Green Acres (Is The Place To Be)   Saturday, July 28, 2007


III.7.4



Welcome to "Here and Now."

We're going to do somethings different this weed. First, primarily due to a time crunch on my part, we have fewer poets and longer poems.

Second, having just discovered that it is 51 years this year since the initial publication of the seminal beat poem by Allen Ginsberg, one of the long (very long) poems this week is Part 1 of that very poem, Howl. I would have liked to do the whole thing, but there's just too much of it for this little operation.

With Howl closing the issue, we start with the first in a series by Gary Blankenship inspired by the Ginsberg poem and, somewhere in the mix of the issue, a modern re-telling of it by Mick Moss.

So, read on. It's a lot of Ginsberg this week, but, iwth work from other great poets and a couple of pieces by me, it's not all Ginsberg at all.







As promised, here is the first in a new series of poems by Gary Blankenship inspired by Howl . Gary is a master poet, with a strong yet delicate touch, as well as a master of the poem series.

(Actually, this is second in the series, but, for reasons having to do with my own production problems, first to appear here. We will have the actual first in the series next week. It's complicated)


After Howl II

In Celebration in the Release of Boxcar Willie's Last Album


who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night
   Allen Ginsberg, Howl

boxcars full of apples from Wenatchee
pears from Hood River
dried grapes and shelled almonds from Fresno
bluegrass seed from the Willamette

box cars full of t-shirts from Thailand
(or was it American Samoa
Made in the USA)
lumber from Millinocket
coal on the way to Liverpool via Sault Ste Marie
toys and cat food recalled from Singapore

boxers in the boxcars
Matchbox cars
and bullocks bound for Boise

cattle cars littered with homemade cigarettes
flat cars bleached in the panhandle sun
dump cars emptied of Portland cement sand gravel
container cars for milk and window cleaner

box cars to haul boxes
hat boxes (but who wears hats
even pillboxes out of style)
shoe boxes
gift boxes wrapped in holiday cheer
cardboard boxes
and boxes made of lumber from Eureka

the racket of boxcars
whistle after whistle
on rusted rails that run
by the barn chicken coop
boxcars
down the ravine
past alfalfa soybeans canola
past the bedroom window
so close you could touch it
as I touched you
boxcars

I'll return come spring's melt
and your grandfather's box
is no longer empty as a clouded sky







Carter Revard, part Osage on his father's side, was born in Oklahoma. He grew up on a rural community on the Osage reservation with his stepfather, five brothers and sisters, his aunt and cousins. He went to Oxford University in 1952 on a Rhodes Scholarship. He later earned a Ph.D. from Yale University and taught as a professor of English at Washington University. He has published numerous poems, stories and essays in a variety of publications.

This poem was taken from Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry



In Kansas

The '49 dawn set me high on a roaring yellow tractor,
slipping the clutch or gunning a twenty-foot combine
to spurt the red-gold wheat into Ceres' mechanical womb:
I'd set her on a course and roll for a straight two miles
before turning left, and that got monotonous as hell,
at first all the roar and dust and the jiggling stems
          collapsing
to whisk up the scything platform and be stripped of
          their seed,
then even the boiling from under of rats and rabbits
          scrambling
to hide again in their shrinking island of tawny grain
as the hawks hung waiting their harvest of torn fur
          and blood.
So I'd play little god with sunflowers drooping
          their yellow heads;
see a clump coming and spin the wheel left, right,
          then straight.
The shuddering combine swiveled on its balljoint hitch
first right, then left, it's great clatter of blades
          swinging
so the tip barely brushed those flowers and left
          their clump standing
like a small green nipple out from the golden breastline
     and next time past
reversing wheel-spins cut free a sinuous lozenge left
          for the bumblebees
with butter-and-black-velvet tops limp-nodding over
               wilted leaves.
But sunflowers aren't enough. I left on the slick stubble
          islets
of blue-flowered chicory, scarlet poppies and just
     for the hell of it cockleburs;
"From now on, kid, you run that sumbitch straight,"
               the farmer said.
Hell's bells, out on that high prairie I bet goldfinches,
bobwhites, and pheasants are still feasting,
          in the farmer's fields
on the flower seeds I left out, summer, fall and
                    winter harvests
that make the bread I eat taste better
          by not being ground up with it
               then or now







Speaking of changeable Texas weather...


rain dance


I had just
stepped out
of my car
when the
weather
changed
from
looks like rain
to go ahead
and bring those
animals up
two by two
and my dinky
umbrella
was doing as much
good as a
5 cent stamp
on a 50 lb
parcel
and just
as I got to
the porch
intent on the
pleasure
of having a
cup of joe
while watching
it rain it stopped
and just as sudden
as the rain had
started
the sun
came out
and I was
the wettest
thing in this
whole
blue-sky
town








One of the great unanticipated benefits to me of working on "Here and Now" is the opportunity it has given me to learn of and read poets I would have otherwise had no contact with.

One such poet is Ku Sang. He was born into a Catholic family in Seoul and grew up in what is now North Korea, fleeing to the south before the Korean war. Later, he studied in Japan and, in the fifties, was imprisoned for writing essays on the corruption of power.

This poem is from his book Wastelands of Fire. It has been translated from Korean by Anthony Teague.


Spring Chrysanthemums

At one window of an apartment block,
in an old orange-box
with a scrap of soil
and a packet of seeds sprinkled,
spring chrysanthemums
yellow,
red,
pink,
turquoise,
white,
are spreading their petals.

Single blossoming sign of Nature
in an artificial world!

Scarcely arrived, the spring-morning sunshine
dazzles, then slips away.

At the third floor opposite, a pink blanket
waves like a tongue while the owner,
a dancer, squints across;

above , on the sixth floor, a student is listening to jazz,
brushing the dandruff from bushy hair
and staring down.

On the ground floor a bank-guard's wife,
her perm in a towel
as she fiercely beats cushions,
pauses to glance up.

And the unmarried pensioner next door,
changing the water in his goldfish bowl,
stops and looks sideways

while the two kid brothers to the left
stop playing at housekeeping
and turn to look.

In the street a bean-curd seller,
ringing a hand-bell as he passes,
stops and looks up

and the ice-cream man,
pushing his cart along,
looks up too, wiping his brow

while the newly-married housewife
watering her flowers
cannot help thinking of her husband
whom she has just pushed off to work,
after a good number of tongue-bites,
and very slightly, she smiles.







W. Joe Hoppe is another of my used bookstore finds. Along with his wife, he has published about a dozen chapbooks through Luck Tiger Press. His poem have appeared in numerous periodicals and have been anthologized in Stand Up Poetry and How To Be This Man. His poetry video, $5200 MSTA has been shown at the Dallas Video Festival, San Antonio Underground Film Festival, Austin Film Festival and VideoEx in Switzerland.

This poems are from his book Galvanized


Vernal

Spring sailed in momentous last night
born buoyant on a level just beneath my understanding
The tree of the world has lent itself
to graceful planks and sweeping hull

It slid right down the earth's new tilt
sails aligned with the sun's new angle
a steady pushing
through every stem and limb


Hombres Solitarios

Seven Mexicans on the stereo
sing of loneliness
together in fine harmony

Two kinds of accordions
three kinds of guitars
and a pair of fiddles
believably lonely in the same key

Certain that this
is the way a man
truly exists


Fifty Weight Oil and Fifty-Two Sleeping Pills

Today, while scraping the rubber of my boot sole
from the chrome of cooled motorcycle exhaust pipe
I noticed something serious

Blue oil tank hose sports a flat spot
burnished black the final drive belt
which must come in contact only occasionally
on the biggest of bumps, on the most twisted torsions

Once that vein wears through
it's no simple roadside repair
splattered with burning oil
I'd have to sit down in the gravel and wait

Wondering if I could foreseen such a failure

This same afternoon a buddy checks his fifteen year old son
out of the treatment center for Easter Sunday in the park
They're awkward over M&Ms in the plastic basket grass
pill shapes and colors; it wasn't a vein he opened up this time

Too late to rent a canoe, the two watch the water
as clouds come smoothing in Sunday evening,
the father inventories his long list of fix it tools
and figures what he needs is a time machine

While I'm yanking at my damaged line with sweaty hands
resentful of having to do anything at all







Maire Mhac an tSaoi, born in 1922, has worked hard for the preservation of the Irish language. This poem, taken from the book This Same Sky, A Collection of Poems From Around the World, was translated from that language by Brenden O Hehir


The First Shoe

We put the shoe on him the first time this morning,
minute, stitched-together, a little jewel of leather,
a miracle of shoemaking, in the first choice of fashion,
on the flowerlike foot never before in bondage,
the first shoe ever on that small honey-sweet foot.

Little treasure, heart of the house, here you go tramping,
strike the sole like this on the ground stoutly,
hold the precious head pluckily, determined,
a man-baby you are in your walk nd your bearing
the height of my knee, and so soon to leave me!

You have a long road to travel before you,
and tying your shoe is only the first tying.







About a week ago, the presence of other priorities led me to announce on the poem a day workshop at the The Blueline Forum that I was so busy with other "stuff" that I was going to have to take a leave of absence.

Despite the announcement, I posted a new poem the next day, then, again, a day later, I posted this poem, a remembrance of a time when leaving didn't necessarily mean you were going anywhere, at least not for a while.


leaving

this reminds me
of when I was a kid
and my parents
would have company
and they would sit
around and talk
or maybe play tripoli
and the time would come
when everyone would stretch
and the last cigarettes would
be stubbed out and the last
little bit of beer at the bottoms
of the bottles would be chugged
and everyone would say
well, guess it's time
to call it a night, work
tomorrow early, you know
and everyone would head
out the door, then stop
on the porch and talk, then
more stretching and the
walk to toward the car,
making it, maybe,
to the middle of the yard
and everyone would stop
and talk some more then
stretch and walk to the car
then stop and talk, women
on one side of the car
men on the other until
someone would yawn,
time to get going, they
would say, work tomorrow,
and the company would
get into the car and then
more talk, through the
window, men on the driver's
side, women on the other,
until, finally, the key would
turn and the engine would
turn over and there would
be more talk through the
windows while the car
idled until finally my dad
would give the top of the
car a little slap (and I
never figured out how
he knew when to do that)
and after a few thanks
for coming and thanks
for asking us over and
maybe we can do this
again next week and
our place or your place
and extended discussion
of whether our place
or your place, then
should I bring something
a pie, or a cake, six pack
of beer and more discussion
and finally, after some more
thanks for coming, thanks
for asking, the car would
slowly slip into the neigh-
borhood night and mom
and dad would walk back
to the house talking about
the people just gone,
evaluating everything
from hairstyle to choice
of beer along with
speculation about
the woman's cousin's
brother-in-law
who might or might not
be up at Huntsville
doing time for some kind
of stabbing over at that
beer joint on hwy 83

that's the way it was
when I was a kid
and mom and dad
had company and
parting may or may not
have been sweet sorrow
but it sure took up some time
at the end of the day








Mick Moss describes himself as a 54 year old art school graduate and music industry drop out. He has an MA in Screenwriting and writes screenplays, novels, poetry and jokes. He says his ambitions are: To get his scripts made into films, to travel the world, and maybe one day to meet Mz Right, because, he hasn't yet, despite a few near Mrs.

I was introduced to Mick by Gary Blankenship after he saw this poem on one of the on-line workshops. Gary knew I was interested in his Howl series and thought I might be interested in Mick's poem also. I was and here it is.



Still Howling - the next Generation
                        dedicated to Allen Ginsberg

I saw the not particularly bright minds
of my generation
         driven to obscurity
red brick Mickey Mouse degrees promised us
interesting world changing careers
but all we got were mortgages
         interest rising

Thrust expectantly from the womb
of a post-war black and white
still rationed, once great nation
that shared its greatness
if you were born from the right stock
          but we were not

From one room to baby boom, suburbia.
Bevin's babies with national reassurance
blue collars stained white
by the new blue whiteness
          of copy-writers' lies
forged in the white heat of technology
gadgets in the ideal home
          for the nuclear family

Our optimism shattered by Cuban missiles
and a man on the grassy knoll
while bombs rained down from LBJ
mothers running screaming napalmed
         Buddhist monk barbecue
Charlie's brains blown out for the camera
boil in the bag convenience TV tea time
         bland horrors daily

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
and Che washed up in a Bolivian bath house
while Mao Tse Tung said - Change must come
change must come through the barrel of a gun
Terence Conran made shopping fun
      as our habitat degraded

Buy now, pay later, must have, have not
pot bellied, fly blown black babies starved
still - we had the Beatles
            Yeah, yeah, yeah

Born with plastic spoons in our mouths
substitute fabric for the modern world
molded multi-coloured in factories
scream in your grave Henry Ford
any colour as long as it's black
can sit in the back
            too much it's a magic bus

They taught us Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen
but not Ken Kesey, too merry a prankster he
for their sensibilities, incensed by DH Lawrence
And yes our servants could have read it
if we had them
            but we didn't

We laughed at such absurdities
but raged when they locked up Mick and Keef
who would break a butterfly on a wheel?
the News of the World with no news
but vicars and tarts
prurient where Oz never was
            yet still they slammed it

The small minded blinded Mary Shitehouses
of this scandalized post Profumo island
where the pavements of Grosvenor Square
were splattered with teenage blood
            where Queer was a dirty word

Where a young milk snatcher rubbed her dry cunt
dreaming of her beefcake bean-counting gurus
            Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman
and the power she would one day wield
            in Middle England

Where a nouveau-riche phony middle class
sold votes for loadsa money
and the right to buy
            their council hovels
where joy riders ripped up the night
and raved ecstatically
until the Public Order Act repossessed
            the right to dance

Until WE had had enough
of things never getting better
            and got THEM out
only to find we'd swapped the same old thing
            for a brand new drag
as the 'special relationship' dragged us into
            yet another pointless war

Meanwhile beleaguered school Head-teachers
battling against league tables
            fake results
for pupils playing Nintendo in class
            on mobile phones
where English is reduced to CU L8R
and voting means evicting this week's moron
            from Big Brother
to satisfy the Nations' voyeuristic eye
on LCD TV - that's "lowest common denominator"

Eric Blair turns in his grave
as CCTV on every street
records the pissed up, drugged out
            Chavs
descended from the archers
who were dumb enough to go
            and stand at Agincourt

            And I'm Still Howling
at wounds festering under a Karma Sutur








Joe Weil is a widely known poet and editor from New Jersey. This poem is taken from the anthology Bum rush the page.


Ben Hur

This is the part where
Charlton Heston's sister
gets cured of leprosy
          I'm sitting on the couch
It's late
     Charlton cries
I swallow a fig newton

Last time I saw BenHur
I was twelve years old
My parents were still alive
Moths swarmed around the porch light,
Refrigerators hummed,
We were safe
     Now I'm thirty
Rocky and Clare
          in a grave
I start to cry
     because Charlton
is hugging his sister
and he's home
and I'm not
and it's raining
inside the movie
     and out
Outside, the smell of wet dirt
and soggy garbage
          wafts through my window
Shit!
     If I had a girlfriend
we'd screw until the moon was cheese
we'd create our own epic:
thighs, breasts, mole hairs, freckles,
all the noises peculiar to coupling
hips rounding into the air, hands palming
flesh, fresh so smooth and rough and sweaty
and...

The theme music flares
I know it's a corny flick
I've read Rimbaud
but I'm sad and full of fig newtons
it's late and my hairline's receding
outside the rain keeps falling
looks like a thousand needles
falling under the streetlight's glare,
piercing space
and I wish I were dead or in the arms of a girl
I hear the soft incessant hum of me
falling through space, falling asleep
with my hand between my legs







I decided it might be a good idea to consider alternatives to the kind of long skinny poems that have become my "style" over the past couple of years.


I investigate the concept of brevity

I've
been getting
really tired
of my going
on and going
on poems
and think maybe
readers are also
so I decided I
oughta
write a short
one

this is it







Our next poem is from the German poet of the expressionist period, Georg Heym. In the poem, the poet imagines the final moments in the life of the French revolutionary tyrant Robespirre.


Robespirre

He bleats under his breath. Eyes fixed on the
Straw in the cart. His teeth grind white slime.
Gulps until his cheeks are hollowed.
One foot hangs naked through the slats.

Every jolt of the cart sends him flying.
The chains on his arms rattle then like bells.
Children yelp with laughter - their mothers
Hold them up to see over the crowd.

Someone tickles his foot. He doesn't notice.
Now the cart stops. His eyes lift and he sees
At the end of the street the black machine.

His forehead, ashen, beads with sweat.
His mouth goes weird in his dreadful face.
They wait for screams. They hear no sound.

(Translated by Keith Waldrop)







The New York Times Thursday science section is a wondrous thing to read, leading to wondrous tidbits of most probably useless information. Wondrously.


coochie coochie


i have it
on good
scientific
authority
that young rats
giggle
when tickled,
a high frequency
squeal
of delight
heard
only by them
and their kind

isn't that a
amazing
thing to think about







I promised you would see much more of Juan Felipe Herrera when I posted one of his poems for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Well, here we go.

The title poem for his book Giraffe On Fire is a very long piece of 28 sections, much too long to post here in a single issue. So, instead, I'm going to post it one or two sections at a time over a period of weeks.



Giraffe On Fire

1

I sit on a gold vestibule. It isn't me.

This wavy swan to my naked left comes up to my bad eye. My dead eye.
Catalonia, in its sacred and tiny voyage under the tectonic plates of Dali's
edible sea. Swan's talons. Cobalt blue and geometric. Gold pearls and an
inverted eggshell. My childhood, my little red daily missal, my edge of
Plexiglas water. My breasts and my shoulders are sculpted and small. I raise
my leg as I hold an invisible oblong figure in front of me. It is my gaze.
Naked as Gala. Dali's lover. I know nothing. Nothing of Spain or its green-
mantled skies. I live in a split sky. Yellowish without a sun, yet the sun
envelops the firmament. The bottom is blue, then convex with a woman at
the center. Mexico. Cortez. Malinche. East Los Angeles. San Francisco. El
Paso, yes, the gate of all Mexican dreams - this soft animal, jagged with
ragged dots behind its back that leads to a holy shrine. A wax cross always
before me. I sit upright. Floating, my head tilted to the left. This is the
proper stance in America, an adequate sexual crust that I eat as I ascend
into the sky. It is not necessary to understand what is below me.

You must open your legs. You must figure the hard orange colors from
your bill, then the black protrusion. This is innocence. I was born there. A
fortune was discovered on my skin. My mother took me away one night.
An egg was delivered, then tossed over a bridge. It cut into the waters, a
shape of a man with tinted skin and a jelly heart. What could he do? He was
alone inside the small canoe. What did he have? He had paints and a loaf of
pumpernickel. He wanted to reach down into the water. The belly below
him floating up. Gala in white, in seaweed, in parables from Ezekiel and
Port Ligat. Gala was elsewhere. Above him, as always. In front of him. As
always. In a shrunken room dug into the bowels of a West Coast barrio.
The barrio was insignificant. The fragrance was central to his existence.
This is my language. There are no codes. She sits there. That is all. In
eclipse. In fission. Hiroshima. Iraq. The San Joaquin Valley. In leather rubies
and grape pesticides. Alive and willing, still. She is traveling sideways, onto
Desolation and Desire. Avenues, voyages ripped from Cadiz and Cadaquez.
Moors and Jews come to her.

This was my beginning. In the fields,
lost in the deserts of California. Many years ago.








Over the past several weeks, I have posted parts one, two and three of The Teeth Mother Naked At Last, the anti-Vietnam poem written in the sixties by Robert Bly. Now, here are parts four and five.


The Teeth Mother Naked At Last

    IV

A car is rolling toward a rock wall.
The treads in the face begin to crack
We all feel like tires being run down roads under heavy
    cars.

The teen-ager imagines herself floating through the Seven
    Spheres.
Oven doors are found
open.
Soot collects over the door frame, has children, takes
    courses, goes mad, and dies.

There is a black silo inside our bodies, revolving fast.
Bits of black paint are flaking off,
where the motorcycles roar, around and around,
rising higher on the silo walls,
the bodies bent toward the horizon,
driven by angry women dressed in black.

****


I know that books are tired of us.
I know they are chaining the Bible to chairs.
Books don't want to remain in the same room with us
    anymore
New Testaments are escaping ... dressed as women...
    they slip out after dark.
And Plato! Plato ... Plato
wants to hurry back up the river of time
so he can end as a blob of seaflesh rotting on an
    Australian beach.


    V

Why are they dying? I have written this so many times.
They are dying because the President has opened a Bible
    again.
They are dying because gold deposits have been found
    among the Shoshoni Indians.
They are dying because money follows intellect,
and intellect is like a fan opening in the wind.

The Marines think that unless they die the rivers will not
     move.
They are dying so that the mountain shadows will
    continue to fall east in the afternoon,
so that the beetle can move along the ground near the
    fallen twigs.







I wrote this poem in 1971 when I was back from military service, finishing college on the GI Bill. It was published that same year by ARX a small journal out of Austin. It's not, of course, remotely in the same class as Robert Bly's piece, in fact, it's not really very good at all, but it is earnest as only a beginning poet can be and it did make a few people cry when I read it (although the possibility of pharmaceutical enhancement of effect can't be discounted).

Whatever its merits as a poem, it's as relevant today as it was 36 years ago, with the single exception that, today, it could as well be the young man at home minding a young child while the young woman is off at the war. I suppose that must qualify as some kind of sorry progress of some sort.


1971


she's eighteen years old
married since last spring
racing now
her first winter
as a woman and a wife

the child of her absent husband
is growing within her
and will soon cry with escape

she faces the time quietly
sitting in the home of her parent
in the room that was hers
for all the years before
listening to little girl music on the radio

she thinks of last winter
when the music seemed so much more
and of the school Christmas party
where they danced

she tries to recapture the time and the feeling
but she can't

she cries
and causes her parents to worry
but they think they understand

she cries and wishes
her husband would return
from his father's war
and tell her she is happy







For not a few years, I thought Allen Ginsberg was the definitive poet and this was the definitive example of what poetry was all about, and as a would-be hipster (at least in my own mind) it was the kind of poetry I tried to write.

I haven't held that view for some time, and now, as a matter of fact, much prefer his smaller, quieter poems. But it is still as exciting as ever to read.


HOWL

            For Carl Solomon

                           I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
            madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
            looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
            connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
            ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
            up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
            cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
            contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
            saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
            ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
            hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
            among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
            publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
            skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
            ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
            to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
             Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
            Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
            torsos night after night
            with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
            cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
            lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
            Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
            tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
            dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
            storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
            blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
            vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
            lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
            ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
            until the noise of wheels and children brought
            them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
            battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
            in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
            floated out and sat through the stale beer after
            noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
            of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
            pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
            lyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
            down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
            off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
            and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
            and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
            and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
            Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
            trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
            City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
            ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
            drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
            railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
            leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
            through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
            father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
            athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
            stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
            ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
            angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
            gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
            homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
            light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
            seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
            brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
            and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship
            to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
            behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
            and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fire
            place Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
            F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
            eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incom-
            prehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
            the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
            Square weeping and undressing while the sirens
            of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
            down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also
            wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
            and trembling before the machinery of other
            skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
            in policecars for committing no crime but their
            own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
            dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
            scripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
            motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
            the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
            love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
            gardens and the grass of public parks and
            cemeteries scattering their semen freely to
            whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
            with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
            when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
            them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
            the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
            the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
            and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
            sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden
            threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
            beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a can-
            dle and fell off the bed, and continued along
            the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
            on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and
            come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
            in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
            but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun
            rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked
            in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
            stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
            poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
            to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
            in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
            rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
            gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
             ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
             solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
             dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
             picked themselves up out of basements hung
             over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
             Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemploy-
             ment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
             the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
             East River to open to a room full of steamheat
             and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
             cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
             blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
             be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
             the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of
             Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
             pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
             bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in
             their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
             with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
             by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
             incantations which in the yellow morning were
             stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
             & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable
             kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for
             an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
             for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
             fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccess-
             fully, gave up and were forced to open antique
             stores where they thought they were growing
             old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
             on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
             & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
             of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
             fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
             ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
             drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
             pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
             into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
             ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
             the subway window, jumped in the filthy Pas-
             saic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street,
             danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
             phonograph records of nostalgic European
             1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
             threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans
             in their ears and the blast of colossal steam
             whistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
             to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
             watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
             if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
             a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
             came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
             watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
             Denver and finally went away to find out the
             Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
             for each other's salvation and light and breasts,
             until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
             impossible criminals with golden heads and the
             charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
             blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
             Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys
             or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
             Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the
             daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp
             notism & were left with their insanity & their
             hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
             and subsequently presented themselves on the
             granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads
             and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding in-
             stantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin
             Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psycho-
             therapy occupational therapy pingpong &
             amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic
             pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of
             blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad
             man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the
             East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid
             halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rock-
             ing and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
             dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a night-
             mare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the
             moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book
             flung out of the tenement window, and the last
             door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone
             slammed at the wall in reply and the last fur-
             nished room emptied down to the last piece of
             mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted
             on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that
             imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of
             hallucination
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and
             now you're really in the total animal soup of
             time
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed
             with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use
             of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrat-
             ing plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
             through images juxtaposed, and trapped the
             archangel of the soul between 2 visual images
             and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun
             and dash of consciousness together jumping
             with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna
             Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
             prose and stand before you speechless and intel-
             ligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet con-
             fessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
             of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,
             yet putting down here what might be left to say
in time come after death,
             and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
             the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
             suffering of America's naked mind for love into
             an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
             cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
             out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand
            years.





If you made it this far, that's it for today. Next week.

1 Comments:
at 2:42 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

allen,

I am honored to be included in Here and Now.
Such good company!
Once again, it is a stunning issue your poems and your photographs are beautiful.

Martha

Post a Comment



Across The Little Golden Gate   Saturday, July 21, 2007


II.7.3



Welcome to this week's "Here and Now." Lots of good stuff for you, hope you enjoy.






Susan Holahanm has, to put it most modestly, an impressive resume. With both a Ph.D.. in English and a law degree from Yale, she has taught writing at Yale and University of Rochester, practiced law in Connecticut, worked as an editor at Newsday and the Yale University Press, as well as writing and publishing her own poetry. Her poems have appeared in Agni, Crazyhorse and The Women's Review of Books. Her fiction has appeared in, among other places, American Short Fiction,Icarus, and the anthology Bitches and Sad Ladies.

This poem is from her book Sister Betty Reads the Whole You.


How Light, for Example

makes our living, light makes our
life where we live, makes
how I live - like lead
in New Haven, damp on Long Island,
empty I thought in Dallas.
But here in Rochester
the usual platinum light
makes another life altogether,
which is yours, or you.

Here's where you get the speaking
part you've angled for. That day
clouds hid our eclipse till after lunch
we couldn't help it. We crept out
to not-look at the sun while
it was leaving us
a mere annulus. The tulips stilled.
You said the light felt thin
and I thought, lavender?

violet? with gray like before
a summer storm - diluted, rubbed.
Last night that dream again
tore me; both of us in a warehouse
separate in crowds of strangers,
me struggling to write to you
and I admit I didn't own boots.
Let me tell you
everything looked dark.







I wrote this on a rainy afternoon while listening to one of our local college radio stations, KRTU - 91.7 of Trinity University. They play jazz, all shapes, flavors and varieties (except dixieland) 18 hours a day. The station is also available on the web. I recommend them.


jazz on the radio

jazz
on the radio
sax
aching
soul weary
I can't place
him but it's
one of the old
guys
I know from
the solos
the pulse
a heart beat
transformed
and embellished
constant
steady
the art of life
the life of art
pulsing
steady
and constant
many of the
masters
dead this year
every month
another two or
three gone
but the beat
goes on
the old vinyl
discs
reassuring
the pulse of the
art
still strong
lives end
but never the
music ends
reassuring
the life of art
the art of life
constant
steady
jazz
on the radio
settles
the day around
me smoothes
the mechanics
of living







This is as close as I could come to finding biographic information on the web for Doc Dachtler, He has lived and worked in Nevada County for over 35 years. He is as much a social historian as he a poet and storyteller. Doc's writing often deals with everyday rural life and the people and events that weave the fabric of community he calls home. Doc has worked as a one-room schoolteacher at the North Columbia Schoolhouse and currently plies his skills in the trades as a carpenter. He is widely published and is credited with two books of poetry, Drawknife (1985) and Waiting for Chains at Pearl's (1990). He is also the founder of Poison Oak Press, specializing in limited edition letterpress poetry broadsides. To listen to Doc Dachtler is to sit in his living room, share a cup of coffee and enjoy the company of a friend. Unless there are several Doc Dachtler, he has also worked as an actor and general contractor.

These poems are from his second book of poetry Waiting for Chains at Pearl's.


The Bear After the Poker Game

After the poker game
I drove to North Columbia
as best I could
all the windows down for fresh air.
About a mile and a half out of Cherokee
I came upon a black bear
running up the road
in a loose lope.
There were beehives on the flat
just to the left
I slowed down.
The bear slowed down
then left the road to the left.
I wished I was headed
toward some honey
at 3 a.m.


Siding

               for Pam Kowal who told me the name of the siding
              we were putting on a house was Dollie Varton. I
              said I didn't know that but I'd like to meet her.


Hooking
the chalk line on the end of the 1x10
walking
the 16 feet to the other end
hefting
the worm drive skill 77 saw
triggering
the blue arc in the shadow of the case
whirls
the blade dancing dust from the last cut.
Before the fresh chips
(dancing the night before with the women of the
Ridge) and the end of the day
I feel
my body thinning out
my hair thinning out
my vision thinning out
yet clear
as a snapped blue line
cut away
on a tricky piece of siding.








Doc Dachtler seems like an interesting fellow. Here's a man I've been interested in for several years, a man of mystery in a plain bland wrapper.


Invisible man

white hair
short and
neatly shorn
shaved and
nicely dressed
he has
the look
of a retired
watchmaker
with a kind
of blank
intensity
that comes
to a craftsman
of small things

he seems a
shy man
quiet
working hard
at invisibility
as he comes in
every morning
lays down
his bed roll
and backpack
on one of the
upholstered
chairs
visits the
men's room
to tidy up
then spends
an hour in
the music
section
donning the
headsets at
each listening
station from
classical to rap
to country to
jazz, to
conjunto
listens
to them all
then picks up
a book and returns
to his gear and has
one coffee as he reads
for about an hour
sometimes closing
his eyes for a
moment or two
but never sleeping
like the regular
bums who come in
especially in the
winter when the
cold outside pushes
them into whatever
shelter
the can find

I see him
every now and then
walking alongside
the road with
backpack and
bedroll and though
I am curious about
his life and about simple
questions like where
he sleeps and where
he eats and how
he got to the life
he's living now
he doesn't
seem the type
of man
who would
welcome
questions
leading to
attention
and requiring
visibility







Steve Healey teaches writing to prisoners in several Minnesota Correctional Facilities and is Associate Editor of Conduit Magazine. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review, Fence, jubilat, Open city, and Verse.

This poem is from his first book earthling.



tilt

Long after winding down
the party keeps winding down.

It smiles in the gridlocked smoke
long after swizzle sticks tell the journey
about no one going home with someone
along the underground story lines,

and I remember the part where
you said you can't even remember
the good parts. Here's my self-portrait

as conveyor belt, I've no further
questions. Here's the case of missing bridges

or the justice system of little girls,
I've heard them chant like pickled banshees:

bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish,
how many pieces do you wish?


One, two million, a deluge of yes,
yet missing from the deluge can be sweet,

or no or two placed carefully at points
of least resistance, so heaven's close enough
to taste. I wonder if that's the voice

who took me across the water last week
"halfway between ice ages."

It was mild, yes, with scattered clouds,
which came to see us as ideal listeners
squinting at the silent parts.

Imagine receiving Aaron Burr's bullet
on the cliffs of Weehawken, and according
to their address, Lucy and Ricky
lived at the bottom of the East River,

says the voice that becomes an ocean
no one knows exactly where.

It's all atoms anyway, largely
excreted by faraway stars as part
of an old bedtime story. This carbon atom,

for example, has never died, and since
we've never been to sleep, how many
bridges have we built to feed
this megalopolis? Only later

do they offer the consolation of not
having been, I mean it's never dark here,

and look at those trees happy to wallow
in ignorance of autumn's coming.

Or the fruit, vibrant gray, outside
the bodega. Or the fruit, balanced on
technicolor curves. Or the cut flowers,

like men in a tilting city. Or a man curls
around a fountain while a water blossom

keeps petal-falling back around its
pushing through. Or a man keeps

circling the park, nibbling it
with his yes-shaped mouth.







High School English teacher S. Thomas Summers has been with us before with poems from his Civil War book in progress. These two poems are from his most recent book. Rather, It Should Shine, published by Pudding House Publications in June of this year.

For more information about Scott's books, including how to purchase them, go to his website at www.freewebs.com/sthomassummers. Or, you can just click on the link on the right.

Here are the poems.


To Have and to Hold

Night winds plucked
last leaves off the tall elm,
pasted each crimson
blotch to the house -
a constellation of age spots.

Now I see how much
the paint has faded,
how it curls off the wood
shingles - eyelashes curling
away from an old face.

I ask if you'd prefer
a new color. You spoon
sugar n my coffee, scrape
a finger across my toast
for a taste of jam and say

Perhaps, but the old
blue feels more like home.




Fudd Finally Fells Rabbit

The newsstands sell out
in minutes. The networks cancel
scheduled programming as their
anchors straighten ties, apply

blush and spill the bloody news.
The bunny had been resting
under a tree, munching a carrot,
humming a waltz. Fudd claims

he crept as "sy-went-wee as a cat."
When the departed began
to dance with an invisible love,
the bald hunter aimed his shotgun's

sights between the rodent's
bucked teeth, alleges he stroked
the trigger like the silky edge
of a child's blanket. A black duck,

believed to have witnessed
the killing, asserts the rabbit,
known as a harlequin to most, felt
the world no longer laughed at his jests

and, ever the showman, decided to give
the people what they seemed to want most.







I included a short biography the last time we used a poem by Indian poet Sudeep Sen. I won't repeat that, but will add something new I just noticed in his credits in the book. In addition to his poetry and his work as an editor, Sen also directed several films and co-directed several others, none of whose titles I recognize.

This poem is from his book of poetry Postmarked India, signed by the poet, according to the salutation to someone named "Ray", during a trip he made to San Antonio in February, 2000. It is a longish poem, in eight parts. According to the title it is selected sections "from" a longer poem, but it appears complete to me, so I don't quite know what to make of it.

Anyway, here it is. There are illustrations of each "frame" of the poem that I wish I could duplicate, but can't. Imagine murals lined in dark pencil.


from Mount Vesuvius in Eight Frames - 1994

Prologue

Death has an invisible presence
 In the Vesuvian valley, even the corpses

bear and insidious resemblance, that belie
 shifting shadows in the subterranean alley

Death has an invisible presence,
 so does life, in its incipience and its ends,

linked, like two inverted arches, bent
 to meet in a circle at their ends.

 Strips of zinc, metal coated in wax,
bathed in acid, are scratched.

 Year's twelve seasons reducted to eight -
the image slowly unfolds its fate

 in the half-light, under transparent
protection of paper, moist and permanent,

 etching the once-flowing blood stream,
now frozen as rich loam, ribbed lava reams.


      1

But the story began long ago: Remember
 the young couple, together

starting their life, their dream house
 distilled from that embryo's yoke.

The site chosen, the view determined -
 Mount Vesuvius - this centerpiece

to be framed by an arched window pane
 of the bedroom's intimacy, and space.


      2

 Their house started breathing, piecing
itself at night - the slow cementing

 of bricks, supports, and the arch.
The building traces its curve, its arms

 locking tension in place. The spade
like a magical brush made

 everything circulate, outlining
the movements, the inhabiting

of specific spaces, and the furniture's
 place. In a grand overture

the wooden bed with curved ends
 was placed right beneath the rails

of the window, overseen by Vesuvius.
 "Lava God!" they prayed, "Bless us,

our love, and our curse." The union of
 flesh, blood, smoke and bones.


      3

 The evening unfolded naturally
and quietly, as deceptively

 as the view's receding perspective
drew them to the mountain peak -

 to its air, the snow, its dust and fire.
Fire engulfed their bodies, their

 fingers, burning nail-tips, furrowing
lines of passion on each other's skins.


      4

It was freezing. The flames, frozen
 like tense icicles - hard-edged,

brittle, tentative, chilled, eager.
 The night brought a strange winter.

That night there was black rain,
 everywhere - nowhere to escape,

except amongst the synovial spaces
 of their intertwined limbs, as

 their bodies remained locked in fear
and in death, around each other.

 A marriage made in heaven, and in hell
buried unknowingly - skeletal

 remains transfixed in the passion of
the very first night, unaware of

 the world's changed face
and the undone terrain,

now completely re-done, different -
 calcified, stripped, eroded, irreverent -

the bright skies sheltering the ruins,
 the dark soil protecting the fossils.

Death has an invisible presence
 in the Vesuvian valley, even the corpses

bear and insidious resemblance, that belie
 shifting shadows in the subterranean alley.


      5

 Years later, two grave-diggers (or
archeologists, or conservationists, or

 restorationists), stumble, quite
by chance, upon this ancient site.

 searching for something else,
following a geological trail -

 a chameleon path of buried ash -
remains of civilization, now washed.

Work began: digging into the skin
 of the earth, defacing the soil, its

texture gradually ground further,
 reducing the grains finer and deeper.

Then liquid was poured, funneling
 the volcanic shaft, clearing

the debris of the past
 itself, to unearth the past.


      6

 Then, a violent tremor, the plates
shifted, skies darkened, there was rain,

 heavy rain - a rain of redemption, healing
the lepered limbs, slowly washing

 the bones to the last brittle and grain.
Death has an invisible presence

 in the Vesuivian valley, even corpses
bear peculiar insidious resemblance.


      7

Now, people come in great numbers, pay
 to see the same space -

the house, the room, that bed,
 the couple mummified as they last slept,

left unmoved, untouched, unaged.
 Mount Vesuvius still guard their gate

and the view - the outside
 of the past, and the life, inside.


      8

 the dead: All neatly packed
in small square groups, and

 in even multiples of eight,
nailed, framed, and glass-encased.

 even the new grave-diggers pay,
the elderly mountain pays

 too - in twos, fours, and eights.
Pompeii remains, uncontained


Strips of zinc, metal coated in wax,
 bated in acid, now re-scratched.

Year's twelve seasons reduced to eight -
 the image slowly unfolding its fate

in the half-light, under transparent
 protection of paper, moist and permanent,

etching the flowing blood stream, life
 frozen, yet unfrozen, rich lava, alive.


    Epilogue:


 Death has an invisible presence
in the Vesuvian valley, even the corpses

 bear an insidious resemblance, that belie
shifting shadows, in the subterranean alley.

 Death has an invisible presence,
so does life, in its incipience and its ends,

 linked, like two inverted arches, bent
to meet in a circle at their ends.







I've been in a kind of remembering and reporting mood for a while and and my poems, like this one and most of the others, reflect that. One of the problems with that is, even though I'd like to be writing some shorter pieces, once I get started remembering, the memories start to jump into the poem on their own.



fulton street hustlers

it's eleven
in the morning
and you can tell
the drinkers,
the
down-
but-not-
outers,
squinting
in the mid-
day sun
as they cross
fulton street,
leaving their
$40-a-week
motel room,
heading for
breakfast
at one of
the dozen
taco shops
in the neigh
borhood,
chorizo and
eggs with
a side of
refried
beans, two
flour tortillas
black sludge
coffee and
six aspirin
for the head
that won't stop
aching until
they get their
first beer,
their scrambled
eggs chaser
that officially
starts the day

mostly men,
careful with
appearances,
fresh shined
boots, sharp
creased jeans
and starched
long-sleeve
cowboy shirts
with fake pearl
snaps,
pool shooters,
dart throwers,
penny tossers,
pinball wizards,
and hustlers of
most every kind,
living on the edge
always, on the edge
of losing usually,
they live on alcohol
and beer nuts,
cheap
meals at flytrap
eateries and
dark places where
the truth is only
what you can seen
in a smoked bar
mirror, where pre-
tending is easier
than not







August Stramm, born in 1874, was a German poet and playwright, considered one of the first of the expressionists. He also served in the German Army and was killed in action during World War I.

A collection of his poems, titled Dripping Blood, was published after his death in 1919.

These two poems are from the book Music while drowning a collection of German expressionist poems. The books editor makes a point in his introduction of the close relationships between German expressionist writers and painters during the early 20th century and how the work on one side affected the work on the other. The book includes illustrations, which I can't reproduce, unfortunately, that emphasize that symbiosis.

Anyone familiar with my own evolving style will quickly recognize one of the reasons I like Stramm's poems. Here are two of them.


War Instinct

Eye's flash
Your look cracks
Hot
Streams the bleeding over me
And
Drenches
Runnels of sea.
You flash and flare.
Life forces
Flame
Mildew deludes
And
Knits
And
Knits.

(Translated by Will Stone and Anthony Vivis)


Fallen

Heaven films the eye
earth claws the hand
air hums
weeping
and
twines
women's lamentation
in the stranded hair

(Translated by Patrick Bridgewater)







Here's a poem out of rural Virginia by friend and fellow poet, Dave Ruslander. This poem is from his book Voices In My Head.

Your can find out more about Dave's book by clicking on his link on the right.


Black Dog

Amber stalks blow in warmth
as the summer sun reels over
          California hillsides.

Grassroots still live in drought
through life has been leached
          from their blades.

Drunk from autumn rains,
they will toss their tassels
          kissing neighbors

I contemplate cycles - calm, stormy,
                dark and light,
          interrupted by a sudden flight
              into blue: a covey of quails.

The black dog is running through the fields.








Next, a realistically romantic piece from Carol Ann Duffy. Duffy was born in Scotland in 1955 and grew up and was educated in England. In addition to her "grown-up" poems for which she has received many awards, she also equally awarded children's poems.

This poem is from the anthology 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, compiled by Billy Collins.


Valentine

Not a rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
It's fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are
...







There are many kinds of self-abuse. Here's one of them.

And, again, I admit to stealing the title from a country and western ditty from fifteen or twenty years ago. In the song, he's being denied his husbandly privilages. This poem is about self-denial, as well as denial of self.


queen of denial

I saw her
yesterday
as she got
our of her
volvo
convertible

dark sunglasses
long platinum
blond hair
with a dark
roast tan
that never
saw the sun
and must have
cost a fortune
lips and nails
red like fire
engine blush
and thin
high fashion
thin another
way to say
excruciating
famine in
africa thin

I said hello
but she didn't
respond
smile options
botoxed
from memory
and I imagine
the human
buried some
where within
this artifact
the pretty little
girl with the
wide open
smile
who grew
into this
gargoyle
sacrificed to
desperation







Our next poem is from Michael Van Wallenghen, a professor of English at the University of Illinois. The poem is from his third collection, Blue Tango.


The Age of Reason

Once, my father got invited
by an almost perfect stranger

a four hundred pound alcoholic
who brought the drinks all day

to go really flying sometime
sightseeing in his Piper cub

and my father said Perfect!
Tomorrow was my birthday

I'd be seven years old, a chip
off the old daredevil himself

and we'd love to go flying.
We'd even bring a case of beer.

My father weighed two fifty
two seventy-five in those days

the beer weighed something
the ice, the cooler. I weighed

practically nothing: forty-five
maybe fifty pounds at the most -

just enough to make me nervous.
Where were the parachutes? Who

was this guy? Then suddenly
there we were lumbering

down a bumpy, too short runway
and headed for a fence...

Holy Shit! my father shouted
and that's it, all we need

by the way of miraculous
to lift us in a twinkling

over everything - fence, trees
and powerline. What a birthday!

We were really flying now...
We were probably high enough

to have another beer in fact,
high enough to see Belle Isle

the Waterworks, Packard's
and the Chrysler plant.

We could even see our own
bug-sized house down there

our own backyard, smaller
than a chewed-down thumbnail.

We wondered if my mother
was taking down the laundry

and if she'd wave...Lightning
trembled in the thunderheads

above Belle Isle. Altitude
2,500; air speed: one twenty

but the fuel gauge I noticed
quivered right on empty...

I'd reached the age of reason.
Our pilot lit a big cigar.







Now, the next installment of the anti- Vietnam War poem The Teeth Mother Naked at Last by Robert Bly. Some might question why I continue to post sections of this poem, while, with each posting, mentioning the reservations I have about it.

I continue to use it because, despite my reservations about the poet, the poem is brilliant. And, each time I post it, I think more about my reservations and come closer to understanding them. It is the coldness I sense in the poem that continues to bother me, and the impression I get that Bly, however brilliantly he might write of the pain and blood of war, never actually knew anyone who died in this or any other war. Plus, a real, if possibly unfair, feeling that the Vietnamese deaths weigh on him more than the American dead. It seems a white hat/black hat affair to him, a simplistic approach that can't see or understand the tragedy in the gray.

Anyway, here's the third section of the poem, abused by me again, as usual.


The Teeth Mother Naked At Last

    III

This is what it's like for a rich country to make war.
This is what it's like to bomb huts (afterwards described
    as "structures").
This is what it's like to kill marginal farmers (afterwards
    described as "Communists").

This is what it's like to see the altimeter needle going
    mad:

    Baron 25, this is 81. Are there any friendlies in the area?
    81 from 25, negative on the friendlies. I'd like you to
    take out as many structures as possible located in those
    trees within 200 meters east and west of my smoke mark.


    diving, the green earth swinging, cheeks hanging back,
    red pins blossoming ahead of us, 20-millimeter cannon
    fire, leveling off, rice fields shooting by like telephone
    poles, smoke rising, hut roofs loom up huge as landing
    fields, slugs going in, half the huts on fire, small figures
    running, palm trees burning, shooting past, up again
     ...blue sky...cloud mountains...

This is what it's like to have a gross national product.

This is what it's like to send firebombs down from air-
    conditioned cockpits.
This is what it's like to fire into a reed hut with an
    automatic weapon.

When St. Francis renounced his father's goods,
when he threw his clothes on the court floor,
then the ability to kiss the poor leapt up from the floor to
    his lips.
We claim our father's clothes, and pick up other people's,
finally we have three or four layers of clothes.
Then all at once it is fated, we cannot help ourselves,
we fire into a reed hut with an automatic weapon.

It's because the aluminum window-shade business is
    doing well in the United States
that we spread fire over entire villages.
It's because the trains coming into New Jersey hit the
    right switches every day
that Vietnamese me are cut in two by bullets that
    follow each other like freight trains.
It's because the average hospital bed now costs two
    hundred dollars a day
that we bomb the hospitals in the north.

It is because we have so few women sobbing in back
    rooms,
because we have so few children's heads torn apart by
    high velocity bullets,
because we have so few tears falling on our own hands,
that the Super Sabre turns and screams down toward the
    earth.






You pick up the newspaper and the headline today is the same as the headline yesterday and the day before and days before for five years and you realize there will be no meaningful accountability for the stupidity and stubbornness that is the travesty producing the headlines. The idea that the people causing this will never face any judgment except for the one you haven't believed in in years is enraging.


the list

this is what
I know

he is
a child of
new york
not yet
of an age
to vote
barely
of an age
to shave
dead
in that
foreign
bloody
place from
the blast
of a road
side bomb

this is what
I believe

his name
is seared
on a list
that will be
read when
the day of
accounting
comes
for those who
wasted
his life
and
for the
first time
in my life
I truely do
hope
there is
a hell







Here's another piece from Dale McLain. She joined us last week for the first time with a great poem. She posted this poem yesterday on the Wild Poetry Forum and it was so good and so on with other pieces I was using, I decided to ignore my cooling off rule and bring her back, for the second week in a row.

Here's the poem.


deferred

There were always the parlor tricks,
a card drawn from a powdered bosom,
the drinking glass crushed in your bare hand,
no blood or water, but an orange
swallowtail emerging from the shards.

I would lean against a quaintly peeling column
on the south end of the porch, nurse
my scotch and watch you charm the ladies.
The flowers bloomed to compliment
your eyes. That summer we forgot the war

though Jimmy and Oswald were missing
and Luther's grave was still mounded and raw.
You joked about your asthma, feigned so weak
a breath you could not sigh over Ella's copper
curls or Caroline's perfect, beribboned waist.

You were an emperor in linen slacks,
a deity with boyish hair and spotless hands.
I worshipped you like all the rest.
In my cups, I allowed myself to sweeten
the memory of your kiss with a rich honey

of dreamed devotion. You belonged to all
of us, accepted our preening like a sparrow,
tamed and clipped. Did I love you
best or only truthfully? The tremble
in your hands took my breath.

Because I stood apart,
that prodigal summer, you chose me
to find you hanging like a lone pennant
in the boathouse. I took this for love







And Alice Folkart is back this week to. I so like her work, I always want to use everything she does.


Spent Rain

Awake when I should be asleep
sleep walking?
sleep waking?
sleep writing?

I sit in the light,
surrounded by darkness,
deep, black,
sounded
with cackling,
chuckling,
a bird?
An animal hunting,
scrabbling through the leaves?

I step outside into the hot night.
No stars, no wind,
just drip, drip, drip
the hollow sound of
spent rain off the eaves.

Sounds as tired as I am.







The Classical Tamil Anthologies refers to a body of classical literature created the Tamil people, a subgroup in India with a 2000 year recorded history, between the years 200 BCE and 300 CE. The anthologies include 2381 poems written by some 473 known and anonymous poets, both men and women, from various professions and classes of society. The poems fell out of popular memory beginning about 1000 CE. then were rediscovered the 19th century by scholars such as S. V. Damodaram Pillai and U. V. Swaminatha Iyer.

Here are examples of the works in the Anthologies. All are translated by A.K. Ramanujan.


The first poem is by Mamalatan a poet of the classical Tamil period. I was able to find several reference to him/her on the web, as well as references to this particular poem, but no biographical information.


What She Said

Don't they really have
in the land where he has gone

such things
as house sparrows

dense-feathered, the color of fading water lilies,
pecking at grain drying on yards,
playing with the scatter of the fine dust
of the streets' manure
and living with their nestlings
in the angles of the penthouse

and miserable evenings,

and loneliness?



The next poem is by Maturaikkataiayattar Makan Vennakan. I could find nothing about him/her on the web.


What She Said To Her Girl-Friend

Once, you said
let's go, let's go
to the gay carnival in the big city:

that day
the good elders spoke of many good omens
for our going.
But he waylaid me,
gave me a slingshot and rattles
for scaring parrots,
and a skirt of young leaves
which he said looked good
on me.

and with his lies
he took the rare innocence
that mother had saved for me

        And now I am like this.


Now, a poem by Maturai Eruttlan Centamputan. Again, I could find references to his work, but no bio. Somebody who knows something about classical Tamil poets ought to get to work with Wikipedia on this.

What She Said

Before I laughed with him
      nightly

      the slow waves beating
      on his wide shores
      and the palmyra
      bringing forth heron-like flowers
      near the waters,

my eyes were like the lotus
my arms had the grace of the bamboo
my forehead was mistaken for the moon

      but now


Kannan, our next poet, is recognized for his/her place as a poet of the classical Tamil era, but no more detail of his life could be found.


What Her Girl-Friend Said To Him

Sir,
      not that we did not hear the noise
      you made trying to open the bolted doors,
      a robust bull elephant
      stirring in the night
of everyone's sleep;
      we did. But as we fluttered inside
      like a peacock in the net,
      crest broken, tail feathers flying,

      our good mother held us close
      in her innocence
      thinking to quell our fears.


And a last one by Kollan Arici. Again, though he seems to be an important person in world literature, the web seems to know nothing of him.


What Her Friend Said

The great city fell asleep
but we did not sleep.
Clearly we heard, all night,
from the hillock next to our house
the tender branches of the flower-crusted tree
with laves like peacock feet
let fall
their blue-sapphire flowers.







Here's another of those remembering things.


2 am to 2 pm

there was a time
when I drove a
yellow cab in
a small city in
south texas

barely 21
and just a
couple of months
of legal age
for the job,
I drove 2 pm
to 2 am, 7 days
a week and on
a good week
might have made
$30 which was
crap for money even
for south texas
in 1965

I made the
airport runs,
took little old
ladies to the
supermarket
in the afternoon,
picked up the
whores when
the sun went
down for a trip
across town
to a couple
of the motels
that specialized
in assuring cotton
buyers had interesting
company
in the evening
when they came in
from the fields
hot, hungry and
horny,
and, of course,
between
whores,
the semi-drunks
on their way
to total blackout
smash-
dom
at any one of the five
hundred cantinas
on the south
side,
knowing I'd see them
again at 1 am when
the bar's closed

I hated
that last hour,
the hour of the drunks,
smelling them
passed out
in my back seat,
watching
couples
in my rear view
mirror
either in a state
of semi-fuck or
punching each other
out, hauling the old
shrimper who came home
every three months
with a pocketful of money
that he usually
got beaten out of him
in some dark bar or another,
getting into my cab all beat
to shit, drunk, struggling
to come up with the 75 cents
he needed to get home
to his mother,
a ninety year old
crone
he cursed
from the time
he got into the cab
until he got home,
stumbling
to his front door,
and I'll not forget
the guy with the knife,
drunk enough to think
he could mug me,
so drunk
he dropped his knife
and while he was
crawling around
the back seat
looking for it
I was able to pull over
and toss him out on the
street, spitting
and cussing at me
in spanish
and some other
language
foreign to me
and maybe to him
as well

I hated the job,
but I was driving
an old '49 chevy
fastback
junker
and it was nice
to drive around in a
new taxicab all day and
as for the lousy pay,
if I had been willing
to work a lot harder
I could have made more money
picking
cotton,
but I did that once
never wanted to do it again
so I figured
the whores
and drunks
and little old ladies
were a better deal
overall,
as long as they
left their
knives
at home







We're going on two more little trips with Blaise Cendrars, then let him rest up some. But there is still, in weeks ahead, a whole world to discover with Blaise.

For now, though, there's this.


VII. City of Frisco

It's an old hulk eaten away by rust
Twenty times in dry dock and engine makes only 7 or 8 knots
And to economize they burn old half-used cinders and cast-off coal
They hoist some makeshift sails every time there's a puff of wind

With his scarlet face his bushy eyebrows his pimply nose Captain
    Hopkins is a real sailor
Little silver rings pierce his ears
This ship is loaded exclusively with the caskets of Chinese who died in
    America but who wanted to be buried in their native land
Oblong boxes red or light blue or covered with golden inscriptions
Now that's a type of merchandise illegal to transport


VIII. Vancouver

In the thick fog that packs the boats and docks you can barely hear the
    bell ringing ten o'clock
The docks are deserted and the town is fast asleep
You walk along the low and sandy coast where a glacial wind is blowing
    and the long Pacific waves are breaking
The pale spot in the murky shadows is the station for the Canadian
    Northern the Grand Trunk
And those bluish halos in the wind are steamers bound for the Klondike
    Japan and the East Indies
It's so dark I can barely make out the street sign as I lug my suitcase
    around looking for a cheap hotel

Everyone has embarked
The oarsmen are bent over the oars and the heavy boat loaded to the
    gunwales pushes into the high waves
From time to time a little hunchback at the tiller changes their course
Steering his way through the mist guided by a foghorn
They bump against the dark mass of the ship and Siberian huskies rise
    on the starboard quarter
Washed out in the gray-white-yellow
As they were loading fog







Often, in my opinion, life is much simpler if you just accept that what is is what is and what is gonna be.


good idea, I'll start next tuesday

I'm old
and I'm fat
with a belly
like a beach
ball got blown
up inside
and hope
someday
to be older
and thinner
but will settle
for older
with beach
ball intact
if that's
the price
to pay
and
all good
resolutions
aside
I think
it might be
the best
I'll ever do
anyway
given
my knack
for denial is
near extinct






That's it for this week. Time to grab the old ride and book it.

1 Comments:
at 1:15 PM Blogger Jim Doss said...

Allen,

Great looking site, and I love the variety of materials you post here. I'd like to find out more about Blaise Cendrars. Is there a book you would recommend?

Jim

Post a Comment



Finding Shade by the Lake in July   Saturday, July 14, 2007


II.7.2



It's the middle of the summer and it's to hot to go out and play, so let's read some poetry.







We start this week with a little something in defense of my style which, for better or worse, is what I do.


I like foreplay

some say
my lines
are too
short and
s
k
i
n
n
y
and my poems
to long
and
it takes too
forever
to get past
the foreplay
and into the
good stuff
and I say
hey
foreplay's
not so bad
and how can
you have a third
act
if you don't have
an act I
and an act II
I mean after all
consider
shakespeare
(and I don't compare
myself to him though
we do face similar
problems at our own
respective levels)
what if he wrote like they say I ought to write with long lines and got to the point just right away without the all the messy stuff up front and all those silly rhymes that slow things down and that really weird english and so many characters with all those strange names and long speeches like who cares about benvolio anyway I don't

well
maybe
like this

romeo and juliet....
....no too long
just....

maybe just
this...

roy and julie

boy thinks girl is dead kills self girl finds boy dead kills self too curtain applause

that wouldn't be
any good at
all







Here's a poem by New York poet Brian Blanchfield from his book Not Even Then.


String Theory Readymade

Number one, draw on your paper your paper on fire.
Get this down. Use this red. Any line you start
is a hose in half, and from third dimension
a fourth is siphoned, but that suggests as far as it goes.
By no power higher can you raise yourself and document.
Make fire, page one of one. With fire
or with red or with rise begin.

        International operator, come on with patience.
Once I have you I think that once I was imaginative
and more than once imaginary, closely
an ant at the date line climbing over.

I answered Susan Mensch's cell phone because it rang and,
from Four Seasons Chicago, Susan said she'd cancel usage,
so, darling say hello in English remember I miss you.

If Duchamp made quite the New York snowshovel and from
scratch the vial of Paris air, such is art more material to love.
Once Mrs. Stephen Jay Gould makes a name for herself,
rest assured everyone's units are like assholes, and there is one
theory of everything:

One's attention is divided between following that car
and stepping on it. To have come by pursuit is fait accompli,

the skin and trail and look of getting out but not the serpent self.







Next we have web-poet Dale McLain. Although I've been reading Dale on-line for at least a couple of years, this is her first time in "Here and Now."

Dale describes herself as a suburban wife and mother who lives just north of Dallas, Texas. She says she considers art her first language and works in many mediums with collage being her current passion. Her poetry has been published online and in print.

We are pleased to have her here. You can see more of her work at her site http://seadreamstudio.net/

Here's her poem.


past solstice

We breathe in blind syncopation
on this bed of banked ashes.
Side by side we watch the sky,
the pinwheeling stars, Venus

rises to the west like a beacon
or an unblinking eye. Between us
lies an ocean and a wall of years.
Unbreached, it takes the wind

like a lover's kiss, sways and sighs,
but stands, impenetrable. My hand traces
the lower stones for hints of warmth
or the memory of what I imagine

we shared. Surely some tenderness
lodges in these grey clefts. Only one
pure place remains. I find you
always in this sky of myths.







From the book Across State Lines we have this poem by Kathryn Stripling Byer which ws selected by the book's editors to represent North Carolina.


fromMountain Time

Up here in the mountains
we know what extinct means. We've seen
how our breath on a bitter night
fades like a ghost from the window glass.
We know the wolf's gone.
The panther. We've heard the old stories
run down, stutter out
into silence. Who knows where we're heading?
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can't plumb. It's time to be brought up short
now with the tale-tellers' Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through the hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don't you think she'd tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let's say.
A blind stitch
that clings to the edges
of what's left, the ripped
scraps and remnants, whatever
won't stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt's falling to pieces.







And now another first-timer for "Here and Now," Dan Tomsett. As with our other first-timers this week, I read Dan's poem on the Wild Poetry Forum and invited him to join us here. He is from Seattle, a beautiful city we visited in May as part of a wonderful drive up the Pacific coast.

I'm thinking it might be helpful to explain to readers who might not be card players the meaning of the word Dan uses in his title, "mucked." In poker, the pile of discarded cards is called the muck. When you discard your cards, as when you fold your hand, you have mucked.

Here's Dan's poem.


Eden Mucked

So the apples fell,
and Adam bruised easily
as the first leaves cracked.

Eve gathered there'd be grumbling.
The damn kids heave stones
towards the river, the birds, each other,
and she knew
there'd be days like this:

"But at least there's seasons!"
she screams,

as a once monotonous,
green idea of paradise
rots around her feet.







The next poem is from the book Forbidden Words, a selection of poems by Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade. The poem originally appeared in his book Dark Domain published in 1971.


Music

Poplars.
This music
of morning's whitewashed walls.

Sweet vowels
of shadow and water
in a summer of tawny
lazing animals.

Morning lark
in the happy
air of June.

Tart music
of thistles.

Music of fire
around the lips.

Unbuttoned
round the waist.

Between the legs
gathering.

Music
of the first rains
upon the hay.

Fragrance only.
Bee of water.

A lap
where the brief flame
of a pomegranate shines.

Music, take me.

Where are the boats?
Where are the islands?

(Translated by Alexis Levitin)







Now we're back with an old friend of "Here and Now," Jane Roken.

Welcome back, Jane.


Lonely attic manga blues

... sometimes
I'm a manga bird
and nothing
is impossible
I know it all
and when the moon rises
it rises for me
I have that power

... sometimes
I'm content to let
anything happen
in its own unit of time
I watch
starry-eyed
shameless
translucent

... sometimes
I'm a skewed nail
in a lonely attic wall
in an abandoned house
windows broken
I can't get out
only feel
the draught







A couple of weeks ago, we used an essay by Victor Hernandez Cruz on poet Juan Felipe Herrera. After reading the essay I resolved to go find one of Herrera's books. Well, I did and now here's a poem from that book Giraffe On Fire.

I like it. You'll see more of Herrera here on "Here and Now."

This piece is from the poem which gave name to the book. It is a long poem of 28 parts. This is part 12.


12

First of all: cinnamon,

then turquoise.
First of all crimson powders,

then fire.

First of all, scars in braids across the back,
then colony, then origin, then you begotten in power.

You begotten in tranquility. You in megalomania,
American new furniture.

You in blues and man in blue, in nails, in Madrid, with Juan Gris
drawing your nose and multiple eyes.

You, first of all in Diego Rivera's rogue trousers and boots.
First of all, you in thigh mambos. You in Erzuli's light captives
off the shores of Trinidad.

You marooned in Dutch ships.
First Zulu, first in Sudan, then Dinka.

First, the drum in the Sea of Cortez, across Janitzio, in Veracruz.
Tumbao, Chekere in octagons, crushed pubis and clenched bellies.
First, the feline stone in the portrait, the one where you reach for me,
without language, you say. Without the sludge and cottage industry
of apparitions for English trinkets.

First of all, Cha-Cha-Cha, then waves.
First, then second Rumba, Queen of Cosmic Sweat, the night.
Do not believe this gutter guitar. This Velazauez, this time.

Do not believe it. Take the easel down. See through, for once.
See through Coptic, see through the Orange Free State,
the diamonds enlarged as penis and vulva.

I am in a half stance. One half goes into darkness with a rag of light
on my leg. The other half goes into you as you come to me,
as you march with your instruments and your continent,

blood soaked against your jacket,
tarnished by minstrel water.







Some days, the poetry business can just get plain discouraging, as I explain here.


I do not want to write

tonight
I do not want
to write

tonight
I read a new poet
and it was like flying
inside a skyrocket
crashing into the sky
exploding over an ocean
a thousand sparkles multiplied
in briny reflection
above
and below
and all around
and I am struck
dumb by the green fire
above
and below
and all around
and do not want
to write
tonight






Our next poem is the second section from the poem The Teeth Mother Naked At Last, the anti-Vietnam War poem by Robert Bly. We did the first section last week.


    II

Excellent Roman knives slip along the ribs.
A stronger man starts to jerk up the strips of flesh.
"Let's hear it again: you believe in the Father, and the
    Son, and the Holy Ghost?"
A long scream unrolls.
More.
"From the political point of view, democratic institutions
    are being built in Vietnam, wouldn't you agree?"


A green parrot shudders under the fingernails.
Blood jumps in the pocket
A scream lashes like a tail
"Let us not be de-terred from our task by the voices of
     dis-sent...."

The whine of the jets
pierce like a long needle.

As soon as the President finishes his press conference,
    black wings carry off the words,
bits of flesh still clinging to them.

****


The ministers lie, the professors lie, the television
    reporters lie, the priests lie,
What are these lies? They mean that the country wants
    to die.
Lie after lie starts out into the prairie grass,
like mile-long caravans of Conestoga wagons crossing the
    Platte.

And a long desire for death goes with them, guiding it all
    from beneath:
"a death longing if all longing else be vain,"
stringing together the vague and foolish words.

It is a desire to eat death,
to gobble it down,
to rush on it like a cobra with mouth open.
It is a desire to take death inside,
to feel it burning inside, pushing out velvety hairs,
like a clothes brush in the intestines -

That is the thrill that leads the President to lie.

****


Now the Chief Executive enters, and the press
    conference begins.
First the President lies about the date the Appalachian
    Mountains rose.
Then he lies about the population of Chicago,
the the weight of the adult eagle, and the acreage of the
    Everglades.
Now he lies about the number of fish taken every year in
    the Arctic.

He has private information about which city is the capital
    of Wyoming.
He lies next about the birthplace of Attila the Hun,
The about the composition of the amniotic fluid.

He insists Luther was never a German,
and only the Protestants sold indulgences.
He declares that Pope Leo X wanted to reform the
    Church, but the liberal elements prevented him.
He declares the Peasants' War was fomented by Italians
    from the North.
And the Attorney General lies about the time the sun
    sets.

****


These lies mean that something in the nation wants to
    die.
What is there now to hold us to earth? We long to go.
It is the longing for someone to come and take us by the
    hand to where they all are sleeping:
where the Egyptian pharaohs are asleep, and our own
    mothers,
and all those disappeared children, who went around
    with us on the rings at grade school.

Do not be angry at the President -
He is longing to take in his hands the locks of death-hair:
to meet his own children, dead, or never born....

He is drifting sideways toward the dusty places.    







This is an old poem, written a couple of years ago and included in my book Seven Beats a Second. I think I've used it here before, but it seem to be appropriate to use it right here again. Sometimes, when we are most passionate about something, most committed and most certain of our own intelligence and virtue, it is time to ask, with humility, whether we are all really asking the right questions.

That's what this poem is about.


antiwar poems are easy

the heart of the matter is that
the heart of the matter
sometimes doesn't matter much

antiwar poems are easy
since, in our hearts,
we all know that the logic of war
that says I will kill strangers
until a stranger kills me
is insane

and who can deny that in our hearts
we all know a human fetus
no matter how small
and misshapen and incomplete
is a human-in-waiting
holding within its tiny bounds
all the capacity for love
and laughter as any of us

and who,
even among the most aggrieved of us
could, without a tremor
of hand and heart, push the button
that drops the cyanid pellet
ending the life
of even the bloodiest
of our murdering kind

yet we kill strangers
who might someday
have been our friend

and we erase from the future
the love and laughter of those
we decide will never be

and we murder the murderers
with appropriate
writ and ceremony

all these terrible things we do
because our heart cannot guide us
in choosing the lesser of evils

it is our lizard brain we must turn to
when the heart of the matter
doesn't matter enough







Here's a short piece by Carl Sandburg. Most would say his time has come and gone but I think he'll be back, valued at some point in the future. if not for his artistic merit, at least for his acute eye and sharp pen, just as we value many of the ancient poets for the glimpses of real life in times long before our own.


Cumulatives

Storms have beaten on this point of land
And ships gone to wreck here
      and the passers-by remember it
      with talk on the deck at night
      as they near it.

Fists have beaten on the face of this old prizefighter
And his battles have held the sporting pages
      and on the street they indicate him with their
      right forefinger as one who once wore
      a championship belt.

A hundred stories have been published and a thousand
   rumored
About why this tall dark man has divorced two beautiful
   young women
And married a third who resembles the first two
      and the shake their heads and say, "There he
        goes,"
      when he passes by in sunny weather or in rain
      along the city streets.







Carl Sandburg was the working man's poet. I'm ok with doing that, as long as I don't get confused with a working man. My days of that are over.

Like it's said, I love work and could watch it all day.

That's me.


working man blues

did
some gainful
employment
today

I try
to keep such
antisocial
behavior
to a minimum
but do stumble
into it
now
and again
though
I much prefer
pecking away
at this key
board
ungainful
though it may
be
there is a certain
soul
satisfaction
to it when
the stars
are
aligned
and it
feels like
just the thing
that ought to be
done
right now
right here
with
you







I think this must be the darkest poem I've ever read, with an ending that sucks the breath right out of you. It's by Wendy Rose and it's from the collection Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry.


The Day They Cleaned Up the Border El Salvador, February, 1981

      "(Government Soldiers) killed my children. I
      saw it. I saw the head of a baby float-
      ing in the water."

        Surviving village woman as quoted in
        the news

How comforting
the clarity
of water,
flute music
in a rush
or startling
hush,
crackle of grass
like seeds
in a gourd
and the soothing
whisper
of the reeds.
I prayed the whole night
to be taken to my past,
for the pounding of rifles
comes again and again
morning by morning
till my two babies lay,
names stolen away,
in their beds
and in the yard
where they had played.
so many gone
and I pray to be taken,
for the lizards to notice
and begin eating
at my feet,
work their way up
till even my heart
is nibbled away.
I have come so many mornings
to the stream, so many times prayed
in the glistening mist
and now
drink oceans to drown myself
from the mountains
of memory.    But look -
that little melon rind
or round gourd, brown and white
in the water
where I could pluck it out
and use it dry, slipping past me
in the ripples and turning
till its tiny mouth,
still suckling,
points
at me.







Now, another vision of hell on earth, this one from Laura Ring, another "Here and Now" first-timer. I think this was the first of Laura's poems that I read, just a couple of days ago, on the Wild Poetry Forum.

Here it is for you to read.


Dis-articulated

          "Body parts were scattered over streets and buildings today
          after an explosion in Karachi's busiest marketplace."


At high detonation velocity, bomb beats body
every time. I imagine a headscarf of white chiffon, snagged
on the splintered beam of a tea stall; Bata sandal
thrown atop canvas awning.

You tell me I must picture the phalange of a young man
coiled in a dust-strewn skein of Chinese silk, or a child's
distal metacarpal as it tears through toppled aluminum pans
but the mind does not work this way.

The physical laws of the universe
are unbending. In the blast perimeter,
there is little for the eye to linger on.

Bangle Market is gone, redacted
like the anatomical terms in Modi's Medical Jurisprudence
I picked up on a lark at Urdu Bazaar.

The dark-eyed vendors who slide bracelets of colored glass
onto newlywed wrists. Beggar children
with infected nose rings and tiny-beak fingers who peck
the memsahib's forearm. Donkey carts, hagglers, merchants, all
removed from the knowable world.

Not removed, you say, just blown to bits: zippers, snaps,
belt buckles soldered to pavement; nubuck falling
like confetti - the fanfare of a second slaughter. Skull
nestled in gray matter, flesh painted on stone and I

hate you, staff reporter, for your pitiless turn of phrase.







Our next poet, Shawn Nacona Stroud, is another first-timer here at "Here and Now." He is a native of Florida and now resides in Charlotte, NC where he paints and writes poetry. He also works in graphic arts. His poetry has appeared in Mississippi Crow Magazine and the Loch Raven Review.

Here's Shawn's poem.


Becoming Virginia Woolf

Everything wavers,
iridescent glass
moils above me
as a chilled gush-gust
continually flaps me
along the riverbed.

I sway like seaweed.

Carp, Pike, and Barbel
regard me with interested eyes
while awaiting dinner.

My fingers glide across
anchors of stone
that pack each pocket,
stroke the smooth surfaces
which weigh me down
with unquestionable intent.

I watch trapped oxygen escape
from each waterlogged nostril -
air balloons rise towards the heavens.
They tick time like a doomsday clock
constantly counts down seconds.

Soon the mouth dam will fail -
aquatic air will flood in
and fish will clench and gnaw
with cannibal jaws
while they eat me as their own.







Over past weeks we've read a number of the short travel poems of French poet Blaise Cendrars, taken from his book Complete Poems. Last week, he was in the eastern United States. Now we have several short poems from a section he called Far West


I. Cucumingo

The San Bernadino hacienda
I ws built in the middle of a lush valley fed by a multitude of small
   streams that run down from the surrounding mountains
The roofs are tile red in the shade of sycamores and laurels

Trout thrive in the streams
Immense flocks graze untended in the lush meadows
The orchards are thick with fruit pears apples grapes pineapples figs
   oranges
And in the truck gardens
Old World vegetables grow beside those of the tropics

Plenty of game here
The California quail
The rabbit known as the cottontail
The long-eared hare known as the jackass
The prairie hen the turtle dove the partridge
The wild duck and wild goose
The antelope
It's true you still see wildcats and rattlesnakes
But there aren't any pumas anymore


II Dorypha

On holidays
When the Indians and vaqueros get drunk on whiskey and pulque
Dorypha dances
To the sound of the Mexican guitar
Such exciting habaneras
That people come from miles around to admire her

No woman knows as well as she
How to drape the silk mantilla
And to fix her blond hair
With a ribbon
A comb
A flower


III. The Mockingbird

The heat is staggering
Balcony shaded with trumpet vines and purplish honeysuckle
In the big silence of the dozing countryside
You can hear
The gurgling of little rills
The distant mooing of big herds of grazing cattle
The song of the nightingale
The crystal-clear hissing of big bullfrogs
The hooting of the owl
And the call of the mockingbird in the cactus


IV. Mushroom Town

Toward the end of the year 1911 a group of Yankee financiers decide to
   build a town way out west at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
Not even a month goes by and there are three Union railroads although
   still no houses
Workers pour in from everywhere
As early as the second month three churches are built and five theaters
   are going full blast
Around a square that still has a few nice trees a forest of metal girders
   rings day and night with pounding hammers
Winches
Machines huffing and puffing
The steel skeletons of houses thirty stories high start lining up
Brick walls ar often plain aluminum sheets fill in the interstices of the
   framework
In a few hours reinforced concrete is poured using the Edison method
Because of a sort of superstition no one wants to christen the town and a
   contest is announced with a raffle and prizes given by the town's
   biggest newspaper which is also looking for a name


V. Club

Although it's on the official map of the town this street still consists only
   of plank fences and piles of rubbish
The only way to get across the street is by hopping in zigzags over the
   mud and puddles
At the end of this unfinished boulevard lit by powerful arc lights is the
   Black Bean Club which is also a matrimonial agency
Wearing cowboy hats or wool caps with earflaps
Faces hard as nails
Men get out of the 60-horsepower cars they're breaking in and put their
   names on the list look through the photograph album
Choose their fiancees who are cabled to embark at Cherbourg on the
   Keiser Wilhelm and who sail full steam ahead
Mostly German girls
A stable-boy in black wearing swansdown shoes opens he door with a
   glacial propriety and gives the newcomer a suspicious once-over
I drink a whiskey cocktail then another then another
Then a mint julep a mother's milk a prairie oyster a nightcap

(Translated by Ron Padgett)







Next, here's a little travel poem of my own.


prelude to the afternoon of the froot loop

the clouds
were hanging low
black
as the joke
that made the
hang-
man
laugh
but the rain had been
sporadic and light
so we took a drive
out to Medina Lake
for a late lunch at
Oasis Bar and Grill
right on the lake
in little Mico
so small
they didn't even
bother
to widen the road

(thick boneless
pork chops
with razzberry
chipotle sauce -
the best ever)

then scouted out
some of the little
one and a half lane
county roads
that run patched
and bumpy
over rocky hills
through little
stone canyons
not sure
usually
where we were
or where we were
going and
all around
green trees
green hills
green meadows
green valleys
green
green
green
in the hill country
in July, what
a marvelous
believe-it-or-not
thing it is to see

finally
found our way
to County Road 471
where we started
then to Culebra
to Grissom
Bandera
Rolling Ridge
and finally home
for a bowl of
Froot Loops
and Law & Order
reruns







Next, a little fun with e.e. cummings from his book is 5. This poem is the eleventh poem from the second section of the book, titled in true cummings fashion, Two


XI

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

for,
my sister

isabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds)of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera,my
mother hoped that

I would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
  ecetera,of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)







Sometimes it's fun to just let the old brain ramble off on its own.


it's about the syrup

just
riffing
in my head with
no particular
place
to go poem
wise
and I'm
reminded
it's friday
night
so it was dinner
at cha cha's
a family friday
tradition
the san antonio
branch of the family
getting together
on friday night
usually
at cha cha's
since they
have a botana
grande
platter that'll
feed four
or five
and my favorites
pollo en mole
chili rellano
and texas style
enchiladas
which is a kind
of a gringo
enchilada
smothered in
american
cheese
velvetta
for
authenticity
and chile sauce
with onions on the
side and crackers
yep crackers
like I said a
gringo enchilada
and since I'm
the only gringo
in the bunch
I'm given a pass
especially if I
show proper
respect
by alternating
with the rellano
and the mole
I'm telling you
this diversity stuff
works out if you
give it a try
I'm even allowed
my tennessee hillbilly
beans and cornbread
at home if I don't
make a fuss
about the beans
and rice
and we don't
have
company
to see
what I do
with the syrup







Now, two short poems from Guillaume Apollinaire, another French poet from the same milieu as Cendrars, contemporaries in both time and style. (Also like Cendrars, a traveler, including visits to the United States at about the same time as Cendrars.)


The Wind by Night

Oh! the pine tops grind as they collide
The wind is moaning from the southern places
From the river nearby triumphal voices
Of pixies laugh into the gusts
Attis Attis Attis bare breasted sexy
It is you the pixies ridicule
Your trees are falling in the gothic wind
Your forest panics like a primitive army
Whose lances o pine trees tremble in retreat
And now and now extincted villages muse
Like virgin girls or poets or old men
They will never respond no matter what happens
Not even when vultures pounce on their pigeons


Autumn

In the fog the knock-kneed peasant and his ox
Go slowly through the autumn fog
That hides the villages and all their ugliness

The peasant keeps on walking humming
A song about love and deception
A song about a ring and a heart on fire

Oh autumn the autumn ambushed the summer
In the fog I saw two shadows going

(Poems translated by Donald Revell)







Here's a new poem from a web-friend we haven't seen in a while, Alan Addotto.


Subdivisions

Zeno, an ancient Greek philosopher thought
that no journey could be undertaken
because there was an infinity of subdivided distances,
an uncountable sum of fractional parts to traverse
between the origin and the destination.
Halfway there broke down to quarters
which broke down to eighths......ad infinitum
and worse.

This morning as you left for work
walking toward your car
after your goodbye kiss for the day
I thought of this.

How long is a second again?

a minute?

an hour?

a day?

While you are away
I wait
Caught
between anticipation and fear







I visited my favorite Half-Priced Books on Broadway this morning and found I, In The Membership Of My Days, a book of poetry by the now-deceased British actor Richard Harris. I think the last thing I saw him in (maybe the last thing he was in) was Eastwood's Unforgiven. He played the gunfighter English Bob, almost a comic character until Gene Hackman beat the crap out of him.

Here's a poem from the book.


On The One-Day-Dead Face Of My Father

              May 1968

Can you touch me
now
With your marble lips
and increase your love?

Can you now touch me
with your dead hand
and direct me in my path?

Now can you see me
in your dea'
and say 'What is right”
Though you know the answer now
Now in your stillness
Pave the way of my doing

Cold thoughts in your give
creep away
and say
in your marble walk
and cold tombstone of you stare

Rise
now
above your mound and wound
and see you son in your eye
Touch again
the fond fountain of his
flow;
Grow
in the dead and deadly of your going

Can the paint and corrupt of your image
colour the size of my want?
Can your star in its mighty walk
balk
my evolution in its stride?

Guide me
now
in your silence
Cough up one silent prayer and stare
at me again
and see the woven fabric
of your doing
bend his knee
and plea in the tired optic of your stare
a prayer
of acceptance

Father in your mound
and farther away
I stay
at marble length and cry
Hoping that by and by in your height
I might grow
in your marble sight







Memory is a little thing we take out of the drawer sometimes to play with. Sometimes we get more than we bargain for.




memories are like roses

memories
are like roses
the more you pick
the more they
bloom
and
lately
I've been
trying to pick
some of my
earliest
like I remember
when I was four
sitting on the floor
by my parents' bed
with my father and my
older brother
learning that I had
a new baby brother
born that day
and a year or two
before that in another
city playing in the
sunshine with a little
blond girl just a moment
I remember as light
bright sunlight and
the brilliant light
of the little girl's
hair like that
nano-moment
when a flash camera
flashes and all is
bright then gone
before you can blink
and between those
two found pieces
of my life
waking up at midnight
when my dad came home
from work with a present
for me a little metal
airplane with wooden
wings he made for me
and it's only many years
later I think of that and
of the time it took to
make that little
airplane by hand
and the love
that went into it's
creation
and recognition
that it was
the best present
I ever received
and a better present
than I ever gave
my son better
than the nintendo
and the ninja turtles
and the transformers
and all those other
like things that came
and went before one
year's birthday
could be overtaken
by the next
and I am saddened
by my failure and
even more
by my too-late
recognition that
time to do better
is
past







I also found this morning a night without armor, a book of poetry by singer/songwriter Jewel.

Here's the poem.


Underage

I hung out once in the bathroom of Trade Winds Harley
    bar in Anchorage
with several biker chicks for company until the cops left.
They had pale skin and thick black eye makeup
and they asked me to sing at their weddings.
I said I'd ask my dad.

We all sat on the counter and waited for the pigs to leave.
Some guy O.D's and was outside foaming at the mouth.

I remember looking in the mirror
and seeing this white face,
my shirt all buttoned up.
The women were nice to me
and looked like dark angels
beside me. I like them,
and together we waited
patiently for the cops to leave,
so I could go back out
and join my dad up
on stage.







I made a new poetry friend at the Casa Chiapas Poetry Table, Lori L. E. Simpson. Lori is a short story writer, novelist and performance poet. Here are three short poems she read for us Thursday night.


Pantoum of Saldana Street

I grew up on a mostly quiet street,
There's not much more I can say.
I grew up listening to a heavy beat,
And I still hear it today.

There's not much more I can say...
Except the song my heart sang was not always sweet,
And I still hear it today.
It still moves my soul and feet.

I wish there was something more I could say.
I grew up listening to a heavy beat,
Though I'm learning to listen to myself any way,
I grew up on a (mostly) quiet street.


For Finding Your Poetry Again

Take your pen in hand,
There's no need to rush,
No need to understand
What your heart won't hush.

Write down the first thing
That comes to mind.
If it makes your heart to sing,
That's just fine.

If it makes you heart to weep.
That's fine, too..
Simply wake from your sleep
Poetry...will come to you.


If Shakespeare Were Alive Today Would He Write?

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women
Are merely TV addicts.
They leave their sets
To enter the kitchen,
Only to exit with junk food,
And lie around on the sofa,
Waiting to be entertained,
As reality show players,
Instead of true actors.







Well, have to leave now. The situation has gotten dire and if I don't leave quick I may be put in charge of fixing it. Here's the problem, as I see it.


the threat grows worse by the hour

I avert
my eyes
as I walk
from the front door
to my car, trying
not to see the grass
grown to savannah
heights as I pass

it was the rain

miracle grow
falling from the
sky and falling
and falling and
falling

more, more
more
until
the rivers are
high and lakes
are full and the aquifer levels are risen to
restart natural springs
dormant for fifty years
and
all of that's nice
but
the grass
the thick high grass
growing still
higher
even as I sit
here typing
this desperate
missive
to you, growing
even as I sip my
latte in this pleasant
air-conditioned
enclave
of books and
studious people
type type typing
on their laptops,
taking no notice
of the threat
gathering
in yards across
this city
as the grass
grows
and the temperature
rises
and the humidity
turns the yards
in which the grasses
grow into open air
steam rooms

and
sooner or later
someone
will have to go
out into that
hell
to cut
this grass as
it grows grows
grows
even more
and I'm
afraid
afraid afraid
it's going to be
me







Well, that's all for this time out. We'll be back next week with more of our jams and jellies for your consideration.

I'll be watching for you.

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Summer Rain Brings Desert Flowers   Friday, July 06, 2007


II.7.1



We're posting a day early this week. Tomorrow is full of stuff to do and it's not ever here yet. So, early though we may be, welcome to "Here and Now" and the midpoint of summer. It'll be a hot time in the old town tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....

Maybe some cool poetry will help.







We take up this week where we left off before, with more travel poems by Blaise Cendrars



VII.Work

Some crooks have just blown up the railway bridge
The coaches caught fire at the bottom of the valley
The injured swim in the boiling water from the disemboweled
   locomotive
Living torches run among the debris and spewing steam
Other coaches stay hanging 60 yards up
Men with flashlights and acetylene torches follow the trail down the
   valley
And the rescue is organized quietly and quickly
Under the cover of rushes and reeds of willow the waterfowl make a nice
   rustling noise
Dawn is long in coming
But already a gleam of a hundred carpenters called by telegraph and
   come by special train is busy rebuilding the bridge
Bang bang-bang
Pass me the nails


VII Trestle Work

Should you come to a river or a deep valley
You go over it on a wooden bridge until the company receipts allow
   them to build one of stone or iron
The American carpenters are unrivaled in the art of building them
They begin by laying a bed of hard rock
Then a first support goes up
Which supports a second than a third then a fourth
As many as are necessary to reach the height of the bank
On the last support two beams
On the two beams two rails
These daring constructions are reinforced by neither Saint Andrew's
   crosses nor T girders
They are held only by a few smaller beams and a few spikes that
   maintain the gauge of the trestles
And that's it
It's a bridge
A beautiful bridge


IX. The Thousand Islands

Around here the countryside is one of the most beautiful in North
   America
The immense sheet of lake is a blue that's almost white
Hundreds and hundreds of little green islands float on the calm surface
   of the clear water
The delicious cottages built in bright-colored brick give this landscape
   the appearance of an enchanted kingdom
Luxurious maple mahogany boats elegantly decked out with flags and
   covered with multicolored awnings come and go from one island to
   another
Any suggestion of fatigue or labor of poverty is missing from this
   gracious setting for multimillionaires

The sun disappears on the horizon of Lake Ontario
The clouds bathe their folds in vats of purple violet scarlet and orange
What a beautiful evening murmur Andrea and Frederika seated on the
   terrace of a medieval castle
And the ten thousand motor boats reply to their ecstasy


X. Laboratory

Visiting the green houses
The thermo-syphon maintains a constant temperature
The soil is saturated with formic acid with manganese and other
   substance which give the vegetation tremendous strength
In one day the leaves grow the flowers bloom and the fruits ripen
Thanks to an ingenious device the roots are bathed in electric
   current which guarantees this monstrous growth
Anti-hail guns explode nimbus and cumulus
We go back to town across the barren waste
The morning is radiant
The dark purple heather and golden broom still haven't shed their petals
The seagulls trace big circles in the light blue sky


More of Cendrars next week, when he leaves the east coast and goes west.







I share an on-line poetry workshop with Alice Folkart (along with most of the other web-poets I feature here). The workshop is on the Blueline Poetry Forum and the challenge of the workshop is to write a poem a day for at least 30 days. I've only recently come to the workshop to participate and, as of today, have only 77 days of poems. Some of the participants have as many as 600 or 700 days of writing a poem a day.

If you play the game, you are not only challenged to write every day, you also get to read a whole new crop of poems every day. Alice in particular has been posting some really sharp, enjoyable stuff.

So, this week, we have an Alice Extravaganza, featuring several of her poem-a-day poems.

Here they are.


Tokyo Cyber Cafe

My cubicle at WIP, the cyber cafe in Ogikubo,
third from the left, number 11, on the
fourth floor of a twelve-foot wide building,
above a bowling alley and darts club,
below, an indoor tennis academy,
and somewhere in here,
a dental surgeon and wigmaker,
not one in the same, I hope.

It's home to me, and they're very nice.
For about $5 an hour I get a good chair,
all the tea, coffee or corn soup I can consume
and a library of tens of thousands
of porno comic books to be read in private booths
way in the back, where it's dark and scary.
There are showers too, and towels and slippers
for sale along with bags of potato chips
and girlie magazines and any brand of cigarette you'd like.

I think I'm the only poet.
I'm certainly the only foreigner and maybe
the only non-smoker and non-porno reader-player in the place.
They don't bother me. I don't bother them.
Don't ask. Don't tell. People don't look at each other here.
The whole point is anonymity. Valuable commodity here
in Tokyo where everyone huddles together in the same living room
even in the park or on the sidewalk and especially in the train station.


Terminal Sag

Wet rag, jet lag, torn bag, Terminal sag,
bloodshot hag, no tail to wag,
staggering.

The stewasaurus,
too much mouse in too little hair,
breached, as they say in Japan, admonished me

"Close the shades!
This is a night flight,
sun comes up too soon as it is!"

They fed us something.
"You want animal, vegetable or mineral,
coffee, tea or just go to Hell?"

I gave it all
back, put on my life jacket,
circled my seat three times
and curled up to sleep,

but didn't and it was my own fault.
But I got all my joints and senses
safely home to find it's not a dream.

The cats are warming up the bed,
and I'm leaning more learnedly
toward a little temporary oblivion.


Getting There is Half the Fun

Yes, I'm going.
Don't push!
I'm running as fast as I can
toward the cliff,
cat hanging underneath one arm,
steering with the other.

My box-kite wings
flap and rattle.
Is escape velocity possible?
Here comes the edge.
Will we fall or soar?

Updraft!
wheeeee!

Over the hungry waters!
Sharks and eels
look up through their ceiling
at this woman and her cat
careening above them,
dangling from a
fragile paper kite.

No superheros here.

It's a long flight.
No movie.

"Where's our island,"
asks Cat,
"How many
long nights and days
must we battle winds,
skim tops of storms,
look down at that awful sea?

"Shush, dear cat," I say,
"Everything will be hunky dory.
Just hang on."

And it is,
or will be.

Ahead, just below
the setting moon,
a volcano pokes its head
above creamy clouds,
shoots a toot of fiery smoke,
to show us the way,
belches a welcome.

I land, letting my feet down
as I have seen seagulls do.


The sand is hot
on my bare feet.

Cat jumps from my arms
dancing.

An ukulele bird
sings nearby.

Palm trees laugh,
titter in their fronds,
pitch coconuts
at us.
It's all in fun
they say.

An Island welcome


On Hearing a Lawn Mower in the Distance

Someone
is working.

Not I.

I sit and write.

Hope for pie in the sky,
getting prosy,
not rosy, from hot
summer sun.

I'm made for the shade.

Don't like to run.
Would much rather pun.
More fun.

So someone,
not me,
is working.


Hour of the Cat

Day cools,
sun tumbles
toward silent sea,
cats creep out,
blue-black, gray,
marmalade orange,
plain and striped,
mottled in motley,
round green-yellow-eyed,
wild-whiskered, sharp eared,
tails taut or winding wrapped
around perfect prissy paws.

Wakening from their
all-day naps,
they stroll
in sundown breezes,
strike poses
among the roses,
disdain my pretty compliments,
and ask when dinner will be served.







Speaking of cats, here's a cat piece I wrote last week after hearing some cat news on NPR.


what can we do, they're smarter than us

there are 600
million
house cats in the
world
spread
from pole to pole
from all the way
east
to all the way
west
and they all
descend
from one of five
female
wildcats who
in the barely
historical
mid-east
noticed
that filthy-
living human-kind
were vermin
magnets
and that living
off the vermin
who lived
wherever
humans lived
was a hell'uv
a lot easier
than trying
to chase down
prey
in the wild

and
thus did
the cat
domesticate
itself
on its own
terms
&
conditions
and thus
did little
muffie
assume her
smart-ass
air of feline
superiority
and
if you know
the whole story
it's hard
to argue
with
them







This poem, by Beryl L. Bonney, appears in the book Bread and Roses: A poetry Anthology for Adult Children. The book, published by Heath Communications, Ind., and U.S. Journal, Inc., includes mostly poems submitted in response to a poetry contest conducted by Change Magazine relating to growing up in a family torn by alcoholism. This poem was the second place winner in the contest.


Family Abuse

In the silent war
only wishes die
and love is buried.
Wordbullets
speed into rooms
where tension is smoke to be cut
with laughter, a camouflage
to cover wounds of smiles, and the blood
   that spills
is always called pride.
We limp away
to amputate
another feeling.







Next, we have a poem by young New York poet, Daniel Donaghy. The poem is from his book Street fighting poems published by BkMk Press in 2005.


One Thing That Didn't Make the Papers

Found on silver Bridge,
hung, belt around his neck:

Ready Eddie Dillaplane
from Oakdale Street;

old Jameson drinker
who never lost a fight

or a pool game at Felix's;
who coughed railroad dust

and Chesterfield phlegm.
Who shoveled walks

for nothing after storms,
who neighbors called

when roofs leaked;
who had a '66 Barracuda

he called his only child,
and a wife who didn't drink;

who had a horseshoe scar
on his back from a fight

they had one Christmas,
And who, having outlived her,

settled his tab with Felix,
checked himself in the mirror,

said good-bye to no one,
just walked out.






Dan Cuddy is another of the Blueline "poem-a-day" poets and he's getting to be a regular in "Here and Now" with his intense, close to the bone poems.

Here's another.


whether weather or not

weather creates worlds
I grab you by the collar and tell you this
maybe if
but it is not
I want to tell you
that the morning haze is sfumato
or the afternoon haze is a squeegee smear of paint
over what was a perfectly articulated morning landscape
or the flick of white dots sticking to roads,trees
is cold,calculated, intellectual art
attempting to cover the edges and curves of the sensuous
with the one-dimensional plane of willed thought
art is the weather found in the mind
but you are not the artist but the object
displayed everyday in a huge gallery of objects
I tell you this,
not the rhetorical you that is me,
but you, not show you this
because my individual egotism is my personal art
a pop artist would say
"it is all about ME"







Our next poem is from James Laughlin and is taken from his book The Secret Room


That Afternoon

when we were walking in the sunbright woods
and you were laughing so deliciously,
"dulce ridentem" said Horace of his girl Lalage
when suddenly I did what I'd been longing to do,
pulling you to me and touching for an instant
your sweet little breast, an impulse of courage,
and of course you sprang away,
but you did not reproach me, you put your arm
around my shoulders, as if to say
you were pleased by my avowal...

but the god was jealous of my happiness;
you haven't come to walk with me again.







With this poem, Jessica VanDriesen makes her second appearance in "Here and Now." Jessica usually posts on another workshop associated with Blueline. I don't post on that workshop often, but I do find poets on it, like Jessica, to use here.

(Jessica writes from Poland. Being a somewhat old guy, this "world wide web" business just blows me away. I am in awe that, first, it exists and, second, that it is such a scarcely noticd, routine part of our live.

By my count, we've had four continents represented here in the last month by web poet comrades of mine.


Tea Leaves

If I had read the leaves that night
what would I have seen,
or understood?
If I had held on to the kiss,
would it have made
a difference?

If I had read my soul that night,
what might I have said-
stay? take me
with you?
- and so saying,
where would I be
today?

If I chart the stars, strands of our fate,
will they ever bring us together?
Would we ever bring
ourselves?
And, if so,
would we be happy?







Or next poem is by Paul Durcan, from his book Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil


Jack Lynch

to Mike Murphy

Jack Lynch is an accountant n Rio.
Born in Sao Paulo in 1939
Of a first generation Brazilian, middle-class father from
      Allinasloe
Who was devoured by a mulatto working-class goddess.
His father had him christened Jack because he liked the black
      look of him.
If he hadn't like the black look of him he'd have called him
      Claude.
(His father divided up the human race into Jacks and Claudes.)
Jack made his home in Rio thirty-odd years ago.

Nothing happens in Rio that Jack Lynch doesn't know about.
Yesterday I sat with him in a cardboard shack
In a shantytown in Rio and listened to him
Tell the wide-eyed chisellers about his own daughter
Jumping off the top of Cocovado.
(His daughter is a champion hang-glider.)
He shakes his head, holding back the tears.
"I can't say I'm not proud of her."
The slum kids offer him handfuls of grime
Crying out to him - tell us again.


Today it's the same story.
Only this time we're on the patio
of the private members' bar
At the Gold Club 10 kilometers west or Rio
Gazing up at yet another Sugar Loaf mountain
With yet another shantytown adhering to its precipices
And from whose peak his daughter has jumped off in her hang-glider.
Back in Rio at twilight walking the Red Beach
Under the Sugar Loaf mountain at Urca
Just when I think there's nothing more
He can tell me about his hang-gliding daughter
He points a finger up at a cliff-rim -
His daughter has been known to ride a motorbike
Along the edge of the cliff.

Jack, what do you mean -
"Along the edge of the cliff"?
He explains about a two-foot wide rim.
Anyway ... that's another thing his daughter does:
She rides her motorbike along narrow spaces
On the top of things - cliffs, roofs, parapets,
It's not just that Jack Lynch lives on another planet
It's that Jack Lynch is himself another planet.
Jack Lynch is a Brazilian who lives in Brazil.
The slum kids offer him handfuls of grime
Crying out to him - tell it again.








Here's a little paranoid fantasy I wrote this week for the poem-a-day workshop.

Fantasy, probably, but you know Big Brother has to be working on it.


small dreams slip by unnoticed

don't
dream
too large
tonight

they know
who
the dreamers
are

and
they are
watching







One of my used book store finds is a collection of work from Gilbert Sorrentino titled Selected Poems 1958-1980 with nearly 300 pages of poems.

Here's one of them.


Nightpiece

Rats move swiftly along a wall,
they can frighten by moonlight;
while a mouse
can leap the rafters

of the house more
noisily, there is nothing
quite like a rat
blinded by nature

and fear, swallowed
by space, dead
center in the room;
you can see the mustaches

twitching. He doesn't know
which direction to take,
he is lost in the open area,
men have shot themselves

in the head
for less reason.







Now we have a fun piece by Khadija Anderson, another web poet compatriot. Khadija also posts on Blueline, but I found her this time on Wild Poetry Forum, another very fine on-line poetry workshop. I used to post there often, but lately just haven't had the time.


Happy Hour

today I wanted to lie on the floor
chin on the ground
and look across it eye level
like I might find something
under the furniture
but the only thing is
there is no furniture
only a mattress and
I don't want to look under that
I would have to pick it up and
I might only see dust and maybe
a used Kleenex

so I stood up and looked at the floor today
and out the window
and at the sidewalk
and at a pigeon
he was fat
for the winter and gray
maybe to match the sidewalk
he looked really good
and warm

someone came over and said
what are you thinking about
and I said
nothing
cause they wouldn't understand about
the pigeon
or the floor

I wanted to lie on the bed today
and stay there forever
but I knew someone would come in
and make me get up
so I left the house quickly
I went and had a beer
and deep-fried mozzarella
Happy Hour $4.95
but I'm not very happy about it

I am sitting in the corner
drinking a beer and waiting
for mozzarella
and waiting
for Wednesday
cause it's only Monday and
today I wanted to lie on the floor







Well, we haven't had any fun with Shel Silverstein in a while. Let's remedy that, with these poems (sorry no illustrations) from his book A Light in the Attic


Crowded Tub

There's too many kids in this tub.
There's too many elbows to scrub.
I just washed a behind
That I'm sure wasn't mine,
There's too many kids in this tub.


Rockabye

Rockabye baby, in the treetop.
Don't you know a treetop
Is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,
And your cradle too?
Baby, I think someone down here's
Got it in for you.


Strange Wind

What a strange wind it was today,
Whistlin' and whirlin' and scurlin' away
Like a worried old woman with so much to say.
What a strange wind it was today.

What a strange wind it was today.
Cool and clear from a sky so gray
And my hat stayed on but my head blew away -
What a strange wind it was today


Magic Carpet

You have a magic carpet
That will whiz you through the air,
To Spain or Maine or Africa
If you just tell it where.
So will you let it take you
Where you've never been before,
Or will you buy some drapes to match
And use it
On your
Floor?


Anteater

"A genuine anteater,"
The pet man told my dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater
And now my uncle's mad!


Hinges

If we had hinges on our heads
There wouldn't be no sin,
'Cause we could take the bad stuff out
And leave the good stuff in







I shaved my beard last night. I do that about every five years of so, just to remind myself what I look like. Every time I'm hoping for something better than the last time, but it never works out.


defoliation


elderly
gentlemen
with beards
should shave them
every five years, at
least, if only to account
for their accumulation of chins.

I do
and I did
and I still have now
the same two I had before
and their bobble and shake is
near imperceptible when I laugh

that's the good news
for this independence day,
this warm and wet fourth of July







Next we have three poems by 8th century Chinese poet, Wang Wei, considered, with Du Fu and Li Bai, one of the three greatest poets of the Tang dynasty. While his poems seem very straightforward, they also include subtle infusions of Buddhist consciousness.

The poems are from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, an anthology
that surveys the full 3,000-year traditions of Chinese poetry, from the ancient to the contemporary.


Green Creek

To find the meadows by Yellow Flower river
you must follow Green Creek
as it turns endlessly in the mountains
in just a hundred miles.
Water bounds noisily over the rocks.
Color softens in the dense pines.
Weeds and water chestnuts are drifting.
Lucid water mirrors the reeds.
My heart has always been serene and lazy
like peaceful Green Creek.
Why Not loaf on a large flat rock,
dangling my fishhook here forever?


Visiting the Mountain Courtyard of the Distinguished
Monk Tanxing at Enlightenment Monastery


He leans into twilight on a bamboo cane,
waiting for me at Tiger Creek.
Hearing tigers roar, he urges me to lave,
then trails a pouring brook back to his cell.
Wild flowers bloom beautifully in clusters.
A bird's single note quiets the ravine.
In still night he sits in an empty forest,
feeling autumn on the pine forest wind.


Song of Peach Tree Spring

My fishing boat sails the river. I love spring in the mountains.
Peach blossoms crowd the river on both banks as far as sight.
Sitting in the boat, I look at red trees and forget how far I've come.
Drifting to the green river's end, I see no one.

Hidden paths wind into the mountain's mouth.
Suddenly the hills open into a plain
and I see a distant mingling of trees and clouds.
Then coming near I make out houses, bamboo groves, and flowers
where woodcutters still have names for Han times
and people wear Quin dynasty clothing.
They used to live where I do, at Wuling Spring,
but now they cultivate rice and gardens beyond the real world.

Clarity of the moon brings quiet to the windows under the pines.
Chickens and dogs riot when sun rises out of clouds.
Shocked to see and outsider, the crowd sticks to me,
competing to drab me to their homes and ask about their native places.
At daybreak in the alleys they sweep flowers from their doorways.
By dusk woodcutters and fishermen return, floating in on the waves.

They came here to escape the chaotic world.
Deathless now, they have no hunger to return.
Amid these gorges, what do they know of the world?
In our illusion we see only empty clouds and mountains.
I don't know that paradise is hard to find,
and my heart of dust still longs for home.


Leaving it all, I can't guess how many mountains and waters lie behind me,
and am haunted by and obsession to return.
I was sure I could find my way back on the secret paths again.
How could I know the mountains and ravines would change?
I remember only going deep into the hills.
At times the green river touched cloud forests.
With spring, peach blossom water is everywhere,
but I never find that holy source again.







The best thing about barku is they feel like haiku, but they aren't nearly so demanding. (Also, I get to make up the rules. Oh, also, don't go looking for a definition of "barkunal." It's my word, not in the dictionary yet, but I have hopes, for a barku bacchanal)

I wrote these last week.


a barkunal

1
bird
song
in the morning
from branches
hung
with dew


2
vultures
circle
at noon
lunch time
for me
as well


3
day ends
with five o'clock
storms
raging
freedom puddles
gather







We have a poem now by Paula Rankin from her book Augers.


For My Mother, Feeling Useless

Some people grow chalky dust on their skin
like leaves on a dirt road.
My mother, who would not run to the drugstore
without clean underwear, stockings,
hair pinned, two spots of blusher,
who believed everything mattered,
now sighs, no need, no need

Who am I? she asks
of my father's, my sister's and my faces
on the wall, under glass.
Her face lies on them
until it cannot bear the likenesses.

If she goes out for supper
no one knows if she comes back
or keeps driving
into the ocean
or down a dirt road spraying dust.

On her last plane ride
she had a vision
of being taken up
beyond the top cloud;
then she heard a voice
telling her she had to go
down, she was needed.

When I was a child,
she owned two dresses,
many aprons. There was great need
for her hands in the sink,
in the threadbox with needles.

There was great need
when my grandfather's brain
turned to mush, when my father lost
his sense of touch.

I leave my house
and go down the clay road
where the trees smother
into ghosts of themselves.
A car spins past, coating my legs
with gravely powder
and I warn, Back off, dark space,
I've got connections

My husband and children saw me leaving.








Susan McDonough splits her time between Arizona and Maine, a great combination, in my mind, as long as it's mountain Arizona and not desert Arizona.
Too many deserts in my life already.

Sue is also a "poem-a-day" vet and that's where I got this poem.


Among the leaves

Morning
peanut butter
toast eaten in the cool
you see your breath and write your day
hopeful

Garden
weeds challenge zen
campanula bloom tall
slender stalks away from the fray
free rein

The sun
backlights spider
web decorated with
morning's dew - symmetry's practiced
pattern

muscles
send messages
of use and worth to brain
hands callous while the heart softens
grateful







We used a poem by Elizabeth Seydel Morgan for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Here she is again, with another poem from her book Parties.


Power Failure

All the relations sleep

Forced to early beds by lack of light
Mother, sister, husband, children
have left me
cat-eyed
to delight in my own power.

The storm that downed the wires is over,
steady rain's moved into the backyard.

I sit on the top of the steps,
bare feet getting rained on,
watching the lightning bug
high in the pin oak
bright as the end of my cigarette.
Below me a gardenia glows
unconnected to its charcoal foliage.

A gray shape shifts among these
blacks and lights.
Another cat does not surprise me.

Leaning against the screen door
I'm vanishing with a Cheshire smile.
For not one of them -
Mother, sister, husband, children -
will travel the black house sightless,
come up behind me,
see what I am up to

until the power comes back on.







Our next poem is by Aaron Silverberg, from his book Thoreau's Chair. It's kind of smaltzy, but I'm of an age and personal history to be moved by it.


Already Arrived

My son Joel and I went to the nearby park together.
I sat at the far end of the children's wooden play tower,
basking in the dusking sun.
Joel played nearby, all around me, and finally went off
by himself to swing on the swings.

A part of me wanted to watch over him and assure his
safety. Another part knew better and I stayed to enjoy my
own sustained peace.

When I went over to join him, he walked up to me and
said, "Let's go home Dad."
I replied, "What a wonderful idea."

As we strolled down the path I held his hand, but almost
immediately he moved my hand around his shoulder and
hugged my thigh.
We walked in this awkwardly beautiful manner down
toward the basketball court.

He said to me, "Dad, I love you so much."
With a tear in my eye I replied,
"I love you too Joey, so much."

It was a little embarrassing. The court was full of strong,
sweaty, bare-chested young men. But I didn't let go until
the very last second.

On the other side of the court he ran up ahead,.
I watched his sturdy little frame pad up the blacktop
wishing with all my might that this precious little boy
never change or
that I might never reach the turnoff
head between two tall firs,
getting somewhere
when I had already arrived.








This is the opening section from the antiwar (Vietnam) poem The Teeth Mother Naked at Last by Robert Bly. The whole poem is much too long for our format here, but considering the similarities between then and now, I expect I'll do the entire poem, in sections, over the coming weeks. I think I mentioned when I used one of Bly's poems a couple of weeks ago, though I appreciate the artistry of his anti-war poems, there is, to me, an attitude of superiority to them, an aura of one species judging another, lesser species. I sense no feeling of commonality in his poems with the killed and the killers and that commonality is where the tragedy lies. Humans killed by Klingons is one thing; humans killed by humans is a much deeper, more tragic other thing.

I believe our current war is an abomination, made even more so by the stupidity that led us to start it and the incompetence of its execution, and I write antiwar poems. I hope in all such poems I write, I do not loose sense of my brotherhood with all involved, those that die, those that kill and those that order the killing. We are the same kind, after all, and to deny that is to shirk responsibility and to deny the tragedy.

This poem, along with many others, is in Bly's collection Selected Works, available, possibly, at a used book store near you.


The Teeth Mother Naked at Last

    I
Massive engines lift beautifully from the deck.
Wings appear over the trees, wings with eight hundred
    rivets.

Engines burning a thousand gallons of gasoline a minute
    sweep over the huts with dirt floors.
Chickens feel the fear deep in the pits of their beaks.
Buddha and Padma Sambhave.

Meanwhile out on the China Sea
immense ray bodies are floating,
born in Roanoke,
the ocean to both sides expanding, "buoyed on the dense
    marine."

Helicopters flutter overhead. The death-
bee is coming. Super sabres
like knots of neurotic energy sweep
around and return.
This is Hamilton's triumph.
This is the triumph of a centralized bank.
B-52s come from Guam. Teachers
die in flames. The hopes of Tolstoy fall asleep in the ant
    heap.
Do not ask for mercy.

Now is the time to look into the past-tunnels,
hours given and taken in school,
the scuffles in coatrooms,
foam leaps from his nostrils.

Now we come to the scum one takes from the mouths of
    the dead.
Now we sit beside the dying, and hold their hands, there
    is hardly time for goodbye.
The staff sergeant from North Carolina is dying - you
    hold his hand.
He knows the mansions of the dead are empty.
He has an empty place inside him,
created one night when his parents came home drunk
He uses half his skin to cover it,
as you try to protect a balloon from sharp objects.

Artillery shell explode. Napalm canisters roll end over
    end.
Eight hundred steel pellets fly through the vegetable
    walls.
The six-hour-old infant puts his fists instinctively to his
    eyes to keep out the light.
But the room explodes.
The children explode.
Blood leaps on the vegetable walls.

Yes, I know, blood leaps on vegetable walls...
Don't cry at that.
Do you cry at the wind pouring out of Canada?
Do you cry for the reeds shaken at the edge of the marsh?
The Marine battalion enters.
This happens when the seasons change.
This happens when the leaves begin to drop from the
    trees too early.
"Kill them: I don't want to see anything moving."

This happens when the ice begins to show its teeth in the
    ponds.
This happens when the heavy layers of lake water press
    down on the fish's head,
and send him deeper, where his tail swirls slowly,
and his brain passes him pictures of heavy reeds, of
    vegetation fallen on vegetation...
Now the Marine knives sweep around like sharp-edged
    jets;
they slice open the rice bags, the reed walls, the
    mattresses.
Marines kill ducks with three-hundred dollar shotguns
and lift cigarette lighters to light the thatched roofs of
    huts.
They watch the old women warily.


We will continue with this poem in coming weeks.







Now a little poem by me. I hope I pass the Robert Bly test.


here's an idea

charlie parker
said
after
a solo long
even by his
usual lengthy
standard
I was just
looking
for a good
way to end it

well did you
think
about taking
the horn out
your mouth
said miles

now our set
goes
on and on
in Bagdad
and Abu Ghurayb
and Sadr City
as well as
Mosul
Basrah
Kirkuk Najaf Karbala
Nasriye Ramadi
Ba'qubah
Fallujah
and all those
other
far away places
with strange
sounding
names
where we die
piece by piece
day by day
week by week
month by month
and year after year
after year
and
everybody
sees
all the bodies
all those broken
bloody
bodies
and says
this has to
stop
we have to
end it, we
have to stop
all this death
and destruction
and dishonor
and there are a
thousand
complicated
suggestions on
how
and none
seems good enough
fair enough
safe enough
elegant
enough
to satisfy
those
addicted now
to the taste of
blood
who want
this death music
to go on and on
and on
and
from the
corner
of saints
crackpots
and musicians
miles croons
did you ever
think
to
just take
the horn
out
your mouth







This poem by Ishle Yi Park is from her book The Temperature of This Water


Turtles

This is a story about two people
searching for a home. No. This is a story
about a country searching for a home --

liberation fighters spilling blood
to speak their own words, whole as moon-dusted
pears weighing down orchards. Farmers beating
hourglass drums on dirt, cracking their throats
and sweatriver backs to call this land Chosun. Son.

My father grew up barefoot, eating robins' eggs,
ripping skins off trees, kicking a leathery rugby ball, prying open
a locked door to get at candy and toy trucks
the GIs left his father.

My mother also grew up chasing army trucks
for bubble gum and trinkets,
until she realized some things are not
worth chasing. For bending into dust.

But they bent for each other -
in dust, in drinks, with handwritten letters
in a language I must mouthe to read,
their words forming calligrams of love.
No. This is not romantic.

These were my parents, running
with students, rioting and beaten,
tanks riding bareback through Seoul.
This is about my father, waiting tables at Friendly's,
sloppy and loose-tongued, the other whiteboy waiters
laughing at his flustered mouth.
This is about my mother, picking thorns
off roses in a factory with her sister,
her fingertips scarred and bleeding.
This is about her sister,
who bought them over by marrying
a white soldier who became crazy,
then a family secret.

Breaking bones of mackerel.
croaker. Over the dinner table.
Breaking each other. Bruised rib,
scarred elbow. Twenty-five years of
selling fish. Breaking backs. Promises.

This is about a daughter..
With a suitcase packed with Wise onion chips
and a moth-eaten blanket. Typing fourth-grade runaway letters
Staring into her rice,
kimchee flung, guksu spilt, bowl chipped -
thrown. Girl, curled in a bunk bed.

Girl grown.
Trying to find home in wild asphalt rhythms,
a bleeding copter-scarred sky.
Headlights and searchlights and strobelights
and him. Wire-thin , carved.
His eyes swallowed by her whole.
He was beauty. He split her skin,
kissed her hip bones, bruised her jaw.
She pried him open, searched he chords of his hair,
listened to the clave of his heart, punched his chest. Tried to leave.

Dragged him across carpet,
his arms a bracelet around her ankles.
He refused to let go of his only home.
And she began to see: how we cling to frail walls,
dilapidated roofs, rib-like planks, knobby floorboards,
this first home/body pounded and grown out of necessity,
love. Biting love. Survival love.

The daughter looked back.
At her. At him. Calloused. Apron-stained. Graying.
And she began to cry.
For them,
her country.
Ravished, split, clawing.
      All for home.
            And began to love
               this leatherbacked thing she called a heart.







We will finish this week with this poem, written a couple of years ago as a hurricane was coming in somewhere along the coast and I was remembering the only (and the last) hurricane I ever sat through. It was a little one, but still enough to convince me to never try to ride out another one. Oak trees, I am certain, were not meant to bend that way.

Thinking about the rains we’ve been having for the last two weeks brought the poem to mind.

after the storm

absolute still

leaves hang limp
like fresh-washed socks
on a clothesline

after
the winds blow

after
the rains pass

after
the tides recede

the heavy tropic air stays,
thick, like a wet curtain
pressing
all around, and the sun

in a bright sky
blown clear of clouds,
burns down
on the wet earth and
all the wet things on it

and the roar of recent hours
is forgotten, the blowing
and the crashing and
the rain surging
like a rampant flood

forgotten

as bone-weary
discomfort
settles in






That's it for this week.

Back to the old bunkhouse. As John McClain would say (did say in all four movies), yippee kai yea ............

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