out of jail
and back on American soil,
and now,
"hospital," the friend said, "the nearest,
quickest, wherever it is"

so I put the yellow Chevy
in high gear
and we headed off down the road,
the two of them in the back of my cab,
the friend holding the beat-up fella
from falling over the seat,
both eyes swollen shut, his face a bloody pulp,
his hands swollen like they had been broken,
a mumbling wreck,
as close to dying as anyone
I ever carried...

I dropped them off at the hospital
then sent for my next call
a couple of little old ladies
from out on West Monroe who needed
to go to the supermarket for their weekly
$15 worth of grocery shopping

got 35 cents from the ladies, plus a nickel tip..

a buck seventy-five from te beat-up man
and his friend, no tip...

don't know what the beat-up man did
to get so beat-up, pissed someone off really bad
for sure, but I think he deserved it

probably didn't tip them

the driver

than the rest
and the only white guy,
the other drivers
never had much to day to me,
except one,
an older man,
who had been driving
his yellow cab for the company
for twenty years or more,
long enough so that he could remember
when a man could make a reasonable living
at it

now it was just a place to go,
read magazines,
doing it for so long...doing it so long
it was like he was tethered
to the bumper of his cab,
couldn't imagine what he would do
if he didn't do this

those of us like me, who, some six months later
found ourselves
participating in military service
after receiving our own
from the Uncle who knew us all so well,
had a name for those who continued to serve
after they no longer had to,
"lifers" is what we called them,
and my driver friend
was a lifer in he taxi driving business,
knowing the drill better
than anyone else,
late in his life
of being the one all over again

the shrimper

he was a large man...

middle-aged and gray,
as those for whom
the deck is never
are likely to be,
large hard-used hands,
knotty veins
and calloused fingers, stiff
from bad weather,
his face cracked and broken
from sun and salt spray

he would spend
weeks out on his little boat,
fishing, then return to harbor for a week-long
sleeping at his mother's house
when he slept,
(he hated her, he said,
whore, bitch, a whoring bitch, he said,
waiting for her to die so he could have the house
to himself)

he was loud, boastful, contentious,
prone to getting into bar
and mostly losing
from what I could see
when I picked him up late at night
during the weeks he was ashore,
his face a swollen mess of blood and bruise,
pints of cheap whiskey clanking in his coat pockets,
something to keep him going
when the bars closed, something
that could keep his drinking
until passed out under a tree in a park
until the bars opened again in the morning,
pickled pig feet and maybe a hard-boiled egg
from glass jars on the bar, breakfast, often lunch and
dinner, no matter as long
as he could keep the whiskey flowing

usually too drunk to know
when  he was being rolled, h was always
near broke when I picked him up
at the end of his week ashore, money  spent, lost,
everything he had but for his boat gone,
the earnings of weeks of hard, dangerous toil
gone, his refuge again, the boat
and the rolling waters of the Gulf of Mexico,
and his catch,
enough, in time, for another lost week...

he was not a happy man,
not a good man, and never a man to make a
friend, a victim instead,
his own self-destroying victim
out to erase himself or at least some part
of him...

one of the lost boys
of the sea,
grown old and bitter,
deserted by Peter
in a never-ever land
of nightmares he created
to belay memories
of better days
that never-ever

a man hard to feel sorry for, but like others I've known
like him, for a while I did

The next poem is by Yusef Komunyakaa. Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1947, he is author of twelve books of poetry and was the  1994 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He has been Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets since 1999.

The poem is from his book Talking Dirty to the Gods, published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Sea salt is in Elpenor's beard,
Ouzo on his breath, women left
Humming Billie & Piaf He's good
with words, smooth as a locksmith

In a room of chastity belts
There is always a Betty Boop
Who'd bet her life that she
Can save the cat-eyed Prometheus

From da Vinci's Emporium.
Every Sunday night someone new
is on his arm, her low-cut gown
A school of angelfish.

Pale breasts of statues descend
With him, among sailors & beggars
At nightfall, to show how
Lust is stolen from holy bread.

I've told this story so many times in so many places I'm surprised if there's anyone who hasn't read it.

But it's kinda funny and funny is a good way to end this post.

the night I got chased out of Mexico

is a story
about the night
I got chased out of
by a posse
of Mexican taxi cabs

I was a young guy
just old enough at barely 21
to get a taxi license
and I was driving
a cab
on the Texas side
of the border

I picked up a fare
one of the hotels
who wanted
to go to Mexico
and I said
hell, yes
cause it was about
25 miles
and at 35 cents
fort the first mile
and 10 cents a mile
it was a pretty good
of which I'd get
a third
which never was
a helluva a lot
most nights
but better for a
like this

so we headed out
down 77
for Matamoros
through Brownsville
and across the bridge
from where I knew
how to get to only two places,
boys town,
about which we
will speak no more,
and the Central Plaza
which was close
to the Mercado
and lots of good
good food,
and floor shows
sometimes with
naked women
and that's where
the fella I was
wanted to go
so I took him there
and dropped
him off at the plaza
and while he paid me
I noticed all
the Mexican cabbies
giving me the eye
and I noticed
when I left
some of those
Mexican cabs
started following
behind and then I noticed
I had  ten to fifteen
Mexican cabs
riding my back
and I said to myself
oh, shit,
I fucked up
and the way
they were following
close and honking
it looked pretty clear
they were pissed
about whatever
it was I did
so I took off
for the bridge
as fast as I could
trying to remember
as I flew
which of the many
one-way streets
in Matamoros
were going my way
and which were going
to either get me lost
or back to the plaza
where more trouble
was sure to be
and when I reached
the bridge
I tossed my 8 cents
to cross
to the Mexican
border guard
hardly stopping


when I got back
my dispatcher
told me the rules -
cabs don't cross
fares are dropped
at the bridge
when they can
walk across
and get a local
I really felt dumb
and never did that
though one time
I did pick up a guy
at the bridge
who had been in
in Matamoros
for three days
and was beat
all to shit
and bleeding and
barely conscious
so I took him to a

but that's another

I was thinking I had finished my contribution to this post, then found this poem, which both puts the whole taxi thing in context, as well as putting a end to it (chuckle, chuckle).

a new story

I don't remember
the first day I drove a taxi
and I don't remember
the last, it was, still is,
just a thing in my life...

for a long time I did not
drive a cab,
then for a few months
I did
and then did not
and have not for many years
and never will again

it was something
I had fallen into
early in a year
drifting and lost,
for money, the only other option,
diving a truck
for an ex-girlfriend's father...

from a great
and ultimately failed
adventure, I went back to school
in January, 1965, as bored
with it as I had been before
I left, doing what I had to do
to keep my draft deferment,
facing a summer
when I knew I had t make
some money so that I could
return to college
whether I wanted to or not,
there being no real
for a young man in 1965
but military service
which I did not

so I drove a cab,
barely making enough money
to drive my beat-up,
'49 Chevy
to work, not making
enough money even working
a 12-hour shift 7 days a week
to return to school facing
certain draft...

then, an
opportunity -
a chance to work for a small
newspaper n a small
city further up the coast,
but, after just a few months
of doing that
the draft notice I had been
running from one way or another,
since I was 18

as finally,
the reality of those war years
caught up with me and early-January 1965,
a month and a few days
I began military service
on a day I have not forgotten,
sleepy and tired after an early morning
bus ride from Houston to Lackland Air Force Base
in San Antonio
where i met the Drill Instructor,
thin and stringy and tough
who, in a South Carolina drawl,
tagged me, standing out
as the oldest guy in a group
of 18 and 19 year-olds, as the
"big-un" and
Big-un I was for six weeks...

a memorable day,
the day a new story

And so I'm home to stay on my little street, far from any beaches.

I appreciate hearing from readers. Although they do not appear here, your comment,, if you choose to make them is available to me. So feel free to pass on any reaction, comments, or opinions by clicking on the "comment" button below.

As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and to me

Also as usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and a not so diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:

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


New Days & New Ways

Places and Spaces 

Always to the Light

Goes Around Comes Around

Pushing Clouds Against the Wind

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Seven Beats a Second


Sonyador - The Dreamer


  Peace in Our Time


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Beau Blue
Downside up
Dan Cuddy
Christine Kiefer
David Anthony
Layman Lyric
Scott Acheson
Christopher George
James Lineberger
Joanna M. Weston
Desert Moon Review
Octopus Beak Inc.
Wrong Planet...Right Universe
Poetry and Poets in Rags
Teresa White
Camroc Press Review
The Angry Poet