Hard Times   Friday, October 25, 2019







This is from 2009 remembering earlier hard times.




hard times

I read
in the papers this morning
about the guy
who killed his wife
and all six of his kids,
the oldest
a girl,
just 10, two sets of twins,
the youngest 2

hard times...

hard times, I've seen
hard times and stories like this
before

the oil bust
of 1986
when a whole industry
disappeared, unemployment rates
in some South Texas counties
up to 30 per cent and more

Houston
high-fliers
selling all their toys,
their sports cars and limos,
their boats, their million dollar houses,
custom shot guns and hunting leases
in the brush and cactus chaparral
of Brooks, Jim Wells, and Duval counties

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

rich.
suddenly poor,
all the toys gone,
living in a one bedroom apartment
on the wrong side
of the wrong place,
driving
a 73 Ford Fairlane,
engine
missing every third stroke,
bumper in the rear near dragging,
rear windows permanently up
of down,
stuck in what ever position
last used,
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 Mac
patties if nothing else,
but all the burgger-flipper jobs
taken by kids and old people,
no one wants to hire and ex-rich man
who might still have dreams

and 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 true desperation,
of no prospects,
no chance,
no way
Jose

depression,
state of the economy
state of mind,
state of
heart

hard times...

back again










What I have today.



Me
hard times



Me 

I apologize if it bothers you



Allen Ginsberg

[Poem]
In a Red Bar
Tokyo Towers
Postcard to D
[Poem]



Me

leaning toward the fire



Me

too badda for me; too badda for you



Richard Brautigan

the wooer



Me

a warrior came home



Me

deep summer
the time
long-haired girls
just like you and me
on the death of a patron and friend
six white-haired men



Helen V. Lundt

Apple Blossom Window



Me

choices



Me

deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009



Bruce Weigl

Nixon



Me

the smell of a dry summer



Me

soup of the day



Jacinto Jesus Cardona

The Celluloid Needle



Me

my morning



Me

watching Reba sniff the grass



John Philip Santos

Piedras Negras



Me

ninja turtle of an unspecified age



David St. John

Wavelength



Me

Saturday morning at the coffeehouse









A relatively new piece.




I apologize if it bothers you

I know a poet,
one of my favorites,
a blue-collar fella like me
but with a sharper edge, makes
me think when I read his poems
of love ad loss
of Mickey Spillane as a romantic...

he says
poetry should be free
and follows through on that philosopy
with wonderful little chapbooks
he gives away

as a young poet
I thought that was nuts
until after a few years I figured out

I wasn't making much money at it
so I might as well be giving
the shit away
and I did,
suffering no noticeable loss
of income

but sometimes I feel a need
for the affirmation
that comes from selling a book

so I market a bit,
tell people about  my books
and where they can buy them

even here I'll be doing that
for a while

I apologize if it
bothers you

just think of it as what I do
when my dog gets pissed
and won't talk
to me














The next poem is taken from a new book (i.e. new to me, purchased at my half-price book store),
Wake Till I'm Dead, uncollected poems by Allen Ginsberg.  The book features poems from the 1940s to the 1990s. I like this arrangement, showing how a poet changes, some might say, grows, in vision and courage over the course of 50 years.

The book was published in 2016 by Grove Press.



[Poem]

The moon in the dewdrop is the real moon
The moon in the sky is an illusion
Which Madhyamaka school does that represent?

     Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, CO. August 1991


In a Red Bar

I look like someone else
I don't like in the mirror
- a floating city heel,
middle class con artist,
I need a haircut and look
seedy - in late twenties,
shadows under my mouth,
too informally dressed,
heavy eyebrowed, sadistic,
too mental and lonely

     1954


Tokyo Tower

                    On top, the vast city
                               100,000,000 people
                    milky mist, spires of radio
                               antennae like Venus

The Marine Band marching hymn
          without a name of the Jukebox
Fifes and Flutes and Space Drums
          & brass in all bright beauty
way up in the airy window
          crashing around my head

I danced for joy to hear again
          cleansed of all old associations
          the nameless Hymn
          without armies
          in Space

     Tokyo, Japan, July 1965




Postcard to D

Chugging along in an old open bus
          past the green sugar fields
                       down a dusty dirt road
                                  overlooking the ocean in Figi

thinking of your big MacDougal street house
             & the old orange peel
                         in your mail-garbage load
                                     smoggy windows you clean with a
                                             squeegee -

     Figi, Mach 3, 1972


[Poem]

As the rain drips from the gutter on to the bushes of
               the imperial court lawn
And a motorcycle putters up Cascade Avenue
The ice cream man having delivered his sandwiches
The poets began to consider their minds

     The Drawing Room, the Kalapa Court, Boulder, CO, July 26, 1983










This from 2009 again.

We're not this long into winter yet, but we have had (finally) a few hints of fall.




leaning toward the fire

the front
has been slowed
by the hills
so it's not as cold yet
as it will be by noon

but rain and sleet
has come ahead
and are falling
now, icy needles
like arctic ant bits
sting

I will stay a while
and watch the rain fall
and the cold creep
across the city,
but sometime soon
I'm going to have to decide
what to do with the day

a good day
for deep thinking
and hot chocolate in a
warm nest of thick blankets;
a good day for deep sleep
in front of the fire

unsure,
still,
which
it will be, but
right now
I'm leaning toward
the fire









From last month, early morning coffeehouse musings.



too badda for me; too badda for you

I had a car
once,
a Chrysler, I think,
with a sunroof,
except hereabouts
we call them moon roofs,
cause
who the hell in their right mind
wants to drive in the sun
in South Texas
ten months out of the year

***

a pretty young woman
the first in an unacceptably long time,
in shorts,
Levis actually , cut exceptionally
short,
featuring tanned legs
and the first soft curve
of an exceptional behind
and I'm thinking
'bout time

***

watching construction
across from the coffeehouse,
new apartments, ten stories, joining
the apartment boom
downtown

thinking of an absent friend

there used to be a warehouse there,
and a shaded alley where homeless
sometimes slept under the trees,
and where my friend often met
in the morning to walk our
dogs...

I miss my friend

***

communicating via Facebook
with a couple of old high school buddies,
drinking buddies, whorehouse companions
across the border, and accomplices in other such
unsavory activities
more than 50 years ago,
fun guys then,
minions now of the reptile in the White House
and I don't like them so much
anymore

***

I need to take a couple hundred photos
from which I will choose maybe twenty
for a video project I have planned
for some time probably
long in the future

replacements for photos I took
over several thousand miles
and over the course of 20 years, pictures
taken with different cameras, the pictures
too different in color and texture
for use in a single
project

like I said,
a project long
in the future,
with 45 minutes of music my son still
has to compose - long in the future

***

my wife
wants me to get some
diabetic shoes...

it's true I wand to die
with my feet on
but until I'm convinced
diabetic shoes are going to enhance
that possibility, I'll be sticking
to the very comfortable shoes currently
on my feet...

***

is it an economic barometer
that the coffeehouse this morning
is filled with pretty women
instead of middle-aged businessmen
having meetings

fuck the economy,
I say,
if that's what it takes for a revival
of pretty women
drinking coffee in the early morn

***

I was determined this morning
to write a new poem
and this the dead end where that led

too bad...

many much better old poems
could be in this space
had I not been so determined
to embarrass myself ...

too badda for me, too badda for you















The next is by Richard Brautigan, taken from Richard Brautigan - the Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1999.

The poems were written when Brantigan was in his very early twenties. When he left Oregon for San Francisco he gave these early poems, "to do with what she wishes," to Edna Webster, mother of his best friend and his first girlfriend. He told her that when he was "rich and famous" the poems would be for her retirement income.




the wooer

I will woo
you carefully
as somebody
(big)
planning
to cheat
somebody
(small.)

I will woo
you
so carefully
that you
will get
so impatient
that you
will start
to woo me.

If that doesn't work,
I'll try something else.









This one from about month ago.




a warrior came home

haven't
thought of her in years
now, tonight, for some reason ,
she came to mind

mid-twenties, dark hair,
blazing eyes, movie star body,
beautiful in a tough girl
way...

an army Vet
going FIGMO-wild
in the months after her discharge

working as  bar maid and weekend
go-go dancer at a back-of-the-lot
bar on Harrison,
one of my regular midnight to 2 a.m.
joints...

I knew her
because it was my job
to help recently discharged veterans
and I was working with her, talking
about the GI Bill and possibly
going back to school, the day before
the night she got drunk and high
on The Doors at the bar and
decided she wanted to strip

and so she was dancing on the bar's
small stage and started taking off her clothes,
her jeans first, then the sleeveless shirt
she wore as the bartender was yelling
at her to stop, stop, stop, he yelled,
we'll lose our license he was yelling
while, of course, all the men at the bar
urging her on, take it off, take it off,
take it off and she was down to
a skimpy pair of sheer panties when
the bartender and the bouncer
to hustled her off the stage...

I saw her again the next day
at my office and I have to admit
I wasn't very helpful because
while we were talkin jobs
I was remembering the way
her hips moved and the sweat dripping
down between her heavy swaying
breasts and the slinky sweat shine
on her belly,
dripping down
her body, making near transparent
her sheer panties...

````

and it's a night like tonight
when sometimes I think of the forty-five
years since that night, wondering what happened
to people, what happened to her,
so beautiful and strong,
and so brave, brave
as were all those women
who served as she did, as so few did
in those days...

so lost she seemed to me, so beautiful
but so lost, leaving me
to hope she found her way...

no fairy tale ending for her, I'm sure,
but at least, I hope, a just measure
of happiness

(FIGMO - an acronym known to most military enlisted men and women
of my time - FIGMO - Fuck It, Got My Orders)









Some short pieces from 2009.




deep summer


sunlight

cracks the window
falls across
the tile floor in bright
shards
of deep summer

blue sky
promises
another day of
cinders


the time


the past,

so sweetly hurtful,
lays itself heavy
on me  today

I pine
for the time
the best
seemed
still ahead
and not behind



long-haired girls


long-haired

girls
in sandals
and sun-
dresses
laughing
crimson-painted
toes
and broad shoulders
bare to the season

brief summer
reprieves


just like you and me


traveling south

to bury a fiend
in a crypt
beside the sea

like the restless, roiling waves
he came -
and then he went

just like you and me


on the death of a patron and friend


a man

in constant
motion

hard
to think of him as
still


six white-haired men


six

white-haired me
stand around the hole

watch the box
as it is lowered into the ground

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next










This poem is by my poet-friend Helen V. Lundt, taken from her first book, The Country Poet. Helen was born in New York State and still lives there with her husband. She worked in the health field for twenty eight years, finding after she retired, how a computer could be a great friend to her writing.
,




Apple Blossom Window

I have a small kitchen window
that needs no curtains or shades.
It has white curly blossoms
with faint touches of pink
covering the entire glass.

When I open the window,
I smell the sweetness of apple
and take a deep breath, to fill
my lungs and very self
with the smell that even apples
as the fall don't remember.










choices

so
how should I describe myself now

poet
ex-poet
former poet
maybe
poet
of the air and space between
has been, could be, may be again

or maybe
just
the old guy
whittling
tiny wooden sculptures
on invisible woo
with an imaginary
knife

pleased
with the pleasures
of make-believe creating









As the title indicates, an old one from 2009.




deep thoughts to be thunk in 2009

dedicated to all deep thinkers of "National Review" " Weekly Standard" and the like, as well as all those deep thinkers formerly occupying high levels of government and currently seeking to hock their GWB magic decoder rings.

as with many people
I like to think deep
thoughts
about things I know
nothing about

an explanation,
some might say,
as to why
all
the world's problems
I solved
last year are back on the table
today

balderdash,
as we
deep-thinks like to say

obviously
the world wasn't paying
attention

meaning
I'm just going to have to
deep-think
louder
this year














This poem is by Bruce Weigl. It is taken from his book, The Unraveling Strangeness, published in 2002 by Grove Press.

Weigl served in Vietnam December 1967 to December1968, earning a Bronze Star. With 13 books of poetry published, his Vietnam experience as well as his return home figured greatly in his earlier work. Having earned his PhD after returning from service, he has taught at several universities and colleges.




Nixon

Everyone hated him,
and that
brought us together
at the loins and
philosophically.
One couple among us

kept a wolf
penned in their backyard
that paced fitfully
every time I saw it,
and that never looked you
in the eyes, although

that's not important
except for the way
that the maddening penned-up
wolf is a detail,
as in a painting,
of the lives we imagined

those nights
we would come together
to smoke
and to talk about
Nixon,
whom we had seen

in all of his flesh,
standing
on the White House balcony,
Apollonian
above the half-million
citizens who had come

to stop his killing he
even waved to us or
maybe it wasn't him, maybe
it was a stand-in look-alike or
one of those
cutout presidents

with a mechanical arm
that waves. Anymore
the anniversaries of the deaths
are so many
that there is little time
for anything else.









Written in September, near the end of an exceptional. record-wrecking, hot and dry summer.





the smell of a dry summer

the smell
of a fresh mowed
grain field after rain

sharp and sweet
with life freed from the earth
through the yellow shafts of cut growth

the same field
cut in dry times,
antiseptic,
dried-white stalks
lying flat in blowing dust,
lifeless as a rocky plain on the moon

my grass
in this drought the same,
the lush, exuberant green of spring
a fading memory

a sad memory of good times
gone, again...










From 2009.




soup of the day

I believe
people believe
what is convenient
to believe,
facts,
fungible things
easily replaceable
with other facts when
needed, truth
a river that
flows
from port to port,
adapting
as it makes its way
out to sea
by the pull of tides
along the way

we are each
an illusion,
a spinning eddy
of minute forces
to small to see
except as we
agree to describe
them, a common
myth of being
that substitutes
for reality

how could
truth
be otherwise














This poem is by Jacinto Jesus Cardona, taken from his book, Pan Dulce. The book was published by Chili Verde Press in 1998.

Cardona teaches in San Antonio at Palo Alto Collete and at the Trinity University Upward Bound Program. Like me, he is a South Texas native, making much of his work very open to me.




The Celluloid Needle

In the summer of 1957
alone in my four door Ford
I cruise down the dark streets
of Alice, Texas

The celluloid needle
of the speedometer
trembles in the dark.

Sal Mineo leans back
in his paranoid black Hudson,
fingering the zipper
of his leather jacket.

Passing St. Joseph's Catholic Church,
I make the sigh of the cross
to the sounds of Santo and Johnny.

I run my fingers across my dicatrix,
dreaming of Natalie Wood
clutching my limp body
to her breasts.









Except for some educational and military side-trips I have lived all my life in South Texas and, as an well-informed expert, I can tell you this past summer was the worst ever.




my morning

high winds aloft
push dark clouds
Northwest from the gulf
toward Oklahoma and the
mountain states

here on the ground
only a faint breeze passes,
leaves stir in the languid light
of early morning, the theater curtain
sized flag on the Chrysler dealer's lot
half furls and unfurls,
slowly,
limply...

in an hour or so
the clouds will have passed
and under a blue, blazing sky
another hot August day will begin
and I will fold myself into an oasis
of air conditioning that the Bedouin
would sell their camels for

and my day in the outside world
is done...











watching Reba sniff the grass

a clear cool day,
too good not to be out in,
so Reba and I took a little longer
with our walk
than usual...

usually Reba slows down a bit
after her initial excitement,
but today, this beautiful day,
she was frisky
and eager from start
to finish,
her nose buried
deep
in the grass,
her nostrils twitching,
delicate
little shivers
as she makes minute
adjustments,
pushing the grass
this way and that,
searching
for the clearest scent

like a jeweler
bent over a fine gem,
loupe
to unblinking eye,
studying each facet,
looking for purity
that will make him
draw back his breath
in wonder

I watch and wonder too
how it must be
to be
so open to sensation,
to be so filled in the
morning
with such joy of
discovery

aha,
success,
a tiny bit of something
dead,
or, in her lexicon,
food















This poem is by John Philip Santos. It is taken from his first book of poetry, Songs Older Than Any Known Singer published by Wings Press in 2007.

Santos, a freelance filmmaker, producer, journalist, and writer, returned to his hometown of San Antonio after 21 years in New York where he worked as executive producer and director of new program development for WNET, the PBS affiliate in that city. He also, in his years there, produced 40 documentaries for PBS and CBS, with two of them nominated for Emmy Awards. In 1997 he joined the Ford Foundation as an officer in the Media, Arts and Culture Program where he handled the Media Projects Fund.

He was the first Mexican-American Rhodes scholar to study at Oxford where he earned a degree in English Literature and Language. He also holds a Philosophy and Literature degree from Notre Dame

His family memoir, Places Unfinished at the Time of Creation was a finalist for the National Book Award.

The poem's title refers to the Mexican city of Piedras Negras, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas, which I visited often because of an office I had there. Together, the southern frontier of the United States and the northern frontier of Mexico.




Piedras Negras

Seventeen days in Mexico comes down to coins
in my pocket. Pesos, three nickles
I find a dime in my wallet
Up to a mile away, beggars hear the clink of coins
and I'm ringing mine openly.
They will come dressed in their parents' clothes
and uncle's hat; they'll look at the lines of my palms
when they take my lode of coins.
Alone at the edge of the country
all of my souvenirs, the memory of having been somewhere
mingle and settle like dust
across the back of my shoulders.
Every time the wind rises up
I lose a bit of what happened
Consider my cargo; a clay flute, bought for eighty pesos,
a wool blanket a pauper's bargain at two hundred,
the day I traded six ball-point pens for a pair of sandals,
And there were beggars everywhere
asking for money, a vegetable for their morsel stews
or just money. Some sat on church steps
giving out pictures of saints in return for tiny change.
They appeared in my dreams as deer, donkeys, and goats
that I would feed all day and night.
Before you leave a place behind you
give everything to the beggars,
come away weightless, take your shoes off at the door.
Today the beggars do not arrive,
across the street, a boy in a wolf-mask
yells that he is going to eat me. Some women walk by
with bundles of wet alfalfa on their backs.
Looking for beggars in Mexico, nothing is as big
as a fifty-cent piece, ordinary people the size
of Emiliano Zapata's eyes
going white in all the old photographs









In my own defense, despite my failure to impress with a 45, I did earn a marksmanship medal with  and M-16 in the military.




ninja turtle of an unspecified age

the Saturday morning crowd
at the coffeehouse
though large
is not conducive
to poetic exploration
so I fall back
to yonder years
when, at sixteen,
I shot a 45-caliber pistol
at a turtle
in the Arroyo Colorado
about six miles from my house

the turtle was a small green-shelled
reptile floating provocatively
on the surface of the water
which in those days
before herbicide runoff
was not a harbinger of death
to creatures large and small
except fish which would be a harbinger
of death to you ever ate  one,
a place where in the old days
I learned to swim in the murky green
currents and never died
even once

in those days being a harbinger
of death to numerous bottles and cans
with my 22 caliber rifle and pistol
I had never fired a heavy-duty piece
like the 45 which I borrowed
from a friend and wanted to

which I did, firing a volley of hard-hitting
slugs which caused a mighty stirring
in the water around the turtle
while the turtle floated away, unimpressed
in its placid green-back
way

dreams of turtle soup
fading away as I returned the 45
to the friend from whom I had borrowed it
and turned back to the hunt for frogs
at midnight, their pale little
legs delicious when fried and tasting
like small chickens and much better
than turtle soup anyway

content I was to understand that due to
my incompetence there was no likelihood
of a future for me in sniper alley, or
as a serial killer or fearsome terrorist,
my life as a fearsome bureaucrat
set instead














Last from my library for this post, this poem by David St. John, taken from his book Study for the World's Body. The book was published in 1994 by Harper Collins.

During the course of his career St. John has received many of poetry's most distinguished awards and honors and has been anthologized and published in many of the most prestigious poetry journals. At the time of publication he was teaching creative writing at the University of California, having previously had similar positions at Oberlin College and John Hopkins University.




Wavelength

They were sitting on the thin mattress
He'd once rolled & carried up the four floors
To his room only to find it covered nearly all
Of the bare wood
Leaving just a small path alongside the wall.

& between them was the sack
Of oranges and pears she'd brought it's neck
Turned back to expose the colors of the fruit
& as she opened a bottle of wine
He reached over to a tall stack of books
& pulled out The Tao with a silly flourish
Handed it across the bed to her       she looked up
& simply poured the two squat glasses
Half-full with wine & and then she
Took the book       reading silently       not aloud
As he'd assumed & suddenly he felt clearly
She knew the way
Two people must come upon such an understanding
Together of course but not separately
As the moon & the wave remain individually one









Saturday morning at the coffeehouse

so,
considering my fellow coffeehouse patrons
this Saturday morning,
I look for a worthy recipient
of the gift of my poetic
consideration...

alas,
I see no qualifiers


even more alasly,
I have already
unwrapped the gift, making
it non-returnable
and
thus
stuck
with it, I am

***

so
I consider the very tall, very
beautiful, very strongly built
young black woman in the corner
working away on her computer

a student I am assuming,
very happy to have such a beautiful,
industrious woman
in my coffeehouse, sad
for the African nation that lost
their princess...

***

and then there's the other young woman,
climbing the stairs for what seems
a meeting of black women
upstairs

more traditionally beautiful
than the princess, dark legs flexing
as she climbs, her thighs covered in
colorful tattoos...

love the art, hate
the canvas

because skin - black, white, brown or
purple, so much more warm and beautiful
than anything even Michelangelo could paint
on it

***

and then there's the old guy
and the young guy,
both of the shaved skull
contingent...

see how their polished nobs
shine in the sun
as it falls through the high windows
beside them

I should remember to sit there
tomorrow
so that my own polished nob
can so brightly gleam

***

the young Hispanic girl
standing near me, waiting
for coffee, dark eyes behind
wide glasses, so young and beautiful,
so alive and alert to the world
in her Levis and white canvas shoes

reminds me of my first look
45 years ago
and all that's passed together
in the years since

***

a woman just dropped a ten and a twenty dollar bill
as she dug in her pockets, unaware of her loss,
I picked the bills up and returned them to her

my fingers itched
all the way down to my palms

***

hoping I have more cooperation
from my coffee brigade
tomorrow,
I finish my coffee
and leave, off to the lumber yard
for more scrap lumber
to paint

nobody knows the lumber I paint
but me








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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






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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