Hard Times   Thursday, May 14, 2020

A  poem from previous hard times, the Texas oil patch, 1986.

I see what's going on today and have an itch to help because I know most of the people working on the problem have never had to deal with such as this. There are lots of us old guys who have and who know shit these new guys don't. But time for us has run out and the best we can do is watch from the sidelines

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 10, a two sets of twins,
the youngest 2

hard times...

hard times, i’ve seen
hard times and stories like this

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

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

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

now poor,
all the toys gone,
living in a one bedroom apartment
on the wrong side
of the wrong place,
a 73 Ford Fairlane,
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 Mac
patties if nothing else,
but all the burger flipper jobs
taken by kids and old people,
no one wants to hire a 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 options,
no chance,
no way

hard time...

back again

Here and Now

Hard Times



hard times

deep thoughts to be thunk in 2020

a so, so serious man

little Tom Boy’s balls

on the death of a patron and friend

six white-haired men

Charles Simic

Howl (updated)


Reading Li Po


Charles Harper Webb



Peas in our time

Semyon Kirsanov

Mayakovski Has Gone


soup of the day

what we do until we can think about sex again


deep thoughts to be thunk in 2020

dedicated to all the deep thinkers at "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 MAGA caps.

as with many people
I like to think deep
about things I know

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

as we
deep-thinkers like to say

the world wasn’t paying
adequate attention

I’m just going to have to
louder in


a so, so serious man

in the corner
reading a book
under broad leaves
of a banana

his lips, nods
his head, smiles

clever writer
it must be
to agree so completely
with this man as to bring a
to his face,
this face
that carries no lines of
good humor

to make him laugh,
so, so serious man,
must require
a master
of the writer’s art

or maybe i am
and he is really a clown,
this man
in the corner
under broad leaves
of a banana plant
at the pretensions
of all the so, so serious

little TomBoy’s balls

trapping the cats
was less of a problem
than i expected - seems
even the smartest of them
are suckers for

the easy part,
i thought,
would be dropping them off
at the spay and neuter clinic
but it turned out to be the day’s
challenge, instead, standing
for two hours in a line
of mostly dogs
mostly interested
in what was going on
inside my three
cat cages full of feral cat, Mama Cat
and her two kittens,
sister Billie Goat and brother Tom-Boy

back at the facility on Laredo St.
at 4 p.m. - about a 20-minute trip
extended to 45 minutes because
of a truck afire on the interstate -
but Mama and the kids were ready
to go, though still a little dopey
from the anesthesia when
i got them home and treated them
to a cup of water and a bite
of premium cat food, $1.79 per
miniscule can

then they slept the
rest of the day
in their little towel-covered cages,
a dark and quiet refuge from the
bright lights
and sharp knives
of the day

relating this story to guests
at dinner in the evening,
they were all aghast
when i mentioned that
when “fixing” feral cats
the practice is to snip off
the tip
of one ear
so that they can be recognized
by animal control people
and others
as a neutered cat that, by ordinance,
is not subject to capture and

what a horrible thing
to be doing to these cats,
they all said,
and barbarism
they all said, and
it was then that i realized
that the feminists had won,
that, while it was now
ok in our society to slice off
little Tom-Boy’s
the tip of one of his ears
was a mark
of the callous infamy
of our male-dominated

Two short poems from the same funeral.

on the death of a patron and friend

a man
in constant

to think of him as

six white-haired men

white-haired men
stand around the pit

watch the box
as it is lowered into the hole

think of their friend
and wonder

whose box is next

ahhh, the humanity

This poem is by Charles Simic, Pulitzer Prize winner, from his book Jackstraws, published by Harcourt in 1999.

Simic was born in 1938 in Belgrade and emigrated to the U.S. in 1954. Recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, he lived in New Hampshire at the time of publication of this book.

howl (updated)

did you see
the pictures of the guy
with an assault rifle
at one of Obama’s town hall

somewhere in hell,
Lee Harvey Oswald is really
that his timing was so bad

had his murderous little self
been out on his assassinating way
he could have saved cab fare
to the book depository

there being any number
or right-wing Republicans
eager to give him a ride
so as to insure his right
to bear arms
is not compromised

have to protect our rights,
you know

presidents -

well, hell, we can always
get another one of those

I'm thinking he could have said this in 12 words instead of 2 pages. Another reason he's counted among the greats and I'm not and never will be.

reading Li Po

simple poems,
plain language,
the joy
of being human

grand pronouncements,
no puzzles,

just the way i like it

each poem
that we haven't
changed so much
over the past thousand
years; that
there is a common thread
stretched through the past
that will continue to stretch with us
into the future - this string
of the all of us extending
through our collective existence,
providing sustenance
to this spirit not directed
to supernatural
though created
by the same long line
of accidents
that created all
the other creatures of our planet,
something happened to us,
some special accident that
could have happened to the
elephant or the sand shark
or the mosquito or the toad
or to any of the other creatures
who live or have shared
this earthly space with us,
but happened to us instead

and made us special

not because we were the special
creation of some higher power,
not because it was within us alone
to rise from the ooze
and separate from all the others
who did not

but only because some primitive
happened to be at the right place
at the right time

leaving us to find, like Li Po,
a humble joy
in the celebration
of our creation

Some Barku, my own invention, 10 words on 6 lines in the spirit of the Haiku.


thin girl
dark hair
across shy
brown shoulders


dreams lost
as a dread
in shadows


of the singer’s
her jeans


old lady -
small grocery
held tight -
crosses the


blue sky
into electric
by crackling wires


my red car
soaks in
a transitory

This poem is by Charles Harper Webb from his book, Reading the Water, winner of the Morse Poetry Prize, published by Northeastern University Press in 1997.

Webb was educated at Yale University, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern California. He worked for fifteen years as a rock singer and guitarist. At the time of publication he was a licensed psychotherapist and professor of English at California State University, Long Beach.


A planeload of insurance salesmen, blown off course,

Discovers a tribe who believes an elephant

In the distance is the same size as a gnat-in-the-eye.

This should cause trouble in the hung. But tribespeople

Merely flick the pesky trumpeter a way,

While the gnat – felled by clouds of arrows – feeds

The tribe for weeks. Faced by a lion, the tribesmen run

Until its head is small enough to squish. Muscular

Warriors are found dead, pierced by mosquito needles

Ear-to-ear. Everything here is as it seems.

The stick-in-water, drawn out, remains crooked

As a boomerang. Mountain and molehills are identical.

Tragedies that crush Americans – love’s waterbed

Popping parents dropped into the scalding pot of age –

Require  only that the sufferer walk away. “It’s not so awful,”

Tribal healers say “With every step, troubles shrink;

Their howling dwindles to a buzz; their fangs shrivel to the size

Of pollen grains. Reach out. Brush them away. You see?”

peas in our  time

last night
at Grisinis’

penne pasta
with some kind
of orangish sauce

tiny pieces of ham

the peas
did it for me
since peas are
my second favorite
vegetable -
peas & corn
being my favorite

someone mentioned
that it was strange, my
liking peas so much,
since no one was

that’s hardly
a surprise to me
since the world slips
into decline
with every passing day

I took the next poem from Red Cats, published in 1962 by City Lights Books.

I recently received the book from a friend who studied Russian with me for the U.S. Air Force at Indiana University in the mid-sixties. The book is an anthology of three Russian poets from that same period, Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, and Semyon Kirsanov. The three poets acquired varying degrees of attention in the U.S. during the period of the short-lived cultural thaw in the Soviet Union of the period. The three were greeted in the U.S. as forerunners of a new and better relationship with the communists. Yevtushenko, in particular, was widely popular on American campuses, reading to stadium-sized crowds. It didn't last, but it was great while it did.

The only one of the three that I am completely unfamiliar with is Kirsanov, I've chosen one of this poems to post here.

All the poems in the book were translated by Anselm Hollo.

To help me understand the poem I looked up Mayakovsky. Here's what Wikipedia told me.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky was a Soviet poet, playwright, artist, and actor. During his early, pre-Revolution period leading into 1917, Mayakovsky became renowned as a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement. A strong supporter of the revolution, he begin to get in trouble with the regime as it became more and more oppressive. His satire on the new system led him into more an more trouble. In 1930, he committed suicide. 

This poem illustrates the temporary loosing up of the system which allowed for at least partial rehabilitation of artists whose names were previously not spoken

Mayakovsky Has  Gone

                       “The Poem -

                        all poetry - 

                       a journey to the Unknown”



The Polytechic Museum

   News stalls

         A tram-car

A poster:  


 The evening is over.

A hundred steps


         he is coming


                    Surrounded by fans

A glowing butt

    In the corner of his mouth.

He is staring

    in front of himself

             with burning


                           Notes in his hand.

                               A blanket over his arm.


    is time

torn off

      the two engines…

In his pocket

    the crimson passport

and ticket

    already punched

for the journey

    Into the future,


    is opening his eyes

        to the sky,

            it is dawn –

                his chestnut


                      coming out of a hundred years’ wake….

At last – he gets up.

    he gets up, he gets going,

he is on his way

    around the world,

    and for ever.

He gets on the plane,


          by stacks of airmail,


   his feet

       do not touch

            our globe

                any more.

But still

    from the



-          Remember  

keep in touch –

one way

or the other

And he was gone.

    was it to the new

or to the old world?

    No matter

No letters came,




                forty years

-          1950

soup of the day

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


what we do until we can think about sex again

i was working
at my poem
of the day
she walked
in, about five-
four, long dark
hair, long, long
hair hanging
almost to the
beginning curve
of her butt -
and a very nice
butt it is i notice
as she passes -
tight white dress,
short, about mid-
thigh, and did i
so tight
i can see
of the freckles
on her rear,
yes, that same
rear end, the
very same
slightly above
hangs her dark
straight hair

i know
it is a moment
in her life
when every man
she passes
has to stop
and breathe
deep, lost
temporarily in the
fantasies that
male nature
at even the
the natural
of the human
male firing
on all eight
cylinders, the
secret of our
rise from the
from which
we came, the
lingering imp
of that brut
that hides behind
all our best
and will not
leave us
until the day
we die

i don’t think
get this about
us, rational
beings that
they are, they
view life
as an entirety,
sex a part
of that whole
thing called
life and living -
men see life
as what
you do to
kill time
until you can
think about sex

like me
this morning -
i could have
written a poem
deep in meaning
and purpose,
in fact i really
meant to do
just that -
one young woman
in a tight dress
with a well-shaped
rear twitching
when she walked
and long hair
and legs
up to, well,
you know where
walks past me
and i end up with

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Always to the Light

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And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio

Seven Beats a Second


Sonyador - The Dreamer


  Peace in Our Time


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