RED TAIL HAWK SONG
I take my time
I take my time
I look it all over
the fence row
the timber's edge
I look it all over
Moving fast a girl came to me one night
Hurrying to abscond from innocence.
When she walked, her body said to the wind,
If you're serious, this is the way you should stir
Abdullah Ibn al-Mu'tazz (b. 861)
When the Spring comes in and the sun is bright
Then every small blossom beckons and blows.
When the moon on her shining journey goes
Then stars swim after her through the night.
When the singer looks into two clear eyes
Then something is stirred and lyrics arise...
But flowers and stars and songs just begun,
And moonbeams and eyes and the light of the sun,
No matter how much such stuff may please,
One can't keep living on things like these.
A FLOWER SONG
The fir-trees at play;
comes raining down
O you, the wood-cutter's
steep as the mountains,
as gruff and as gorgeous,
if you never loved, if I
never loved ( your
when we parted ), O listen
the cones, raining down upon you
YOU HAVE TO BE READY FOR RIDICULE
Leonardo packing up the Mona Lisa in 1516
to live near the King of France
You have to be ready for ridicule
The plane plops on the beach in 1903 after just a minute
You have to be ready for ridicule
You silkscreen Marilyn Monroe all in gold in the fall of '62
You have to be ready for ridicule
You get an idea that the continents are all adrift
on thick plates of the earth
You have to be ready for ridicule
You saw a saucer on the high sands of time
You have to be ready for ridicule
You don't think a mall should be built on a meadow
You have to be ready for ridicule
You'd like a nation wide, affordable non-profit health care system
You have to be ready for ridicule
from WEE ONES
You make me think
of a sweet
girl seen once
Am I to
aint right where
But listen -
you will be
thought of yet
Sappho (drawn from Mary Barnard's versions by Cid Corman)
Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mockingbird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.
T. S. Eliot
I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come.
Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise.
I worship the hammer.
CRUCIFIX IN A DEATHHAND
yes, they begin out in a willow, I think
the starch mountains begin out in the willow
and keep right on going without regard for
pumas or nectarines
somehow these mountains are like
an old woman with a bad memory and
a shopping basket
we are in the basin, that is the
idea. down in the sand and the alleys,
this land punched-in, cuffed-out, divided,
held like a crucifix in a deathhand,
this land bought, resold, bought again and
sold again, the wars long over,
the Spaniards all the way back in Spain
down in the thimble again, and now
real estaters, subdividers, landlords, freeway
engineers arguing. this is their land and
I walk on it, live on it a little while
near Hollywood here where I see young men in rooms
listening to glazed recordings
and I think too of old men sick of music
sick of everything, and death like suicide
I think is sometimes voluntary, and to get your
hold on the land here it is best to return to the
Grand Central Market, see the old Mexican women,
the poor. . .I am sure you have seen these same women
many years before
with the same young Japanese clerks
witty, knowledgeable and golden
among their soaring store of oranges, apples
avocadoes, tomatoes, cucumbers
and you know how these look, they do look good
as if you could eat them all
light a cigar and smoke away the bad world.
then it's best to go back to the bars, the same bars
wooden, stale, merciless, green
with the young policeman walking through
scared and looking for trouble,
and the beer is still bad
it has an edge that already mixes with vomit and
decay, and you've got to be strong in the shadows
to ignore it, to ignore the poor and to ignore yourself
and the shopping bag between your legs
down there feeling good with its avocadoes and
oranges and fresh fish and wine bottle, who needs
a Fort Lauderdale winter?
25 years ago there used to be a whore there
with a film over one eye, who was too fat
and made little silver bells out of cigarette
tinfoil. the sun seemed warmer then
although this was probably not
true, and you take your shopping bag
outside and walk along the street
and the green beer hangs there
just above your stomach like
a short and shameful shawl, and
you look around and no longer
Townies call me Indian, Jew, Buddha-ist,
No red rock jewel mountain stronghold here.
That's my house...the one snow
is still falling on
though legally it's Spring.
Busted window admits it & warped doorframe
opens the door to wind during night,
an invitation I cannot refuse to attend to.
Rednecks drive up in second gear, whining, on their
6-packs, rifles hung upside down on racks
up rear window of their Dodge RAM. Knock loudly
on the door, it opens, & ask me so I have any
cigarettes to sell. Shuffling inside their
plaids like shy bears.
A change from chanting sutras, to be sure.
I speak very plainly because my terror is cautious.
We all know what really
inside a woman moves for pleasure. I send my
trembling to a moon not visible. A woman must learn
to pull against gravity without obstructing
the flow of her own nature, of space
in which all
things have equal
I know their faces, have watched them lurch
at the back of town meeting. I know what
But this pain we share I would not.
We want some of your poetry, one from the truck calls.
I say Imagine
and shut the door.
a promise of happiness
the promise of a promise
Thomas A. Clark
THREE POEMS BY LORINE NIEDECKER
I think of a tree
to make it
Before my own death is certified,
recorded, final judgement
I shall own a book
of old Chinese poems
to probe the river
A monster owl
out on the fence
flew away. What
is it the sign
of? The sign of
- Joseph Massey
FOR A FRIEND
I fell asleep
reading your new book
at ease in the sun
by a mountain stream
listening to the current
as to your words:
the currency of the phrases,
the concurrence of the thought.
It's one of life's pleasures
to be able to doze off,
to read your poems,
to hear your voice,
to sleep when tired,
to wake refreshed.
AND COLD TIRED EMPTY TO BE SO SPREAD IN AIR
is Hell too.
The predator's world is space. Time the instant
(taken) in the strike.
But to be spread to strike at (so many) unwanted
half-desires. Is Hell too. To be so
self-flung in so many ways. To leap
at so many half-loves. To fall back
and find that part of you
still hangs (there) so many times.
HELL PAIN BEWILDERED EMPTINESS
the part left smolders.
Does not burn clear and drifts too
upon the air. Hot Hell
which way to go.
nor not waiting
whatever it all is it all is blossoming
tip tap comes a bug with no buzz
wanting something to do grass blades stirring
Santoka (translated by Scott Watson)
Come shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come shadow shadow, come and take this up,
Come, shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come, come shadow, and take this shadow up,
Come, come and shadow, take this shadow up,
Come, up, come shadow and take this shadow,
And up, come, take shadow, come this shadow,
And up, come, come shadow, take this shadow,
And come shadow, come up, take this shadow,
Come up, come shadow this, and take shadow,
Up, shadow this, come and take shadow, come
Shadow this, take and come up shadow, come
Take and come, shadow, come up, shadow this,
Up, come and take shadow, come this shadow,
Come up, take shadow, and come this shadow,
Come and take shadow, come up this shadow,
Shadow, shadow come, come and take this up,
Come, shadow, take, and come this shadow, up,
Come shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come, shadow, come, and take this shadow up.
- Louis Zukofsky
~New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don't have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there's a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There's something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way.
Look a here people, Listen to me,
Don't try to find no home down in Washington D.C.
Lord it's a bourgeois town
Ooh, it's a bourgeois town
I got the Bourgeoise Blues
I' gonna spread the news all around.
Me and Martha was standin' upstairs,
I heard a white man say, 'Don't want no coloured up there'.
Lord it's a bourgeois town
Ooh, it's a bourgeois town
I got the Bourgeois Blues
I'm gonna spread the news all around.
Home of the brave, land of the free
I don't want to be mistreated by no bourgeoise.
Lord it's a bourgeoise town
Ooh, it's a bourgeoise town
I got the Bourgeoise Blues
I'm gonna spread the news all around.
White folks in Washington, they know how,
Throw a coloured man a nickel to see him bow.
Lord, it's a bourgeoise town
Ooh, it's a bourgeoise town
I got the Bourgeoise Blues
I'm gonna spread the news all around.
Tell all the colored folks to listen to me,
Don't try to find a home in Washington D.C.
Lord it's a bourgeoise town
Ooh, it's a bourgeoise town
I got the Bourgeoise Blues
I'm gonna spread the news all around.
Bob Dylan (from Chronicles volume 1, p. 180)
. . . at the river i stand,
guide my feet, hold my hand
i was raised
on the shore
of lake erie
e is for escape
there are more s'es
than my mother had
this river never knew
the kingdom of dahomey
the first s
begins in slavery
and ends in y
on the bluffs
why are you here
the river wonders
looking across buffalo
you look into canada toronto
is the name of the lights
burning at night
the bottom of memphis
drops into the nightmare
of a little girl's fear
in fifteen minutes
they could be here
i could be there
not the river the state
my mother had one son
he died gently near lake erie
some rivers flow back
toward the beginning
i never learned to swim
will i float or drown
in this mississippi
on the mississippi river
what is this southland
what has this to do with egypt
or with me
so many questions
SECOND NIGHT IN N.Y.C. AFTER 3 YEARS
I was happy I was bubbly drunk
The street was dark
I waved to a young policeman
I went up to him and like a flood of gold
Told him all about my prison youth
About how noble and great some convicts were
And about how I just returned from Europe
Which wasn't half as enlightening as prison
And he listened attentively I told no lie
Everything was truth and humor
And it made me so happy I said:
'Absolve it all, kiss me!'
'No no no no!' he said
and hurried away.
There is crying about crying.
This is what we all do.
There is crying about
What has to be said
But wants to be cried.
This is what we all do.
There is crying about
What won't be said,
What has to be cried.
Well, there is that.
Ignore it. Ignore it.
We would like
Not to have to ignore it
- Anne Stevenson
LIKE I SEE YOU
Those who see me coming.
Me too, I see them coming.
One day the cold will speak,
The cold pushing open the door will show the Void.
And then, my boys? And then?
Little cowards still so vain,
Swollen with the voice of others and the lungs of the era,
The whole troop, I see it in a single sheath,
Do you work? The palm tree also waves its arms.
And you warriors, soldiers with good hearts, benevolently sold.
Your great cause is cheap. It will be cold in the corridors of history.
How cold it is!
I see you in smocks, me, is it odd
I see the Christ too - Why not?
As he was about 1940 years ago.
His beauty already fading,
His face ravaged by the kisses of future Christians.
And so, it still works, the sale of stamps for the supernal?
Let's go, good bye all, I have until now just one foot in the elevator.
- Henri Michaux, translated by Louise Landes Levi
Peter leaves wide
the doors to his shop
& all day
little is done
as people stop to
talk winter out
of their systems
in a cradle
two open doors
THE GLASS HARMONICA
It snowed in far country
beyond the trees.
As I went through the mirror
my breath froze
and they saw me no longer
in the villages of spring.
I walked alone
across level plains,
and my tracks disappeared
in the snow which went with me.
A wind rose
playing on harpstrings
There was nothing there, and my fingers
an echo of music
sound not a sound
in the quiet north country
IN THE MIDDLE
in the mean
DEAR FRIENDS AND FELLOW WORKERS:
"John Law" has given me his last and final order to
get off the earth and stay off. He has told me that lots of
times before, but this time it seems as if he is meaning business.
I have said time and again that I was going to get a
new trial or die trying. I have told it to my friends. It has
been printed in the newspapers, and I don't see why I
should "eat my own crow" just because I happen to be
up against a firing squad. I have stated my position
plainly to everybody, and I won't budge an inch,
because I know I am right. Tomorrow I expect to take a
trip to the planet Mars and if so, will immediately commence
to organize the Mars canal workers into the
I.W.W., and we will sing the good songs so loud
that the learned star gazers on earth will once and for all
get positive proofs that the planet Mars really is
inhabited. In the mean time I hope you'll keep the ball
a-rolling here. You are on the right track, and you are
bound to get there. I have nothing to say about myself,
only that I have always tried to do what little I could to
make this earth a little better for the great producing
class, and I can pass off into the great unknown with the
pleasure of knowing that I have never in my life,
doublecrossed man, woman or child.
With a last fond farewell to all true rebels and a
hearty thanks for the noble support you have given me
in this unequal fight, I remain,
Yours for International Solidarity,
FLEEING BANDITS, WRITTEN IN THE MOUNTAINS
Mountain's kingfisher grey-blue, a stern jade
blue the peaks, to shame me.
Many have fled, a few held back.
It's hard to tell the shallow from the deep: each
finds his place. Good and bad meet here,
though they don't know it yet.
Wherever there's grass it's thatch for a family.
Every man goes armed; no one with a lotus.
When they meet their look is vacant, disappointed,
Could there ever be a
finer day than this?
Kuan Hsiu (translated by JP Seaton, forthcoming from Longhouse)
THE MAD BOMBER POEM
The Mad Bomber
formerly the Mad Bomber
of Brooklyn Manhattan
The Bronx Scarsdale
Rye Boston New Haven
and whose tentacles
reach Los Angeles stealthily
looks from his tower
at burning buildings
arms like latchstrings
thin as a ridgepole
he is bent, like a prophet
once, he stopped
to breathe, and heard a voice
whisper to him
"bomber, you have done well
you have scourged the earth
of a disease
it begins to bloom green again
its scars will heal
it will be a new earth
but you must listen:
you have razed the old cities
whose streets flooded
with mud in spring
now it is time
to raise new cities
which will be clean
cities as orderly as the clock
you must not bomb them
they are different
not to be destroyed
you must not bomb
these new cities
no one will love you anymore."
WE EXIST IN A COUNTRY GROWN UNREAL AND STRANGE
We exist in a country grown unreal and strange;
No one ten steps away hears the talk we exchange.
But when chances for half-conversations appear,
We will never omit the Kremlin mountaineer.
Each thick finger, a fattened worm, gesticulates,
And his words strike you like they were many-pound weights.
His full cockroach moustache hints a laughter benigning,
And the shafts of his boots: always spotlessly shining.
And the gang of thick-skinned leaders near him obeys;
Semi-humans are at his disposal always.
Decree after decree he incessantly coins
Which hit people on foreheads, eyebrows, eyes and groins.
He possesses the road chest, a Georgian perfection,
And each new death for him is a berry confection.
If you have time to chatter
If you have to time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sings songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
ADVICE TO OUR CHILDREN
Be naughty, that's all right.
Climb up sheer walls,
up towering trees.
Like an old captain let your hands direct
the course of your bicycle.
And with the pencil which draws the cartoons
of the master of Religious Knowledge,
demolish the pages of the Koran.
You must know how to build your own paradise
on this black soil.
With your geology text-book
you must silence the man who teaches you
that creation began with Adam.
You must recognize
the importance of the Earth,
you must believe
that the Earth is eternal
Distinguish not between you mother
and your mother Earth.
You must love it
as much as you love her.
TIME PASSES SLOWLY
Under a red
You will soon
Kiss me but
To four goldfinches
On a wire close to
Us as if watching
Us, their colors faded
From a week ago like
These autumn hills
Some people, letting their hair turn white,
Stand still forever.
Others, in a single day,
Have conquered many peaks,
Walked deep into an ancient wood,
And discovered the hidden treasures.
A LITTLE INDUCTION
In the city you can afford
to snub your neighbors.
The insularity there
is endemic. One whole year
I tried to say hello
to a next-door neighbor
Here I help
a neighbor bring in hay.
Next winter he plows out
our road. A network woven,
though the draft hidden,
no tally sheets kept,
and such ties never
spoken of in the
And if you make
an enemy here, better
to a fine grain
the cost of having
today a slight breeze seems to irk the rich heat of the sun
I've got to be honest. I can
make good word music and rhyme
at the right times and fit words
together to give people pleasure
and even sometimes take their
breath away - but it always
somehow turns out kind of phoney.
Consonance and assonance and inner
rhyme won't make up for the fact
that I can't forget out how to get
down on paper the real or the true
which we call life. Like the other
day. The other day I was walking
on the lower exercise yard here
at San Quentin and this cat called
Turk came up to a friend of mine
and said Ernie, I hear you're
shooting on my kid. And Ernie
told him So what, punk? And Turk
pulled out his stuff and shanked
Ernie in the gut only Ernie had a
metal tray in his shirt. Turk's
shank bounced right off him and
Ernie pulled his stuff out and of
course Turk didn't have a tray and
caught it dead in the chest, a bad
one, and the blood that come to his
lips was a bright pink, lung blood,
and he just laid down in the grass
and said Shit. Fuck it. Sheeit.
Fuck it. And he laughed a long
time, softly, until he died. Now
what could consonance or assonance or
even rhyme do to something like that?
I learned a hundred lessons
in the garden
deeper was the first
the least little root
of Jerusalem artichoke
carries a sturdy new
plant into April
like the vaguest hope for
buried, like a sliver of moon
in the heart in spring
there are hundreds of sun chokes
take more than you need
give them to people you've
look for me
in the garden laughing
and crying at once.
Janine Pommy Vega
Willow, New York, May 1999
A MAN WALKS BY WITH A LOAF OF BREAD ON HIS SHOULDER
A man walks by with a loaf of bread on his shoulder,
I'm going to write, after that, about my double?
Another sits, scratches, gets a louse out of his armpit,
cracks it. How dare one speak about psychoanalysis?
Another has entered my chest with a stick in his hand.
After that chat with the doctor about Socrates?
A cripple walks by arm in arm with a child.
After that I'm going to read Andre Breton?
Another shakes from cold, hacks, spits blood.
Is it possible to even mention the profound I?
Another searches in the mud for bones, rinds.
How write after that about the infinite?
A bricklayer falls from the roof, dies, and no longer eats lunch.
After that innovate the trope, the metaphor?
A merchant cheats a customer out of a gram.
After that talk about the fourth dimension?
A banker falsifies his balance.
With what face to cry in the theatre?
An outcast sleeps with his foot behind his back.
After that, not talk about Picasso?
Someone goes to a burial sobbing.
How then enter the Academy?
Someone cleans a rifle in his kitchen.
How dare one speak about the beyond?
Someone walks by counting on his fingers.
How speak of the not-I without crying out?
First there are the greens,
always lots of greens
and a few onions
right on top,
Then dig a little deeper
past loaves of turquoise bread
and the smell of souring milk
until you hit the cheese. . .
two good tomatoes,
a bunch of carrots,
and a full bag of donuts!
Now load what you can
in a sack and
beat it back to the jungle.
The dumpster dinner
cooks in the pale moonlight
the dumpster dinner
steams with what you find
and any tramp will tell you
garbage always tastes better
when cooked outside.
ON READING 'ANTHOLOGY OF A THOUSAND POETS'
The ancients used to like to sing about natural beauty:
Snows and flowers, moon and wind, mists, mountains, and rivers.
Today we should make poems including iron and steel,
And the poet also should know how to lead an attack.
he tramps the Gutter Road
from Gramp's to Uncle Maurice's
where the whole family's sugaring
Lynn and Orman and Calvin
trip metal caps off buckets
draining the sugar bush
Merle bossing the gathering
tub slewing, team
straining, bobsled runners
grating on a ledge
Perry shoves another slab
in the firebox
"a gallon to the barrel, boys,
get a move on!"
Maurice tips the dipper, testing
In the kitchen Aunt Pluma
boils down a batch for
fancy sugar cakes:
stars, hearts, scaled fish
Loyce and Thelma spoon snow
from a dishpan into pie plates
the thick glaze pulls at the fork
"a little goes a long ways"
Green turtles dance
Rattling their river of dreams
Moving the earth with praise
Listening to the thrushes
Sweetened by rain
And the blood of song
The musk turtle
Moan of New England's
Leaf and bone thunder
Branching the mountain
Drives the wind
Painted on the back of
And the breath of newborn
'AN OAR IS LYING. . .'
An oar is lying on the coastal sand;
It tells me more about expanse and motion
Than the entire, enormous, brilliant ocean
Which brought it in and tossed it on the land.
I WISH THE WOOD-CUTTER WOULD WAKE UP
West of the Colorado River
there's a place I love.
I take refuge there with everything alive
in me, with everything
that I have been, that I am, that I believe in.
Some high red red rocks are there, the wild
air with its thousand hands
has turned them into human buildings.
The blind scarlet rose from the depths
and changed in these rocks to copper, fire, and energy.
American spread out like a buffalo skin,
light and transparent night of galloping,
near your high places covered with stars
I drink down your cup of green dew.
Yes, through acrid Arizona and Wisconsin full of knots,
as far as Milwaukee, raised to keep back the wind and the snow
or in the burning swamps of West Palm
near the pine trees of Tacoma, in the thick odor
of your forests which is like steel,
walked weighing down the mother earth,
blue leaves, waterfalls of stones,
hurricanes vibrating as all music does,
rivers that muttered prayers like monasteries,
geese and apples, territories and waters,
infinite silence in which the wheat could be born.
I was able there, in my deep stony core, to stretch my eyes, ears, hands,
far out into the air until I heard
books, locomotives, snow, battles,
factories, cemeteries, footsteps, plants,
and the moon on a ship from Manhattan,
the song of the machine that is weaving,
the iron spoon that eats the earth,
the drill that strikes like a condor,
and everything that cuts, presses, sews:
creatures and wheels repeating themselves and being born.
I love the farmer's small house. New mothers are asleep
with a good smell like the sap of the tamarind, clothes
just ironed. Fires are burning in a thousand homes,
with drying onions hanging around the fireplace,
(When they are singing near the river the men's voices
are deep as the stones at the river bottom;
and tobacco rose from its wide leaves
and entered these houses like a spirit of the fire.)
Come deeper into Missouri, look at the cheese and the flour,
the boards aromatic and red as violins,
the man moving like a ship among the barley,
the blue-black colt just home from a ride smells
the odor of bread and alfalfa:
bells, poppies, blacksmith shops,
and in the run-down movies in the small towns
love opens its mouth full of teeth
in a dream born of the earth.
What we love is your peace, not your mask.
Your warrior's face is not handsome.
North America, you are handsome and spacious.
You come, like a washerwoman, from
a simple cradle, near your rivers, pale.
Built up from the unknown,
what is sweet in you is your hivelike peace.
We love the man with his hands red
from the Oregon clay, your Negro boy
who brought you the music born
in his country of tusks: we love
your city, your substance,
your light, your machines, the energy
of the West, the harmless
honey from hives and little towns,
the huge farm boy, on his tractor,
the oats which you inherited
from Jefferson, the noisy wheel
that measures your oceanic earth,
the factory smoke and the kiss,
the thousandth, of a new colony:
what we love is your workingman's blood:
your unpretentious hand covered with oil.
For years now under the prairie night
in a heavy silence on the buffalo skin
syllables have been asleep, poems
about what I was before I was born, what we were,
Melville is a sea fir, the curve of the keel
springs from his branches, an arm
of timber and ship. Whitman impossible to count
as grain, Poe in his mathematical
darkness, Dreiser, Wolfe,
fresh wounds of our own absence,
Lockridge more recently, all bound to the depths,
how many others, bound to the darkness:
over them the same dawn of the hemisphere burns,
and out of them what we are has come.
Powerful foot soldiers, blind captains,
frightened at times among actions and leaves,
checked in their work by joy and by mourning,
under the plains crossed by traffic,
how many dead men in the fields never visited before:
innocent ones tortured, prophets only now published,
on the buffalo skin of the prairies.
From France, and Okinawa, and the atolls
of Leyte (Norman Mailer has written it out)
and the infuriated air and the waves,
almost all the men have come back now,
almost all...The history of mud and sweat
was green and sour; they did not hear
the singing of the reefs long enough
and perhaps never touched the islands, those wreaths of brilliance and perfume,
except to die:
dung and blood
hounded them, the filth and the rats,
and a fatigued and ruined heart that went on fighting.
But they have come back,
you have received them
into the immensity of the open lands
and they have closed (those who came back) like a flower
with thousands of nameless petals
to be reborn and forget.
Pablo Neruda, translated by Robert Bly
we will make
we will go planting
feed a child growing
build a house
Whatever we stand against
We will stand feeding and seeding
I will make
The mountain air must see
time as passing in present.
The elders say times have
changed, as though they
are behind or ahead
of this moving vehicle.
Days grow in them like a potato.
They see their body as a map
to the country's center.
Nothing is spectacular,
without a reference. Or
does that change? Snow
traps everything for a while.
The river stops flowing.
Tsering Wangmo Dhompa
BUILDING NICOLES MAMA
for the 6th grade class of Lillie C. Evans School, Liberty City, Miami
I am astonished at their mouthful names
Lakinishia, Fumilayo, Chevellanie, Delayo
their ragged rebellions and lip-glossed pouts,
and all those pants drooped as drapery.
I rejoice when they kiss my face, whisper wet
and urgent in my ear, make me their obsession
because I have brought them poetry.
They shout me raw, bruise my wrists with pulling,
and brashly claim me as mama as they
cradle my head in their little laps,
waiting for new words to grow in my mouth.
Angry, jubilant, weeping poetswe are all
saviors, reluctant hosannas in the limelight,
but you know that, didnt you? Then let us
bless this sixth grade class40 nappy heads,
40 cracking voices, and all of them
raise their hands when I ask. They have all seen
the Reaper, grim in his heavy robe,
pushing the button for the dead project elevator,
begging for a break at the corner pawn shop,
cackling wildly in the back pew of the Baptist church.
I ask the death question and forty fists
punch the air, me! , me! And ONeal,
matchstick crack child, and 9-year-old Tiko Jefferson,
barely big enough to lift the gun, fired a bullet
into his own throat after Mama bended his back
with a lead pipe. Tamika cried into a sofa pillow
when Daddy blasted Mama into the north wall
of their cluttered one-room apartment,
Donyas cousin gone in a drive-by. Dark window,
click, click, gone, says Donya, her tiny finger
a barrel, the thumb a hammer. I am shocked
by their lossesand yet when I read a poem
about my own hard-eyed teenager, Jeffery asks
He is dead yet?
It cannot be comprehended,
my 18-year-old still pushing and pulling
his own breath. And those 40 faces pity me,
knowing that I will soon be as they are,
numb to our bloodied histories,
favoring the Reaper with a thumbs-up and a wink,
hearing the question and shouting me, me,
Miss Smith, I know somebody dead!
Can poetry hurt us? they ask me before
snuggling inside my words to sleep.
I love you, Nicole says, Nicole wearing my face,
pimples peppering her nose, and she is as black
as angels are. Nicoles braids clipped, their ends
kissed with match flame to seal them,
and can you teach me to write a poem about my mother?
I mean, you write about your daddy and he dead,
can you teach me to remember my mama?
A teacher tells me this is the first time Nicole
has admitted that her mother is gone,
murdered by slim silver needles and a stranger
rifling through her blood, the virus pushing
her skeleton through for Nicole to see.
And now this child with rusty knees
and mismatched shoes sees poetry as her scream
and asks me for the words to build her mother again.
Replacing the voice.
Stitching on the lost flesh.
as we pick up our pens,
as we flirt and sin and rejoice behind the microphones
She knows that we are here now,
and she is an empty vessel waiting to be filled.
And she is waiting.
And she waits.
What strange pleasure do they get whod
wipe whole worlds out,
to end our lives, our
But we have charms against their rage
must go on saying, Look,
if nobody tried to live this way,
all the work of the world would be in vain.
And now and then a son, a daughter, hears it.
Now and then a son, a daughter
backroad leafmold stonewall chipmunk
underbrush grapevine woodchuck shadblow
woodsmoke cowbarn honeysuckle woodpile
sawhorse bucksaw outhouse wellsweep
backdoor flagstone bulkhead buttermilk
candlestick ragrug firedog brownbread
hilltop outcrop cowbell buttercup
whetstone thunderstorm pitchfork steeplebush
gristmill millstone cornmeal waterwheel
watercress buckwheat firefly jewelweed
gravestone groundpine windbreak bedrock
weathercock snowfall starlight cockrow
All of these poems selected and read by Bob Arnold on the sidewalk on a recent day 2006. Each poet was identified during the reading and sometimes the poem was given away to a passerby taking a liking. Publishers vary from Longhouse publications - go check our website for much more detail on some of these poets included here - plus: BOA Editions for Lucille Clifton; Univ. of Massachusetts for Robert Francis; Godine for Janine Pommy Vega; Coyote's Journal for James Koller; Gnomon Press for Jonathan Greene; Shivastan for Ed Sanders; Black Sparrow Press for Theodore Enslin; Joe Hill is from "Shattered Dreams: Joe Hill" by Soren Koustrup, a children's book I found as a "discard" at a library sale; I've had Nanao's poem on one of my walls for decades, so either published from Tooth of Time or Blackberry; Lew Welch," Selected Poems"; Simon & Schuster for Bob Dylan; John Martone is from his new book "Shims"; Joe Massey's poem is from Philip Rowland's "Noon 03"; Anne Stevenson/Bloodaxe Books; Gael Turnbull, "A Trampoline"; Finn Wilcox is from Empty Bowl; Simon Schuchat from "Svelte" (Genesis:Grasp Press); Patricia Smith "Teahouse of the Almighty"; Michael McClure, "The New Book/A Book of Torture"; Lorine Niedecker, "The Granite Pail"; Louise Zukofsky from his "Selected Poems" which arrived in the mail last March and I rushed this poem to the street reading and left all of us listening in emptied daze; Paavo Haavikko, "Selected Poems" translated by Anselm Hollo; T.S. Eliot & Muriel Rukeyser from their Collected Poems; Gregory Corso & William Wantling & Charles Bukowski from the ever marvelous Penguin Modern Poets series; some others from the celebrated "The Penguin Book of Socialist Verse", ed. Alan Bold. - BA
Bob Arnold ~ Builder; Devotion; Woodcutter's Autumn & others
Thomas A. Clark ~ Green; String; Yellow
Tsering Wangmo Dhompa ~ In The Absent Everyday
Theodore Enslin ~ Skeins; A Folder for L. N.; Six Music Lessons & others
Lyle Glazier ~ Recalls; Searching for Amy
Jonathan Greene ~ Hummingbird's Water Trough; The Death of A Kentucky Coffee Tree & Other Poems
Terry Hauptman ~ Painted Turtle; Three Poems
Greg Joly ~ Broken Glass Road
Cralan Kelder ~ night falls and is slow to get up
James Koller ~ Natural Order; Openings; Some To Keep Some To Pass Along & others
John Martone ~ Next To Nothing; No Roof; tree house & others
Joseph Massey ~ Branches-Hours After
Henri Michaux; translated by Louise Landes Levi ~ Toward Totality I & II / Vers La Completude & others by Louise Landes Levi
Barbara Moraff ~ Potterwoman Book Two; You've Got Me
Lorine Niedecker ~ A Cooking Book & others
Santoka ~ (translated by Scott Watson)
Sappho (drawn from Mary Barnard's versions by Cid Corman) ~ Wee Ones & many works by Cid Corman
J.P. Seaton ~ Cold Mountain / Han Shan; A Little Nasty Zen Poetry; Thirty Years To Instant Enlightenment
Gael Turnbull ~ More Amorous Greetings
Janine Pommy Vega ~ Island of the Sun; Mean Ol' Badger Blues; Janine Pommy Vega's Book
I went to the streets poetically belligerent. From the man made disasters in New Orleans, Iraq, and Washington, DC to the acid rains that prove you can not homestead outside the main stream of industrial consumerism without it finding you, all this fired me when Bob asked me to join him at a, then, undisclosed location in Brattleboro. As fired as I was, I also had visions of grandeur that the "State" would hunt us off the streets. That's how deep the paranoia has become in even the smallest 9 11 urban polis. So I went armed with my Bly & Everson & McGrath & Lowenfel's Anthologies. And what did we find out there since starting on the 9th September 2005? The young who have no public voice and so take a public place over as their salon, vets of several military adventures in various states of stability, native Americans chain smoking while hawking the herbal wisdom of their elders, cops rolling by on patrol windows tight shut, Jesus freaks questioning us about the Rapture of Our Savior, folks on merger incomes casting quarters & crumpled dollar bills into our violin case for Katrina victims as office workers and the well heeled accelerated past one more sidewalk hazard, jacked car stereo systems louder than a Harley Davidson at full throttle and friends, known & unknown, who stopped, listened, talked, broke bread with us and passed the word along. My street paranoia has subsided, but New Orleans still looks like a USAID project in Tikrit. What the "street", and most especially Bob, taught me was to come to it all open hearted. This does not negate the need for protest, verbal and otherwise, but it does mean jettisoning all the rhetorical, bully boy nonsense fobbed off as actionable intelligence in this Age of Disinformation. Give what is yours to give. Give it freely. Joy comes in the recognition of a passerby who catches a line and takes it with them well out past the orbit of your own private Kuiper Belt.
After the first terror
Were more helpful to each other
As in a blizzard
Much comradeliness, help, even
The pride of getting through tough times.
Even, months later,
When snow fell in June
We felt a kind of pride in
And joked about wild geese
Quacking over the 4th of July presidential honkings.
It was, people said,
The way it had been in the Old Days
Until the hunger of the next year.
Then we came to our senses
and began to kill each other.
EASTWARD THE ARMIES
Eastward the armies;
The rumorous dawns seep with the messages of invasion;
The hordes that were held so long in their hate
Are loosed in release.
The South shakes,
The armies awaken;
High in the domed and frozen North the armies engage;
They grope through the hills to the hooded passes;
They meet in the blue and bitter dawns
And break up in the snow.
To the West: war, war,
The lines down,
The borders broken,
The cities each in its isolation,
Awaiting its end.
Now in my ear shakes the surly sound of the wedge winged planes,
Their anger brooding and breaking across fields,
Ignorant, snug in their bumbling idiot dream,
Unconscious of tact,
Unconscious of love and its merciful uses,
Unconscious even of time,
Warped in its error,
And sprawled in exhaustion behind them.
TEMPLE NEAR QUANG TRI, NOT ON THE MAP
Dusk, the ivy thick with sparrows
Squawking for more room
Is all we hear; we see
Birds move on the walls of the temple
Shaping their calligraphy of wings.
Ivy is thick in the grottos,
On the moon
And ivy keeps the door from fully closing.
The point man leads us and we are
The white washbowl, the smaller bowl
For rice, the stone lanterns
And carved stone heads that open
Above the carved faces for incense.
But even the bamboo sleeping mat
Rolled in the corner,
Even the place of prayer is clean.
And a small man
Sits legs askew in the shadow
The farthest wall casts
Halfway across the room.
He is bent over, his head
Rests on the floor and he is speaking something
As though to us and not to us.
The CO wants to ignore him;
He locks and loads and fires a clip into the walls
Which are not packed with rice this time
And tells us to move out.
But one of us moves towards the man,
Curious about what he is saying.
We bend him to sit straight
And when he's nearly peaked
At the top of his slow uncurling
His face becomes visible, his eyes
Roll down to the charge
Wired between his teeth and the floor.
Burst off the walls into the jungle.
On the birthday boy's dresser, a Flying Fortress
in progress with soon
to be working ball turret,
retractable landing gear, ground crew with bombs
to paint and load imaginations. Just a childhood
unwinding under the Cold War. Just a plastic
model to join the others hanging on fishing line
from the ceiling: Thunderbolt, Lightning,
Spitfire roaring across the blue sky of dreams.
And on the wall a poster of silhouettes
of Soviet airplanes he's memorized to win
a merit badge and warn the country against
first attack. Just another birthday, with Sputnik
a few months away. The Mercury Capsule.
The Berlin Airlift. The Bay of Pigs. And Tet,
and all that. Young Republicans in his high school
will wear Barry Goldwater for President buttons.
But not for years. Today the boy lies on the grass
below the air base as silver Stratofortress,
one after another, take off in clouds of noise
and carbon exhaust that fall to where he lay
before he, too, left the ground.
COUNTING THE SMALL BONED BODIES
Let's count the bodies over again.
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
The size of skulls,
We could make a whole plain white with skulls in the moonlight!
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
Maybe we could get
A whole year's kill in front of us on a desk!
If we could only make the bodies smaller,
We could fit
A body into a finger
ring, for a keepsake forever.
BRUEGHEL'S TWO MONKEYS
This is what I see in my dreams about final exams:
two monkeys, chained to the floor, sit on the windowsill,
the sky behind them flutters,
the sea is taking its bath.
The exam is History of Mankind.
I stammer and hedge.
One monkey stares and listens with mocking disdain,
the other seems to be dreaming away
but when it's clear I don't know what to say
he prompts me with a gentle
clinking of his chain.
from THE TALKING WORLD
Of such mixed intent
Places in time spring up,
And truth is anybody's argument
Who can use words untruthfully enough
To build eternity inside his own short mouth.
I thought it was night but found out the windows were painted
black and a bluebird bigger than a child's head was singing.
When we get out of Nam the pilot said we'll go down to S.A.
and kick the shit outta those commie greasers. Of course,
In sleepwalking all year long I grew cataracts, white haired,
flesh fattened, texture of mushrooms, whistled notes at moon.
After seven hours of television and a quart of vodka he wept
over the National Anthem. O America Carcinoma the dead eagle.
Celebrate her with psalms and new songs she'll be fifteen
tomorrow, a classic beauty who won't trouble her mind with poems.
I wanted to drag a few words out of silence then sleep and none
were what I truly wanted. So much silence and so many words.
The poet knows that there is no such thing as the perpetual law of supply and demand
perhaps not of demand and supply, or of the wage
fund, or price level, or increments
earned or unearned
and that the existence of personal or public property
may not prove the existence of God.
MILK WHITE MOON, PUT THE COWS TO SLEEP
MILK WHITE moon, put the cows to sleep.
Since five o'clock in the morning,
Since they stood up out of the grass,
Where they slept on their knees and hocks,
They have eaten grass and given their milk
And eaten grass again and given milk,
And kept their heads and teeth at the earth's face.
Now they are looking at you, milk
Carelessly as they look at the level landscapes,
Carelessly as they look at a pail of new white milk,
They are looking at you, wondering not at all, at all,
If the moon is the skim face top of a pail of milk,
Wondering not at all, carelessly looking.
Put the cows to sleep, milk
Put the cows to sleep.
BEYOND THE RED RIVER
The birds have flown their summer skies to the south,
And the flower
money is drying in the banks of bent grass
Which the bumble bee has abandoned. We wait for a winter lion,
Body of ice
crystals and sombrero of dead leaves.
A month ago, from the salt engines of the sea,
A machinery of early storms rolled toward the holiday houses
Where summer still dozed in the pool
side chairs, sipping
An aging whiskey of distances and departures.
Now the long freight of autumn goes smoking out of the land.
My possibles are all packed up, but still I do not leave.
I am happy enough here, where Dakota drifts wild in the universe,
Where the prairie is starting to shake in the surf of the winter dark.
In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking
they were both walking north.
She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.
In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact.
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:
Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
"AS WE ARE SO WONDERFULLY DONE WITH EACH OTHER"
As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies
Oh my love, my golden lark, my soft long doll!
Your lips have splashed my dull house with print of flowers
My hands are crooked where they spilled over your dear curving
It is good to be weary from that brilliant work
It is being God to feel your breathing under me
A waterglass on the bureau fills with morning
Don't let anyone in to wake us
Heat fat. Pour it into the flour.
Some salt for sweat and for the sea.
Some sugar for the little ones' tongues.
Add milk. Stir in yeast,
which is air, which is a deceit of leaven
that, like life, grows in the dark.
Knead and set and knead again
and let warmth of wood come in.
Let all in the house eat with health.
THE SOUND I LISTENED FOR
What I remember is the ebb and flow of sound
That summer morning as the mower came and went
And came again, crescendo and diminuendo,
And always when the sound was loudest how it ceased
A moment while he backed the horses for the turn,
The rapid clatter giving place to the slow click
And the mower's voice. That was the sound I listened for.
The voice did what the horses did. It shared the action
As sympathetic magic does or incantation.
The voice hauled and the horses hauled. The strength of one
Was in the other and in the strength was no impatience.
Over and over as the mower made his rounds
I heard his voice and only once or twice he backed
And turned and went ahead and spoke no word at all.
14: OF BEING NUMEROUS
I cannot even now
Altogether disengage myself
From those men
With whom I stood in emplacements, in mess tents,
In hospitals and sheds and hid in the gullies
Of blasted roads in a ruined country.
Muykut and a sergeant
That lieutenant also
How forget that? How talk
Distantly of 'The People'
Who are that force
Within the walls
Wherein their cars
Echo like history
Down walled avenues
In which one cannot speak.
FEBRUARY 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.
Low clouds hang on the mountain.
The forest is filled with fog.
A short distance away the
Giant trees recede and grow
Dim. Two hundred paces and
They are invisible. All
Day the fog curdles and drifts.
The cries of the birds are loud.
They sound frightened and cold. Hour
By hour it grows colder.
Just before sunset the clouds
Drop down the mountainside. Long
Shreds and tatters of fog flow
Swiftly between the
Trees. Now the valley below
Is filled with clouds like clotted
Cream and over then the sun
Sets, yellow in a sky full
of purple feathers. After dark
A wind rises and breaks branches
From the trees and howls in the
Treetops and then suddenly
Is still. Late at night I wake
And look out of the tent. The
Clouds are rushing across the
Sky and through them is tumbling
The thin waning moon. Later
All is quiet except for
A faint whispering. I look
Out. Great flakes of wet snow are
Falling. Snowflakes are falling
Into the dark flames of the
Dying fire. In the morning the
Pine boughs are sagging with snow,
And the dogwood blossoms are
Frozen, and the tender young
Purple and citron oak leaves.
Shot the bear and left it
For a week. Come back, bear was all bloated up.
Built a raft. Took it to the center of the lake.
Tied four big rocks to the bear's feet, pushed him overboard.
Bear, he don't sink.
Too full of gas, ain't been dressed out.
I'll fix that.
Come alongside him in a canoe, start to cut
With my knife. Gas and guts and grease come
Roaring out of that hole. Knocks me out of that canoe, covered.
The bear sinks.
Two months later it's the best salmon fishing in the lake.
They come to get the worms feeding on that bear.
Place has been called Bear Hole ever since.
AS THE CARPENTER'S NAILS are divided into wrought nails and cut nails;
so mankind may be similarly divided.
DAILY LIBRARY VISITOR
I seem to hear winches and peaveys
and capstans as he walks,
the great rumblings of a quiet man put
to good use
he sits him down
reads nothing in particular
but looks like a monument of fine conduct
as he does it
his field has been ploughed
he knows this
better than anyone else how many rocks he
took out of it
and how many worms came up for the robins
he has seen clouds of frozen breath rise
from oxen nostrils
and heard often the click of iron shoe
against broken rifts of granite,
and perhaps the impertinent laughter
of herring gulls above his blueberry fields
the laughter not respectable which steals
once it was anchor chains probably, then it
now it is just fixing things up around the house,
now it is the quiet look of a mystic in love
with a simple theme,
for the beautiful mask is utterly unruffled
and the huge hands seem to say, we have earned
a little respite now, and can afford to hold
LATE SNOW MELTING, FIRST SIGN OF FLOWERS,
GATHERING EGGS AFTER THINKING
I'D LOST YOU
"Grief, too, is work that has to be done" Anne Pitkin
Sometime in the night, smothered
under too many blankets, I wake
from a black sleep and lie
shaking against the curve of your back
while two owls call in the close cedars.
Only the need for work draws me up to light
lamps and the two fires, fetch water,
and answer the quarreling chickens.
Sometime in the night, the wind changed
direction, warmed, and now the trees drip
with a March snowmelt that sounds,
on the roof, like rain. Outside I scatter
scratch and grain for the hens and see
near their pen, the first mud
shoots of daffodils. They must have been
there yesterday beneath new snow
when we took the trail into woods burdened
under sudden weight, ducked through
young firs bowed and broken,
through chokecherry, through fishbone alder.
Smoke lifted from the doctor's chimney
so that her door opened at our knock. I waited
while you talked, while you placed her hand
where you pressed mine only an hour past,
the soft slope of your left breast,
a hidden lump firm under my fingers.
It's nothing she said nothing
dangerous I don't know what it is
We drank tea, then followed our tracks
back home, dumb with the gift
of one another, cold fists in our lungs.
I had not understood love
is a kind of grief. It was your name on my tongue
cracked the shell of nightmare, my hands
screaming cancer wherever they touched,
frantic as these hens scratching snow
earth, backing off, eyes cocked for anything
that moves. How is it possible to see
these daffodils break through muddy ground
and not think how the bulb that will bloom
into our deaths may even now be sprouting in us.
So I gather eggs. Small
miracles, they make me weep. Last fall
a broody hen sat on a nest for weeks
while egg after egg exploded
beneath her until only the last one hatched,
the chick an owl killed later.
What is there to do but try again,
turn these to the light for the hidden blood
spot? They're what I can bring you, and the news
of flowers starting under a skin
of snow, the coming spring, morning's work begun.
AN EMPTY SHOTGUN SHELL
It's a handsome thing
in its uniform
all crimson and brass
at the gate to the field,
is wrong at its heart.
It's dark in there,
so dark a whole night
could squeeze in,
could shrink back up in there
like a spider,
a black one
with smoke in its hair.
I'm at a temple. A young monk in black robes walks by, looks at me, stops. He points to my long hair. Brown. Then my goatee. Red. He touches my armpit and looks puzzled. I point to my hair. He points to my crotch. I point to my hair. He invites me in for green tea
Orpheus is too old for it now. His famous voice is gone
and his career is past. No profit anymore from the songs
of love and grief. Nobody listens. Still, he goes on
secretly with his ruined alto. But not for Eurydice.
Not even for the pleasure of singing. He sings because
that is what he does. He sings about two elderly
Portuguese men in the hot Sacramento delta country.
How they show up every year or so, feeble and dressed
as well as their poverty allows. The husband is annoyed
each time by their coming to see his seventy
wife, who, long ago when they were putting through
the first railroads, was the most beautiful of all
the whores. Impatient, but saying nothing, he lets them
take her carefully upstairs to give her a bath. He does
not understand how much their doting eyes can see the sleek,
gleaming beauty of her hidden in the bright water.
You won't notice him
When entering the store,
A cling of the bell on the
Door stays with you walking
Up and down unlit aisles
Of hardware goods, plumbing
Fixtures next to candy,
Stout glass cases handmade by
The owner's father
Man up front, near the door
Who looks all day out the street
Broad windows, who doesn't
Take part in any of the talk
We make with his son or his
Son's wife since we are passing
Through this mountain town
And liked the looks of the
handed down family
this old man
Built the glass cases and
Maple drawers behind the
Counter, sweeps a smooth
Wood floor, and when we are
Leaving I say hello to him as
He slightly varies his eyes and
Head at once like a bird with
A voice slip of licorice or what
Might command horses his reply,
Good morning, sir.
CROSSING OHIO WHEN POPPIES BLOOM IN ASHTABULA
Go away. Leave the high winds of May
blowing over the fields of grape vines
near the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.
Leave the doorstep peonies
pushing high bosoms at passers
in northern Ohio towns in May.
Leave the boys flying light blue kites
on a deep blue sky; and the yellow, the
yellow spilling over the drinking rims
of the buttercups, piling their yellows
into foam blown sea rims of yellow;
Go away; go to New York,
Broadway, Fifth Avenue, glass
lights and leaves, glass faces,
Pick me poppies in Ohio,
Pick me poppies in the back yard
May going, poppies coming, summer humming:
make it a poppy summer, mother; the leaves
sing in the silk, the leaves sing a tawny
red gold; seven sunsets saved themselves
to be here now.
Pick me poppies, mother; go, May; wash me,
summer; shoot up this back yard in Ashta
bula, shoot it up, give us a daylight fire
works in Ohio, burn it up with tawny red
READING TIME: 1 MINUTE 26 SECONDS
The fear of poetry is the
fear : mystery and fury of the midnight street
of windows whose low voluptuous voice
issues, and after that there is no peace.
That round waiting moment in the
theatre : curtain rises, dies into the ceiling
and here is played the scene with the mother
bandaging a revealed son's head. The bandage is torn off.
Curtain goes down. And here is the moment of proof.
That climax when the brain acknowledges the world;
all values extended into the blood awake.
Moment of proof. And as they say Brancusi did,
building his bird to extend through soaring air,
as Kafka planned stories that draw to eternity
through time extended. And the climax strikes.
Love touches so, that after the look of
blue stare of love, the footbeat on the heart
is transferred into the pure cry of birds
cries, or poems, the new scene.
Moment of proof. That strikes long after act.
They fear it. They turn away, hand up palm out
fending off moment of proof, the straight look, poem.
The prolonged wound
consciousness after the bullet's shot.
The prolonged love after the look is dead,
the yellow joy after the song of the sun.
don't think a mountain home means you're free
there's something to worry about every day
old ladies steal my bamboo shoots
boys lead oxen into my wheat
grubs and beetles destroy my greens
boars and squirrels devour my rice
things don't always go my way
what can I do but shrug
Stonehouse : trans by Red Pine
Lord she's gone done left me done packed/up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs
Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole mutherfucking thing
all I want is my woman back
so my soul can sing
MY BURIAL PLACE
I have told you in another poem, whether you've read it or not,
About a beautiful place the hard
Deer do to die in; their bones lie mixed in their little graveyard
Under leaves by a flashing
brook, and if
They have ghosts they like it, the bones and mixed antlers are well content.
Now comes for me the time to engage
My burial place: put me in a beautiful place far off from men,
No cemetery, no necropolis,
And for God's sake no columbarium, nor yet no funeral.
But if the human animal were precious
As the quick deer or that hunter in the night the lonely puma
I should be pleased to lie in one grave with them.
into a seed
IN 1912, MY FATHER BUYS THE VICTOR RECORD
OF SEXTET FROM LUCIA FROM HOEGH'S JEWELRY
STORE IN A SMALL TOWN IN MINNESOTA
Charley is entering the record and jewelry store now, a
one, just married to his elegant Clara, with
nine children still to be conceived and carried and born and
raised clear into the Depression. He has just come from the
bank, smartly dressed in his tight waistcoat and dark striped
trousers. As he enters the door, Ove Hoegh glances up with
appreciation: a favorite, a good customer, a friend.
Yes, indeed, he has some new records from the operas: Alma
Gluck, some more Caruso, Louise Homer, Journet, Amati,
even Melba, and a new quartet from Rigoletto. But Charley,
I want you to hear this! Ove winds the Victrola, shining in
polished oak. My father leans lightly against the jeweled
counter and stands on his left foot, with his right balanced
across it on the tip of its toe; his right elbow is on the
counter, his left hand in his pocket. His head turns slightly
outward into the room; he tips it ever so slightly down
Then the seven dollar twelve inch seventy eight with its red
gold heart begins to turn. The shining steel needle, with
a soft swish, slowly negotiates the black edge into the deep
grooves, and the arpeggio chordal plucking in the strings
begins. And then the huge horn hidden in the box behind its
fine brocade begins softly singing: sol sol SOL, do MI re DO
SOL in its vibrant Italian vowels. The little gallery is
transfixed. Waves of harmonic melodies float up and over,
interweave, making their exits and entering again with
violins and rapiers and satin gowns. All their songs gesture
in embroidered pantaloons and waxed moustaches; pale
hands sweep over their troubled foreheads; they implore the
air; they brace themselves on the hips, indignant, wan,
robust, judicious, serene, over the carved table and the velvet
and leather chairs.
Oh, my father is a fine man now, there in that royal box
with all that splendid company! His skull is the
philharmonic of them all, jeweled with sound.
And when intermission comes, he will step out on Main
Street and all along down Division, to greet his Clara
Elizabeth with an amulet under his arm to tell her, like a
messenger from on high, that La Scala has finally come
Sembrich, Caruso, Scotti, Journet, Severina and Daddi
the way from Milano to Spring Grove, Minnesota, and he is
bringing them home.
Dark memories are more persistent
Than light memories of incontestable joy
When flags are flying, and wild white wind
Blows the elegant birds about the sky,
And the throat catches unable to speak
For the majesty, the danger and ecstasy of nature,
O the great moments of instantaneous recognition
When you are lost in a world beyond the human,
Yet a part of it, being one with nature
When you become the gull, the eagle, the osprey,
A feeling so ancient as to be so tenuous
That you arrive at an existence before words,
You are life force and enigma, you are true
Because it is before any cause of failure
And you are a part of the spirit of the universe
Before intellect forced you into human particularity,
What a joyful moment before birth, beyond death,
This oneness, a gift, a glimpse, a glory,
When everything lives in creativity, you are
Gulls' wings, eagle's eye, the lightning's flash,
You are all brightness, haleness, ununderstandable joy
Before dark memories occlude the bright reaches.
Some books hide auroras in them
Others vipers and dead bodies
Never close a book that hints at the existence of caverns
Harvest at its peak,
the heaviest day we've had,
truckloads of wheat and barley keep coming
into the elevator and out again
all day long.
Acting like truckdrivers,
men swing down out of truck cabs,
stand waiting until their trucks are emptied,
then swing back up
and are gone.
Sixteen miles away
where the wheat fields dwindle,
in shady cabins at the edge of town, 31
wives are cooking greasy food
and saying Now as the sun sets, cricket songs
shut up, shut up, shut up begin to rise straight up,
to children who may one day thin black stalks rising into the air,
understand how we stand upside down holding up
on scales never meant for invisible buds of song which open
the human creature out, into the silence
we must become.
WHERE I SIT WRITING MY LETTER
Suddenly hooligan baby starlings
Rain all round me squealing,
Shouting how it's tremendous and everybody
Has to join in and they're off this minute!
Probably the weird aniseed corpse odour
Of the hawthorn flower's disturbed them,
As it disturbed me. Now they all rise
floating, oddly eddying,
Squalling their dry gargles. Then, mad, they
Hurl off, on a new wrench of excitement,
Leaving me out.
I pluck apple
lipped, wet open.
And I'm just quieting thoughts towards my letter
When they all come storming back,
Giddy with hoarse hissings and snarls
And clot the top of an ash sapling
Sizzling bodies, snaky black necks craning
For a fresh thrill
Where next? Where now?
All rushing after it
Leaving me fevered, and addled.
They can't believe their wings.
Snow bright clouds boil up.
REMIND ME OF APPLES
When the cicada celebrates the heat,
Intoning that tomorrow and today
Are only yesterday with the same dust
To dust on plantain and on roadside yarrow
Remind me, someone, of the apples coming,
Cold in the dew of snow in their white flesh.
In the long haze of dog days, or by night
When thunder growls and prowls but will not go
Or come, I lose the memory of apples.
Name me the names, the goldens, russets, sweets,
Pippin and blue pearmain and seek
And the lost apples on forgotten farms
And the wild pasture apples of no name
When Abraham Lincoln was shoveled into the tombs, he forgot
the copperheads and the assassin...in the dust, in
the cool tombs.
And Ulysses Grant lost all thought of con men and Wall Street,
cash and collateral turned ashes...in the dust, in
the cool tombs.
Pocahontas' body, lovely as a poplar, sweet as a red haw in
November or a pawpaw in May, did she wonder? does
she remember?. . .in the dust, in the cool tombs?
Take any streetful of people buying clothes and groceries,
cheering a hero or throwing confetti and blowing tin
horns.. tell me if the lovers are losers...tell me
if any get more than the lovers...in the dust...
in the cool tombs.
Friends, I am old and poor.
The ones who lived in my house have gone out into the world.
My dogs are all dead and the bones of my horses
Whiten the hillsides.
All my books are forgotten.
Are asleep, though they dream in many languages.
The ones I love are carrying the Revolution
In far away places.
This little house has few comforts but it is yours.
Come and see me here
I've got plenty of time and love!
Thomas McGrath : SELECTED POEMS; 1938-1988 : ( Copper Canyon Press ) / - William Everson : THE RESIDUAL YEARS : ( New Diections ) / - Bruce Weigl : THE MONKEY WARS : ( University of Georgia Press ) / - Gary Metras : UNTIL THERE IS NOTHING LEFT : ( Ridgeway Press ) / - Robert Bly : THE LIGHT AROUND THE BODY : ( Harper & Row ) / - Wislawa Symborska : VIEW WITH A GRAIN OF SAND : ( Harcourt Brace ) / - Laura Riding : SELECTED POEMS; IN FIVE SETS : ( W.W. Norton & Co. ) / - Jim Harrison : THE SHAPE OF THE JOURNEY : ( Copper Canyon Press ) / - Charles Ives : ESSAYS BEFORE THE SONATA : ( W.W. Norton & Co ) / - Carl Sandburg : GOOD MORNING, AMERICA : ( Harcourt Brace & Co. ) / - Thomas McGrath : ECHOES INSIDE THE LABYRINTH : ( Thunder's Mouth Press ) / - Eavan Boland : "A BROADSIDE" : ( Kore Press ) / - Kenneth Patchen : THE LOVE POEMS : ( City Lights Press ) / - Millen Brand : LOCAL LIVES : ( Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. ) / - Robert Francis : COLLECTED POEMS : ( University of Massachusetts Press ) / - George Oppen : COLLECTED POEMS : ( New Directions ) / - Wendell Berry : FARMING; A HAND BOOK : ( Harcourt Brace Jovanovich ) / - Kenneth Rexroth : THE COLLECTED SHORTER POEMS : ( New Directions ) / - Gary Lawless : WOLF DRIVING SLED : ( Blackberry Press ) / - Herman Melville : MOBY DICK / - Marsden Hartley : THE COLLECTED POEMS: 1904-1943 : ( Black Sparrow Press ) / - Sam Green : VERTEBRAE : ( EWU Press ) / : - Ted Kooser : ONE WORLD AT A TIME : ( University of Pittsburgh Press ) / - John Levy : AMONG THE CONSONANTS : ( The Elizabeth Press ) / - Jack Gilbert : THE GREAT FIRES : ( Alfred A. Knopf ) / - Bob Arnold : HUNGER MOUNTAIN REVIEW : ( Vermont College Journal ) / - Muriel Rukeyser : WATERLILY FIRE : ( Macmillian Co. ) / - Stonehouse : trans by Red Pine : THE MOUNTAIN POEMS : ( Empty Bowl ) / - Etheridge Knight : BELLY SONG : ( Broadside Press ) / - Robinson Jeffers : THE BEGINNING AND THE END : ( Random House ) / - paul reps : zen telegrams : ( Charles E. Tuttle Co ) / - Joseph Langland : SELECTED POEMS : ( University of Massachusetts Press ) / - Richard Eberhart : THE LONG REACH : ( New Directions ) / - Yun Wang : THE BOOK OF JADE : ( Story Line Press ) / - Robert Sund : BUNCH GRASS : ( University of Washington Press ) / - Ted Hughes : FLOWERS AND INSECTS : ( Alfred A. Knopf ) / - Robert Francis : COLLECTED POEMS : ( University of Massachusetts Press ) / - Carl Sandburg : COMPLETE POEMS : ( Harcourt, Brace & Co. ) / - Thomas McGrath : DEATH SONG : ( Copper Canyon Press ) ~ GJ
Our natural inclination would be to invite the reader to join along by sending your own poems, songs, prose, letters and to continue the celebration. The problem is Greg & I are reading on the street, outside of stores, restaurants, on pathways, suddenly in a new town, while Susan Arnold is manning the Longhouse website. Solo. It's an awful lot of work. So if you have things to share we highly recommend you begin reading in public, and not necessarily during a formal reading engagement, but as daily life, to regular folk. Or, to come and join us for a reading session if it just so happens to occur for you. We plan with military precision for keeping the readings spontaneous, and since every reading is outdoors, abiding the weather.
As of September 9, 2006 we will continue our readings in Brattleboro and adjoining small towns and villages of a rural path. Here are a few readings to start us off, which will be part of this ongoing anthology. Check in from time to time
The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about "Beautiful Spring." These are generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so the first thing they know the opportunity to inquire how they feel has permanently gone by.
Mark Twain (from The Weather)
Until Grandfather Compson died, we would go out to the farm every Saturday afternoon. We would leave home right after dinner in the surrey, I in front with Roskus, and Grandfather and Candace (Caddy, we called her) and Jason in the back. Grandfather and Roskus would talk, with the horses going fast, because it was the best team in the county. They would carry the surrey fast along the levels and up some of the hills even. But this was in north Mississippi, and on some of the hills Roskus and I could smell Grandfather's cigar.
William Faulkner (from A Justice)
He was riding the hundred miles from T'o Tlakai to Tse Lani to attend a dance, or rather, for the horse-racing that would come afterwards. The sun was hot and his belly was empty, but life moved in rhythm with his pony loping steadily as an engine down the miles. He was lax in the saddle, leaning back, arm swinging the rope's end in time to the horse's lope. His new red headband was a bright colour among the embers of the sunstruck desert, undulating like a moving graph of the pony's lope, or the music of his song
'Nashdui bik'e dinni, eya-a, eyo-o...
Wildcat's feet hurt, eye-a, eyo-o...'
Rope's end, shoulders, song, all moved together, and life flowed in one stream. He threw his head back to sing louder, and listened to the echo from the cliffs on his right. He was thinking about a bracelet he should make, with four smooth bars running together, and a turquoise in the middle - if he should get the silver. He wished he could work while riding; everything was so perfect then, like the prayers, hozoji nashad, travelling in beauty. His hands, his feet, his head, his insides all were hozoji, all were very much alive. He whooped and struck up the Magpie Song till the empty desert resounded
He was lean, slender, tall and handsome, Laughing Boy, with a new cheap headband and a borrowed silver belt to make ragged clothes look fine.
Oliver LaFarge (from Laughing Boy)
My cabin is log, but it's better than most, because it's always been in my family, and we're not trash like a lot of them around here. Some of the furniture goes back a hundred years, as you can tell from the dates carved on the chairs, but the plaster, whitewash, and underpinning I did myself, and some of the stuff I got when the coal camp broke up and people left things behind, specially the super, that give me four rag rugs. While I was cooking supper she went all over the front room and looked at everything in it, the pictures, settles by the fireplace, andirons, chairs, and knitted table covers, then got on her knees and felt the floor, because it's pine and gets scoured with sand every week, so it's white as snow and soft as silk. Then she did the same for the back room. Coming into the lean-to, where I was at the stove, she stopped and sniffed what I was cooking, and from the way her nose turned up I had her figured out, or thought I had.
James M. Cain (from The Butterfly)
This is a story handed down.
It is about the old days when Bill
and Florence and a lot of their kin
lived in the little tin-roofed house
beside the woods, below the hill.
Mornings, they went up the hill
to work, Florence to the house,
the men and boys to the field.
Evenings, they all came home again.
There would be talk then and laughter
and taking of ease around the porch
while the summer night closed.
But one night, McKinley, Bill's young brother,
stayed away late, and it was dark
when he started down the hill.
Not a star shone, not a window.
What he was going down into was
the dark, only his footsteps sounding
to prove he trod the ground. And Bill
who had got up to cool himself,
thinking and smoking, leaning on
the jamb of the open front door,
heard McKinley coming down,
and heard his steps beat faster
as he came, for McKinley felt the pasture's
darkness joined to all the rest
of darkness everywhere. It touched
the depths of woods and sky and grave.
In that huge dark, things that usually
stayed put might get around, as fish
in pond or slue get loose in flood.
Oh, things could be coming close
that never had come close before.
He missed the house and went on down
and crossed the draw and pounded on
where the pasture widened on the other side,
lost then for sure. Propped in the door,
Bill heard him circling, a dark star
in the dark, breathing hard, his feet
blind on the little reality
that was left. Amused, Bill smoked
his smoke, and listened. He knew where
McKinley was, though McKinley didn't.
Bill smiled in the darkness to himself,
and let McKinley run until his steps
approached something really to fear:
the quarry pool. Bill quit his pipe
then, opened the screen, and stepped out,
barefoot, on the warm boards. "McKinley!"
he said, and laid the field out clear
under McKinley's feet, and placed
the map of it in his head.
DAYBREAK IN ALABAMA
When I get to be a composer
I'm gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama.
And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I'm gonna put some tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I'm gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama. (1940)
FULL MOON OVER FALLUJA
Well, now we know they are lighting up the night sky with white phosphorus,
better able to see midnight skin melting into bone. What country is it
that would send such harsh chemical fire into a neighborhood?
In occupied territories of Palestine, a father has donated organs of his son,
murdered by Israeli army, to a congregation of six, both Jewish and
Muslim. If this doesn't shame the violent of all nations into melting
their weapons, what will? Tonight, let children of earth sleep in peace
under a full moon, let skin remain the body's best organic protection,
let bones stay cool and covered-in a thousand years there will be
plenty of time for our skulls to rest in warm earth & give thanks.
Eliot Katz (When the Skyline Crumbles )
THE SILENCE DOES NOT DECEIVE ME
Garbled, the beating
of San Simpliciano's bell
assembles on my window-panes.
The sound has no echo, takes a transparent
circle, brings to mind my name.
I write words and analogies, try
to trace a possible link between
life and death. The present is outside me,
will only in part be able to contain me.
The silence does not deceive me, the formula
abstract. What must come is here,
and if, love, it were not for you,
the future would already have that echo
I do not want to listen to, quivering as
sure as an insect of earth.
- Salvatore Quasimodo (from Debit and Credit)
It appears that it was all a misunderstanding.
What was only a trial run was taken seriously.
The rivers will return to their beginnings.
The wind will cease in its turning about.
Trees instead of budding will tend to their roots.
Old men will chase a ball, a glance in the mirror -
They are children again.
The dead will wake up, not comprehending.
Till everything that happened has unhappened.
What a relief! Breathe freely, you who suffered much.
CZESLAW MILOSZ , Selected Poems 1931-2004
SNOW IS FALLING
The funerals keep coming
more and more of them
like the traffic signs
as we approach a city.
Thousands of people gazing
in the land of long shadows.
A bridge builds itself
straight out in space.
TOMAS TRANSTROMER, The Great Enigma
It is silly -
This waiting for love
In a parlor.
When love is singing up and down the alley
Without a collar.
A MOMENT OF DIGNITY
Give me a moment of dignity
of pragmatic worth -
a tie, a laundered shirt,
a taxi signal flourish,
before I nestle pleasantly
into the rubbish.
HELENE JOHNSON , This Waiting for Love
Civilization is buying and selling people, and working them to death. Civilization is a vicious confidence game played on a field of provincial ignorance.
EL Doctorow, Creationists, selected essays 1993-200
Sometimes I ask myself, how it came about that I happened to be the one to discover the theory of relativity. The reason is, I think, that the normal adult never stops to think about space and time. Whatever thinking he may do about these things he will already have done as a small child. I, on the other hand, was so slow to develop that I only began thinking about space and time when I was already grown up. Naturally, I then went more deeply into the problem than an ordinary child.
The meaning is the use.
Most people today are aware of the history of genocide conducted against indigenous peoples. Within about one hundred years after the European encounter with the Americas, the Aztec population fell from 25 million to 1 million. Brazil alone lost half its tribes from 1900 to 1950, leaving about 2000,000 Indians from an estimated 2.5 million in 1500. The North American native population in the current area of the United States fell from 1 million to virtual extinction in 400 years.
This horrific loss, repeated around the world, has increased in the twentieth century with an even more effective systematic cultural annihilation. More than half the world's 15,000 indigenous languages have disappeared, and only 5 to 10 percent of the remainder are likely to survive another 50 years. It is not necessary to slaughter people to destroy their culture. Severing their ties to their land, undermining their spiritual values, seducing their youth with consumer goods, and prohibiting their languages in schools have proven equally devastating
from The Bioneers, Kenny Ausubel (1997) an excellent anthem to earth wisdom
Francisco X. Alarcon
Origin, Sixth Series, Issue 2 ~ Now Online
! Origin, Sixth Series, Issue One Spring 2007 ! ! In PDF Format ~ Please visit this page for information & download : Origin, Sixth Series, Issue 1~ Now Online