The Sad, Sad Story of Johnny McBee   Monday, May 18, 2020

the sad, sad story of Johnny McBee

Johnny McBee
worked as a first-shift dishwasher
at the Bump and Thump
gentlemen’s club
on Cherry Berry Street
for three years
until a two weeks ago
last Monday
when he was laid off

not the brightest
in the brickyard,
is a hard worker
and attentive to his


though a minor
to the nation’s GNP,
he does his part
above all else,
he is

those New York
in their pin-striped boots
and alligator suits
who steal
with a smile
and a stab in the back

the big-talking, broad-
political sharks
in the G.O.P. back alleys
of Washington D.C.
assure him
all his problems will be solved
as soon as they can find a way
to steal more money
from regular folks
to give to all the under-privileged
rich gentlemen
who will surely rush
to the Bump & Thump
once they get their
out of hock
and on the road again


the sad, sad story of Johnny McBee
being of a special kind
idiot’s guide to happy living


As a Nun, Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn
Autumn Night
Morning Glories
Living Near the Great Buddha


just like you and me
on the corner of San Pedro and Mistletoe


Campfire Talk


attack of the fifty-foot woman
feeling a little noirish
it’s just hard to see how this is going to work

Gu Cheng

Grave Bed
The God Says


a Sunday drive
fantastic news


in the paper today -
guy at a bar, talking
to the bartender, i used
to get really upset with the news,
he’s saying,
until i discovered the wonders of apathy
so i’m looking
to sip, myself, at the chalice
of apathy’s wonders - too much
of my brain has been cornered by two
subjects - unmitigated heat
and the politics of gullibility

i’d write a poem about it,
but i just don’t give a shit

This piece written in 2009. The two pets mentioned here, Reba, the dog, and Kitty Pride, the cat, have gone on to greener pastures. Reba was especially special, backseat companion to me through 24 states before her passing.

being of a special kind

it’s clear
she thinks i must surely
be mistaken

she is, that
the universal prohibition
against dogs
stealing kitty food
when kitty takes a break
must not apply
to her

she is only part dog,
you know -

but no part kitty,
she is quick to add,
despite her taste
for kittenish food -

beyond petty canine
she is, after all,
of her special kind

too special, for sure,
to be bound
by the do’s and do-not’s
of the flea-bitten
to which she is sometimes
compared by those who
do not know

as i chase her from the
kitty food bowl
she give me the disdainful look
that only royalty
of the highest kind
can display

so stubborn
am i
as i refuse to recognize
her rightful place,
she seems almost ready to give up
on my education

getting kind of old, though,
a bit creaky
when she gets up after laying too long,
but still she loves to play games
like chase the treat and hide and seek

best of all, she still listens to all my stories,
many over and over again, and never suggests,
with her deep brown eyes
and rapt attention to every word i speak,
that these same old stories
ever fail
to amaze and enthrall
Reba’s getting old, i fear,
and her time is coming due

will i talk to
when the day drags and spirits droop

idiot’s guide  to happy living

how are you?
they say, by way of polite greeting

great, i say,
where i started

is part of my philosophy
for getting through the day

being of good cheer
whatever the temptation to be otherwise,
that’s my life strategy

assume the worst is past,
for even if it isn’t
why ruin a perfect, sunny day
with thoughts of dark and stormy skies

it’s an idiot’s guide to happy living,
this good cheer philosophy,
denying the truths of close attention -
but a happy idiot
i think I’d rather be
than any of those others
so miserably aware

These little poems are from Lotus Moon, the poetry or Rengetsu. The book was published in 2005 by White Pines Press.

Rengetsu was born in 1791 in the "pleasure quarters" of Kyoto, the illegitimate offspring of a high-ranking samurai and a young geisha. Her natural father arranged for the baby girl to be adopted by a lay priest serving in the head temple of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism. Learning, as a young girl, the martial arts, literature, calligraphy. Sent at the age of seven or eight to serve in the castle of a high lord she continued her classical samurai education including poetic composition, calligraphy as well as attaining proficiency in the martial arts. In 1807 the sixteen year-old was called back to the temple where she spent her earliest years and, shortly was married. Her marriage was marked with tragedy. She lost her first child within a month of his birth, her first daughter lived only three years and a third daughter died at birth. She separated from her abusive husband and he soon died as well.

She married again, happily at first until her husband died. Thirty years old, twice widowed with three children, took orders as a Buddhist nun. Her life continued in a river of tragedy, with the death of two of her children and her adoptive father, which obliged her to leave the temple. At this point she tried teaching but found not many wanted to be taught by a young nun. Instead she turned to poetry, pottery, and painting. Her pottery especially brought her large renown. In her later years she was acclaimed as a patron of the arts. She died at the age of eighty-four in 1875. in the tea room of the Jinkoin Temple.

Why do I feel like I just wrote the screenplay for Mulan.

The poems in the book were translated by John Stevens.

As a Nun, Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn

Clad in black robes
I should have no attractions to
The shapes and scents of this world
But how can I keep my vows
Gazing at today's crimson maple leaves?

Autumn Night

This autumn night,
Dozing and dreaming
Of this sorry world,
Then startled by the
Temple bell at daybreak.

Morning Glories

In a gap
Between the clouds:
Faint moonbeams
Reach down on grass tangled
With morning glories.

Living Near the Great Buddha

My night: autumn chill,
A steady drizzle
Of cold rain, and
The flicker of
Lonely shadows.

just like you and me

traveling south
to bury a friend
in a crypt
beside the sea

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

just like you and me

on the corner of San Pedro and Mistletoe

not downtown
where i’d prefer to be,
but just a few blocks
from San Antonio College and,
across the street from the college,
San Pedro Springs,
primary source of the San
Antonio River, the park at the springs
a grove of grand old oaks shading
picnickers today on soft grasses
where people have lived
for more than 10,000 years

both so near -

the springs and great oaks
and clear streams of cool water
where quiet and peace sits
in the shade and waits for you
on days when quiet and peace
seem lost in an unforgiving world,
where there is a place to think
when thought is chased into hiding
by a world impatient for action,
for answers -

and the college, offering
promise of passionate talkers
and interesting conversations,
coffee house necessities for
diligent eavesdroppers
like me, and older people, too,
long-time residents of this
older neighborhood, walking
for morning coffee
from their stone houses
and manicured lawns,
or from the brown brick
apartment building across
the street, an old building
on this old street, balconies
with green-aged wrought-iron railing
on the top floor corner
apartments, permanently
resident pigeons lining
the roof, seeing all
that passes below, as i can see
them through the cafe windows
that reach from the floor
to high ceiling, streaming
sunlight though a third
of the house, all this
mix of young and old,
passion and patience,
in quiet boil as all the motions
of daily life
pass us on the street

along right now, the only
customers inside, but,
sitting at an outside table
by the street, two young men
playing guitars, practicing riffs -
maybe they’ll start a band,
maybe they’ll be happy
just sitting by the street,
playing together for no audience
but themselves

either way, i think i’ll be here
to watch, here at my new
coffee house at the corner
of San Pedro and Mistletoe

Apparently since the book cover includes nudity, I haven't been able to find a clear full-sized cover picture on the internet. Censorship pisses me off. I think we have to accept, without necessarily understanding, that the poet chose a picture of naked people on a rocky beach for his cover because, in his mind it said something he wanted to say about the book and about the poems he wrote.

In a similar vein, I made the picture above specifically for the cover of my book Always to the Light to make a statement that, in a world that is so often dark, we should instead look always to the light.

As just an amateur, perhaps I pontificate above my station, but it seems to me that if a person claims to be seeking to make art, he or she must be true to their concept of the art they choose to make, never to accept the second-guessing of critics or any other naysayers. Did I have second and third thoughts about putting my butt on the cover of a book, well, yes. But the image of "man" facing the bright light of possibility seemed perfect. And unfortunately, like Van Gogh, the only model I can afford is myself.

The book is Antler: The Selected Poems, published by Soft Skull Press in 2000.

Antler (born Brad Burdick in Wisconsin in 1946) was a favorite of the beats, including Ginsburg, Ferlinghetti and Snyder and was a winter of the Walt Whitman Prize, as a “poet who contribution best reveals the continuing influence of Walt Whitman in American poetry. He continues to live in Wisconsin and was poet laureate in 2002 and 2003 of the city of Milwaukee and is a fervent advocate for wilderness protection.

I like this poem very much. It reminds me of the times when I could and occasional did have this experience.

Campfire Talk

Lonely, contemplating suicide?

Go alone into the forest, find a clearing,

Gather wood, build a fire, stay up all night

     with the fire and the stars

Have a little blackberry brandy as you telescope

     to bring the stars closer in.

The sound of the fire, the smell of the fire,

The light and the heat of the fire

     will help you, heal you.

A campfire’s a Paleolithic experience

     we can all still have.

Renew the pledge of brotherhood round the fire.

Renew the pledge of sisterhood around the fire.

Hold hands in a circle and each make

     the sacred vow and pledge

And then silence, silence

     and the fire.

But really, you’re alone

You only imagine your friends

     and lovers near.

Only imagine all the poets your love

     holding hands round the fire as one.

The flames recede,

The logs fall in among themselves,

Sparks fly up, a puff of smoke, a sigh,

     the fire dies down.

The cold creeps in and you draw nearer

     the ebbing flame,

And then the embers, the embers glowing

     softly red

While above the startling stars

     and forest smells rush in

     as eyes adjust to the dark.

The towering ancient trees nearby

Cease being lit

     by flickering light.

Warm your hands one last time

     over the dying fire.

Remain. Remain long

     after the fire is out,

Long after the cold creeps in.

Look up at the stars

     longer than you ever have

     and maybe ever will.

Renew the pledge of friendship round the fire.

Renew the pledge of love around the fire.

Make the vow of vow under the stars.

Renew, renew around the campfire

     in the wilderness under a wilderness of stars.

And then, silence, silence and the expiring fire

     and the silent continuous movement

     of Stars and Earth in Space
     till the embers face away –

     and with the first light of day

     shoulder your pack and head forth.

attack of the 50 foot woman

the movie
and, being 14 years old,
the idea
of the scarily magical girls
i knew
growing to 50 feet
wasn't something i could
rule out -
but the idea that their clothes
would grow with them
did not seem
reasonable to me,
in my festering
little mind,
how it would be
such a much better,
more realistic, movie
if they did not

feeling a little noirish

rainy night
of wet streets

all the colors of neon
on black asphalt

city sounds
of late night

by whispering

walking the night
pass on

night people
a lone
and lonely breed

it’s just hard to see how this is going to work

this place
is so clean-cut
it makes me want to shave
before i sit down to work
and it’s Saturday
and i don’t shave on Saturday,
i just don’t -
it’s like Lois Lane
Clark Kent, Kent so square
and all-American clean
and Lois
so hot, so randy and ready
for a super-fling,
it’s just hard to see how it’s
gonna work

me trying
to write a poem in this place,
is like trying to read one of those
decadent French poets
to my old high school English teacher
who didn't even put up with contractions,
much less people fucking and pissing
and all that other stuff
on the page

serious editing
would be required or
she’d have a heart attack

just like i’d have to clean up my language
before trying to write here; hell, i’d have
to clean up my mind and it’s that
black and twisty thing that keeps me going

it’s just hard to see how it’s gonna work

Next two short poems by Gu Cheng, from his book Nameless Flowers, published in 2005 by George Braziller, Inc. Gu, regarded by many as China's first contemporary poet was born in 1956, the son of an important army poet. After time in a reeducation camp tending pigs, he became famous on his own, becoming a champion to younger generations of the China. Having a troubled life, he died in 1993, hanging himself after attempting to kill his wife with an ax.

His poems in the book were translated by Aaron Chippen.

Grave Bed

I know death approaches     it’s not tragic

my hopes ae at peace in a forest of pines

overlooking the ocean from a distance      like a pond

afternoon sunlight keeping me mottled company

a man’s time is up     and man’s world goes on

I must rest in the middle

passersby say the branches droop

passersby say the branches are growing


The God Says

ashes too

have lives

they float in the wind

go courting in smoke

caress on warm airs

in quite a few places they

seek me



traveling holiday
300 miles south to the border,
turkey dinner, lots of
and how-ya-beens,
300 miles home

as usual,
sometime before we leave,
i’ll drive the 7 extra miles
to the little town i came from,
take a look around,
check out the old house
where i grew up,
stop at the cemetery
where most of the people
i knew who stayed around
currently reside,
brush dried leaves
off my parent’s headstones,
and pause a minute
to remember them anywhere
but below the ground i stand on

and that’s it for

a Sunday drive

a Sunday drive
to Austin
on an errand
that couldn’t wait
for Monday

thinking about going on
for a drive
in the hill country, maybe
spend the night in Blanco or Mason
or Johnson City
before heading home tomorrow

take a step outside
and decide it’s too damn hot
so i’ll just do the do i’m supposed to do
and head for home in S.A. -
save the hotel night for a trip
later in the month to Presidio
or maybe to the coast

let Reba run on the beach

a pretty normal
i’m thinking,
then i see the guy
with the scars all over his head,
like three quarters of his skull
had been lifted
in pieces
then put back together

a big story there,
i think,
Iraq -
motorcycle -
something like that involved,
something, probably, he doesn’t like to talk about

my life -
no big scars
and i’m happy to talk about it,
do it all the time,
even though not that interesting

not like the guy
with the jigsaw skull
who probably doesn’t want to talk about it

fantastic news

the chess master,
a young physician with
an unfortunate resemblance
to Harpo Marx
enters the room
and a boy,
his pupil,
races across the room,
“I have fantastic
he says,
prideful, excited
to be telling the master
of his own mastery of something,
but his teacher
sees an acquaintance
and stops to talk
and doesn’t notice the boy
who stops
as if suspended in mid-step
before an invisible
then turns,
his face hung low,
and walks back slowly
to where his father waits

the teacher
finds a table
and lays upon it his board
and chess pieces
and turns back
to talk to his friend again

the boy
goes to the table and quietly sits,
aching to tell the news stuck
in his throat
until, finally, the master joins him

“I have fantastic
news,” the boy tries

“Tell me
this fantastic news,”
says the master,
“before we begin our lesson.”

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

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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