HERE AND NOW
SAME BULL, DIFFERENT CHUTE
I was just finishing up
my biscuits and sausage gravy
when two Leon Valley police officers
walked in, both kind of pear-shaped,
as Leon Valley, being a small suburb of the ciy,
has not nearly the pay scale or physical job requirements
of the city within which it is subsumed
they sat at the table to the right of me,
all jingly with all the tools of their trade
hung up on their utility belt...
from a table to the left of me,
a tall, granite-faced fella with a sweat-stained cowboy hat
and a basso-profondo voice that seemed to come
from some deep, dark cavern beneath his boots,
said, "Howdy, boys"
the officers said howdy back and asked,
and the tall man said, in his voice from the center of the earth,
"Same bull, different chute"
and I was thinking, first, how goddamn cool is that,
and then, by god, there must be no more than ten people
in the whole damn state of Texas who can say that
and not sound stupid, and here I sit,
next to one of them
I started listening then to the tall man and the two other fellas,
wanting to hear more of that great voice
saying cool things, but, mostly, he talked
about the goddamn newspaper and the stupid reporters
and how he called them and threatened
to cancel his subscription if they didn't quit
all their commie reporting, and talk such as that
seems he only had one good line
but then, later, I stopped at the supermarket
on my way to our Sunday morning
newspaper reading marathon
and I notice a fat-assed man and a fat-assed woman
walking in front of me, noticing the tender way
the man put his hand on the woman's butt,
stroking it and patting it as they walked
and I was thinking, damn, ain't it great
when people get what they want in life, and
This poem is by Wanda Coleman, taken from her book, Heavy Daughter Blues. The book was published by Black Sparrow Press in 1991.
Born and raised in the Watts section of Los Angles, Coleman, even as a welfare mother, continued her struggle to be a writer. She broke into the profession through writing screenplays, eventually earning an Emmy for a teleplay. Author of four books of poetry, Coleman works as a medical secretary/transcriptionist while continuing to write and publish.
I.S. In the Purple Felt Hat (3)
street of wine house of thrill
walnut corridors & double dead-bolted doors/a
dingy hoover avenue hideout
eyes/having had me have to have me
come across me at a local ink spot
"I want it again"
i can barely balance the tray of drinks
under his scorchinig scrutiny
danger in ebony skin and ebony moustache
the purple felt fedora and daring ebony leather /criminal of the
stalks the cconer pocket (cunt musk)
"I never expected to see you again"
i collect the dollar tip, tuck it into my bra
he hangs until closing. we leave together
i will quit this waitress tomorrow - leave no trail
tonight I'm out to get -even/repay a debt in flesh
(a thigh for a thigh - a truth for a truth)
"how man other women have you raped"
"a few - but you are something special"
a part-time pimp
he withholds copulaton - use it the way corporate execs
use perks/seduction into social slavery -
he goes against his nature enough to change his
i'm fifty below zero having got my got he's mine -
mine always. sobs my name
Flight of the California Condor (3)
over ham & eggs they jaw about how it was
before the Dodgers hit town in '58
the old downtown hang-outs
and the 10 cent mug of java
the old white men of L.A. tip their hat
say, "so long"
and move further west
Admiring the Dark
dark is staying dark longer every night
as July heads for the back door
impatientely taps its fiery little feet
I enjoy the dark morning,
by the big window
looking out to the dark
of night waning
watching the new day
gathering in the east,
just a hint,
a bare little shadow
of light remembered,
almost lost in the ambient glow
of clouds softly lit from below
by the city's night illuminations,
clouds always glowing from below
in a city of a million of a half people
fearful of the dark -
porch lights lit all night,
motion lights flashing bright
with every rustly of leaves by the wind,
every twitter of a bird, street lights,
security lights, night lights
that let us sleep in semi-darkness,
certain that whatever evil
lurks outside the luminance we wrap
around our sleeping body
will be as frightened by the light
as we are by the dark
and will stay away
it is the way we have lived
with the dark since fire-tenders
maintained the flames
that kept us safe at night
from the earliest history
of our kind...
sitting in my well-lit cafe,
typing in the glow of computer electrons,
I admire the beauty of the night,
while looking past the dark
to each pool of light around,
calculating the distance between pools,
clocking how quickly I could race the dark
from one bright pool to the next
if I had
A little shout-out to the paranoids among us.
SMALL DREAMS PASS BY UNNOTICED
I'm thinking soft this morning
I'm thinking soft this morning
soft autumn breeze on sun-warmed skin,
the soft middle of fresh-baked bread,
the soft fur behind a kitten's ear
and under its chin,
the fresh smell of soft sheets
on a wedding bed,
the soft squeeze of a woman,
the velvet slide down her back
to the rounded slope of her rear,
the rise of her breasts,
on the soft edge of sleep,
the moist center of her calling,
and the damp cheeks of my son at four,
eyes wet from a bully's taunts
as I held him close,
"you are a good person," I tell him,
my voice a soft whisper in his ear,
"and a strong, brave boy
whose mom and dad love him."
I'm thinking soft this morning,
missing the touch of days brighter
and softer than today
DEN OF INIQUITY
What I'm supposed to be doing
this is the time of day
when I usually demonstrate my bonafides
as a poet
by pontificating on cue
and the problem today is I can't remember
if a cue is a nudge and a wink
or the long striker stick
used to reposition colored and numbered balls
on a green felt table
in a brisk game of pocket billards -
pocket pool I would have said
but that construction is often construed
to denote another game
which complicates things
since i'm not sure now
if I should start writing
or amble over to Fat Annie's for a pick-up game
which reminds me of several good
I could write about if I knew that's
what I'm suppsed to be doing
at this exact moment
but since I don't know for sure,
I won't write anything,
but that's okay since I didn't want to write
a poem this morning
if Fat Annie's is open this early
I might resolve the question
by connoting that's what I'm supposed to be doing...
there is a moon hang pale
like a sliver of shaved soap
in the dark, night-tide sky
that cares nothing about my poem
or any lack thereof
Annie's cooler is full of ice-cold
Orange Crush and Grapette
that would suit me much more
than than a hostage poem
so that' where I'm gonna
Next I have three short poems by Guillaume Apollinair, taken from his book Alcools, published by Wesleyan University Press in 1995. The poems were translated by Donald Revell. It is a bilingual book, with the original French and English translation on facing pages.
Apollinair was an infuential poet, playwright and critic in the late 19th-early 20th century. Like his contemporary, Blaise Cendrars (the inspiration for my own book, Places and Spaces, of travel poems), Apollinair was a world traveler and wrote many travel poems.
On the coast of Texas
Between Mobile and Galveston there is
A big garden filled with roses
There is also a mansion
It is one big rose
A woman walks there often
Alone in the garden
When I cross the lime-tree road
We are face to race
Because she is a Mennonite
Here roses and her clothing have no buttons
My jacket is missing two buttons
The lady and I are almost one religion
The gypsy foretold
Our two lives thwarted by the nights
We told her goodbye
And Hopefulness sprang from holes in the ground
Heavy as a circus bear
Love danced when we commanded
The blubird lost its featehrs
Mendicant friars lost their prayers
A person knows damn well he's damed
But hope of loving along the way
Compels us to consider hand in hand
The words the gypsy meant to say
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 of fire
Oh autumn the autumn ambushed the summer
In the fog I saw two shadows go
the Saturday morning crowd
at the coffeehouse,
is not conducive
to poetic exploration
so I fall back
to yonder years when
I shot a 45-caliber pistol
at a turtle
in the Arroyo Colorado
about six miles from my house
the turtle was a tiny green-shelled
reptile floating provocatively
on the surface of the water
which in those days
before herbicide runoff
was not a harbinger of death
to creatures large and small
except fish which would be a harbinger
of death to you if you are ever ate one
a place where in the old days
I learned to swim in the murky green
currents and never died
in those days being a harbinger
of death to numerous bottles and cans
with my 22-caliber rifle and pistol
I had never fired a heavy-duty piece
like the 45 which I borrowed
from a friend and wanted to
which I did, firing a volley of hard hitting
slugs which caused a mighty stirring
in the water around the turtle
while the turtle floated away, unimpressed,
in its placid green-back
dreams of turtle soup
fading away as I returned the 45
to the friend from whom I had borrowed it
and turned back to the hunt for frogs
at midnight, their pale little
legs delicious when fried and tasting
like small chickens, much better
than turtle soup anyway
content to understand that due to
my incompetence there was no likelihood
of a future for me in sniper alley, or
as a serial killer or fearsome terrorist,
my life as a fearsome bureaucrat
SWIMMING UPSTREAM IN A DOWNSTREAM WORLD
December night in my neighborhood
winter night in the last moment
before dusk falls,
the sky is clear, light blue,
like the "it's a boy" blankets
you get at the hospital
to warm a new-born son,
almost tansparent blue
moon bright in the soft sky,
not full, flattened a little on one side
like a globe, flattened at the south pole
so it won't roll off your desk,
Antarctica folded in on itself
a chill wind blowing from the top of the hill,
raising a shower of golden leaves
from trees long the creek
light winter-home, taste of chimney smoke
in the air
ten degrees cooler than the numbers
on the thermometer read
a new year approaches
just a few dawns away
one rotation ending
as another begins,
circles within circles
within larger circles still
as our moon circles,
bringing dark to light night skies,
bringing day and night
circling our sun,
bringing singing birds of spring,
summer's meadow flowers, tangy taste
of autumn leaves, chill winds that blow in winter
even as our sun
and all its brother-sister stars
turn on the universal axis
of everything we can know,
but maybe not for always,
as we may someday know of other
cirles, turns, rotations, there now
but that we cannot see
and the All we know will grow again
and we, in our knowing, will grow again,
even as we shrink ever smaller
in the everything there is
circles within circles
within even larger circles still...
"it seems we're just running in circles,"
and how true
and how grand that is
It occurs to me, late as usual, that I have not properly credited my wife, Dora Ramirez Itz, for her help in editing and proofing my blogs. So, thank you, Dee.
EVEN THE DISBELIEVER SEARCHES FOR BELIEF
there is no God
there is no God,
but do we not, in our search
for all knowledge and final truth
an approximation of God,
what is God
but the alpha and omega,
the perfect final
of all, including truth.
you search, the philosopher adds,
because you believe
that there is an end to all
your belief and your search for the truth
that is all truth
no different than that
of the Hindu holy man sitting
cross-legged on a mountain peak
contemplating his way
to the One at the center of the All,
or, the monk in his cell
flagellating his bloody back
because he thinks pain will clear the pathway
to the presence of God, or,
the Methodist minister who does good works
because he thinks God notices
those who do good
and seeks desperately that notice,
like yours, all of them a search for the God
of final things, like
the Greeks searched for God
through the creation of ideals,
gods like men,
men like gods, the ideal of creation
there is no God
except the one who exists
as the most basic craving of our humanity,
the one who urges our rational self
to disbelieve so as to protect
the truth of our
that essence which spirits away
to other realms when our rational self
Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountains, Chisos Basin
The Texas Big Bend, as I recall it in this painting.
I WANT A DONUT
I said, I want
not a carrot stick
or a celery stalk
not a bowl of moose munch
no cold little
not even a
don't want it
I want a good ol'
glazed Dixie Cream
you gotta fight back
or the older you get
the less you get
Lost Jigger of gin
Many readers love him. About the same number hate him. I enjoy reading his dark, bleak, wrong side of life poems because in them, you always know his hero will, like the Dude., abide.
What I most admire about him as a creative artist is that he created a persona he maintained consistently in both his poetry and his fiction, breaking his cover, but only a little, near the end when he know his end was coming.
Who was Bukowski, really, beneath the persona he created? Maybe his ex-wives knew.
Here are two of his poems, the first as philosopical as I've ever read him, and the second back to his familiar turf.
Both of these are from his collection Open All Night, published by Harper Collins, in 2003. Like so many of his collections, it was published after his death.
THIS IS A FACT
in the company of fools
we relax upon
enjoy bad food, cheap drinks,
mingle with the men and
in the company of fools
we throw days away like
in this company
our music is loud and our
we have nothing to lose
but our selves.
we are now
THERE'S ONE IN EVERY BAR
the pathetic squirrel drinks Johnny Walker Red
at Stinky's Bar & Grill,
in love with the cocktail waitaares
he watches her body
he dreams of her on his sofa
crossing her legs and giggling
he dreams of her drunk in his bedroom
he dreams of victory
he leaves her very large tips
he says very little to her.
the pathetic squirrel dislikes
how crude and obvious the other
and he's delighted when
she laughes at them
and says things like
"back off, Marty!"
the pathetic squirrel loves the large bow
on the back of her short dresss.
he leaves each night
knowing he will be sick on the job
the next day.
the pathetic squirrel is in love with the
but ask her about him
and she'll confide:
"he makes me sick! he's a complete asshole!"
an she'll be right.
but he still has his dream
and that might be enough in itself
because he doesn't realize that
she'a a complete asshole
I did not intend to do a third Bukowsky here, but when putting the book back in the shelf, it opened to this piece, Self-appraisal, such a rarity for this poet. But, of course, not as himself, even as he recognizes the end of his life is approaching, but as the persona the created, his alter ego through out all his poems, Chinaski, who will live far beyond his time, in books published long after his death. Chinaski, not him, but in his mind, I think, more than him.
parodies himself, romanticizes himself.
he's in a small room again,
always in a small room, closing the door,
closing out the world.
in his 70s he's still trying to over-
come his brutal childhood
and he's never had a real understanding
his writing is uneven
and even at its best there is a feeling
of nothing new.
he has been imitated by hordes
who find his simple style
he now has a home, a swimming
pool, a spa, a fine car
and a wife who feeds him
he is a recluse
and if you apparoach him at the
there is a chance you will be
ignored or insulted.
his only visitors appear to be
film directors and
upon his death
perhaps a small place will be
made for him
in world literature
where he will sulk in the
shadow of Celine, Hemingway, Jeffers
and Henry Miller.
God rest his alcoholic
and now let us go on to
Now, A couple of images from the central Texas hills. One, a picture from the road of the legendary longhorn, and the other, from the campus of Texas State University.
(a found poem: NewYork Times, Front Page, Januayr 14, 2009)
PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW
on a motorbike
an ordinary question
"Are you going to school?"
then he pulled her burqa
from her head
and sprayed her face
with burning acid
and bravely back in school,
"They want us to be stupid things."
in all his cruel and hideous
Another Practice Board
Another favorite poet, Polish winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literatrure, Weslawa Szymborska. The piece is from her book View With a Grain of Sand, publishedby Harcourt Brace in 1993. Translation was by Stanislaw Barqanczak and Clare Cavanagh.
UNDER ONE SMALL STAR
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I'm mistaken, after all.
Please don't be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each
My apologies to past lovers for thinking that the latest is
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from
I apologize to those who wait in railroad stations for being
asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for lauging from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don't rush to you bearing a
spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table's four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don't pay me much attentioin.
Dignity, please be magnanimours.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the
occasional thread from you train.
Soul, don't take offense that I've only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere
My apologies to everyone that I can't be each woman and
I know I won't be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that athey might seem light.
what this poem means
and so do you
but it would be so great
if we could get
some rainy afternoon
in a coffeehouse
on a tree-lined boulevardin
in a quiet neighborhood
until you understood
what I wrote
and I knew what
Clown for hire
SCATTERED IN THE WIDE NIGHT SKY
in the wide night sky
are pinpoints of light
to worlds like
pining the universal spark
and on others
at its most simple
protected from the
and on a relatively few
creatures who strive
like you and me
like some people
a product of longing
in the lonely night
for a companion
of our best nature
Crackpots of the world unite
in a cowboy
from a quart
some kind of
and one hand
against his palm
like Bob Dole
in his clenched
like Bob Dole
that Bob Dole
a fine president
if he hadn't
and 143 years
what is it
and their dicks
like just another
all the time
or too married
for any man
to mess with
put your dicks
back in your
for christ's sake
supposed to be
on your dearly
who ought to be
across the head
three of four
you get it on
A funny story before the poem.
During the last years of my professional career, I had offices in about 15 cities in South Texas, including Del Rio. I visited each office at least once a quarter so that local staff could know me and know I was interested in what they were doing. eating breakfast every morning at a cafe next to my hotel, I noticed I was getting extaordinary service with every meal.
Kenny Rogers was filming a movie near the city at the time of one of my quartely visits. At the time, my hair and beard were considerably longer and grayer. I learned later that one of the staffr at the cafe had become certain and had convinced the rest of the staff that I was Kenny Rogers.
not the only time I was mistaken for rogers, none of the other times led to such excellent breakfasts.
Now the poem.
ON THE RIVER
and four sausage links -
five dollars, ninety-eight cents
in the very early morning
in Del Rio, Texas,
County Seat, Val Verde County,
on the river, 150 miles west of San Antonio
southeast of E Paso,
with a population of about 45,000,
largest collection of Texas bodies and souls
between the two, not counting Cuidad Acuna
on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande,
where the lights in Boy's Town
make cigarettes glow a sparkly,
and a slender, young whore
dances naked in a dim-lit courtyard
among scattered tables
with 16-year-old boys, college carousers,
oil-tattooed roughnecks, leather-faced cowboys
and fat businessmen belching beer
and three-dollar cigar smoke, watching
ever slow, sweat-oiled move,
every one of them, man and boy,
looking for something at a place
where they're sure to never
look, but don't touch
for touching costs more
than the price of a bottle of Mexican beer...
but not a lot more
Finishing with another practicve board.
PATH TO ENLIGHTMENT
intend to put my brain
on a leash this
because I'm thinking
I want to be taken seriously
as a poet and adult human being
of the masculine persuasion
and nobody takes nobody serious
who's always running off at the brain
like I'm prone to do,
chasing every little bushy-tailed squirrel
that happens to cross my path
making it hard to get to the end of that path,
difficult to find the enlightment
that one naturally assumes of a human being
of the masculine persuasion,
and a poet to boot...
never even close
chasing squirrels instead...
but, second-guessinig myself,
something us chasing-every-squirrel types
rarely do, and never without good cause,
I'm reconsidering my decision
to adopt the leash-constrained mode,
thinking to abandon the chase
for the mantle of seriosity expected of poets
and adult human beings
of the masculine persuasion
because there are advantages
to the chase-every-squirrel state of mind,
like flushing out a bird bath,
getting rid of all the leaves and algae
and bird poop that collects
in the presence of birds and shallow water,
giving it a good flush, a good scraping out,
leaving behind clear water, water free
of entrenched distraction, water renown
for its clear thinking, water that knows its own mind -
and I'm thinking that is a clear advantage
for the chasing-every-squirrel state of mind
how is one to find enlightment
when the path is strewn with leaves and algae
and philosophical bird poop?
just won't work...
if you want to find enlightment,
you have to clear the path, flush the pump
like you flush a bird bath and that's what
a chasing-every-squirrel state of mind,
freed from the leash and on the chase,
is good for, stirring up such a frenzy,
a regular misdirection that blows
all the extraneous crap out of the way,
leaving a clear path,
just over the next rise...
Another practice board
A REAL LOSS T0 POETRY
it was a golden night,
behind thick, low clouds
reflecting back to the ground
and streets and houses,
the golden light of the city,
never sleeping golden light
filtering through the trees
like spun gold gold, orange shadows
in the golden night,
and down at the creek
water flowed in golden bubbles of light
while the crickets cricked
and the frogs farted
and, oh crap,
haven't I done this before
and who cares,
poetry is serious business
and ought to be about serious things
like, how about that helium?
if I ate a ham and helium sandwich,
would I rise to the ceiling
like those balloons they give to kids
at the supermarket who let go of the balloon
and the balloon rises to the ceiling
which is lined with balloons given to kids
who let the balloons go,, red, blue, green,
what a bunch of colors lining
the supermarket ceiling
and what if I ate two ham and helium sandwiches,
or maybe even three,
would I float away into the sky if outside
where there is no supermarked ceiling to keep me safe,
would this be a new mode of transportation,
great airplanes guided through the sky
by teams of pilots gorging on ham and helium sandwiches
and what about the porpoise, Einstein of the sea,
Aristotle with fins, Plato with a snout and a jolly smile
and what do you call more than one porpoise -
is it porpiees, maybe, and what about a gathering
of porpiees, not a school, because that's fish
and porpiees are not fish, and not a herd
because that's cows and horses and sheep,
and porpiees are none of those and not a swarm,
cause that's bees, and not a flock
cause that's geese and chickens and not a pod
cause that's whales (which I think is a silly name
for somethng as vastly gargantuan as a congregation
of whales - it would be much better if we called such a gathering
a "tundra" or something else equally as vastly gargantuan,
but that's just me) and at least whales are mammals
like porpiees and not fish, even though, like whales,
porpiees like the water and frolic all about in it, at least
the porpiees I saw at Seaworld like to frolic all about
in the water, so maybe a group of porpiees
who travel together might be called a "frolic".
but that's just a suggestion...
and anyway, I could go on and on because
there's lots and lots of important things
poetry should deal with instead
of getting stuck in frou-frou poems
about golden nights and cloudy skies
and absent stars and vanished moons
and crickets and frogs...
and what about those frogs and the way they mate
like a honkytonk in Amarillo, has anyone ever written
a poem about that - well, in fact, I did, but no one else
and that's a real loss to poetry...
I'm telling you, a real loss
Showing off several of my boards and my new haircut (even though, actually and on purpose, it looks exactly like my old haircut)
I wrote this at the request of a very good friend who had just experienced a terrible and unexpected loss.
FOR KATIE'S NANA
4/3/1998 - 6/22/2010
like a star
is born and brightly
through the darkest
in the universal winds
its alloted time
and all the constellations
that burned with it
dim in a fellowship
until grief fades,
consumed by memories
forever closely kept...
for what more
can we ask of a child
than to be a star
like a duck hunt
you really begin to fly
in the weeds
shoots your fuzzy butt
right out of the sky
art by Vincent Martinez
These poems are fom One Hundred Poems From the Chinese, collected by Kenneth Rextoth. The book was published by New Directions in 1971.
No translator is credited for any of the poems.
The first two poems are by Tu Fu, one of the greatest of the Chinese poets.
A hawk hovers in air.
Two white gulls float on the stream.
Soaring with the winds, it is easy
To drop and seize
Birds who foolishly drift with the current.
Where the dew sparkles in the grass,
The spider's web waits for its prey.
The processes of nature resemble the business of men.
I stand alone with ten thousand sorrows.
The bright, thin, new moon appears,
Tipped askew in the heavens.
It no sooner shines over
The ruined fortress than the
Evening clouds overwhelm it.
The Milky Way shines unchanging
Over the freezng mountains
Of the border. White frost covers
The garden. The chrysanatahemums
Clot and freeze in the night
Written a couple of years back, before routine became my preferred way to spend my day.
the source of my problem
that's my problem,
too much of it...
I haven't seen an Albanian gypsy
or heard the plaintive cry
of a river flattapotumus
or smelled the acrid stench
of burning filagabbit feathers...
looking around me in this restaurant
I see not a single Grenadian pirate
or Singhalese soul-snatacher,
just plain old moms and dads
and grandmas and grandpas
and little kids
with chocolate milk mustaches,
and the old guy in the corner,
typing on his computer, dripping grits
in his beard, muttering to himself about things
just another Sunday morning...
how is one to find a poem in a life
A personal reckoning of the day
We went to my brother’s funeral today.
In Victoria, in the Golden Crescent, center of the state’s Rice Belt, 178 miles either way. A short jaunt for Texas travel, but a difficult one going, late, racing time on small country roads.
We arrived near the end of the service, plenty of time for the essentials of funeral, time to comfort the living and learn the lessons offered by the dead. In my case, as we filed past the coffin to see my little brother, for the last time, in his box, to learn the tricks of time and its tides, the tricks that put him, the younger, in the box where I should be. He, who should have been last, leaving before me, making me the last.
And what of the last? What is to be made of my last?
I thought of the two of us and our lives as brothers. The four-year difference in ages meant that when we were young, it was rare for the two of us, outside home, to be at the same place at the same time. Meaning we grew up on different life tracks. His life led to a life of personal comfort. Comfort that, on my life track, I have never found.
I still, in the time left, I seek it, never expecting to find it. Seems I have always been a step behind satisfaction and comfort with where I am and what I’ve done. In my old age, I am a man of strict routine, routine that cushions me against the desperation and depression I expect to find around every corner.
And my routine has been broken now for two weeks, leaving me exhausted and on the edge of a quiet despair. My life, interrupted, focused almost exclusive around the inadequacy themes of my poetry, which I no longer write, and my art which I doubt will ever be as appreciated as the pleasure I take in it Too big, too unrestrained to ever fit on anyone wall, needing a large, pale wall in need of the color I can add to it, a mansion, perhaps Bill Gates has such a place, or something institutional, a university or a bank or an office building needing to bring life to their walls. But I don’t know Bill Gates or any institution interested in the work of a past-due amateur.
But I paint them anyway because of the pleasure each new piece brings me.
And the poetry – that is over, I think. Perhaps this prose is as close as I come. Never again for me, I’m afraid, the thrill of a mind running free and frantic to find new joy in old words and old ideas to jolt back to life.
And so this is it, not the poem I hoped to find in the day, but a report and a reflection of myself; gone to morn and comfort, finding also, as is almost always the case, variations on the stories of oneself.
The poem is self-explanatory as to the purpose of writing, my effort to find some truth in myself as final survivor of a family of five.
I hoped to be honest, but in one aspect, I was not, maybe, honest but incomplete.
I mention the despair and depression that always seems right around the corner,but I was not as specific as I could have been. I didn't name it.
It is a thing perhaps stronger for men of my age and history, growing up in an age of male domination, when it was thought and we males were expected to be in charge. Finding in our late years the shadows of a time coming when we will be in charge of nothing, not even our own bodies and minds.
The names of people know for many years, forgotten, the words, simple and well-known, that disappear (and for a writer, what worse than the lack of words), the fumbling fingers trying to turn the page of the daily newspaper, the car key that are gone from the counter (gone from where I know I last put them), the uncertain gait on a flat sidewalk, the dread of stairs, the ocassional explosive rage that comes and goes over trivial inconveniences.
These simple things, the first signs, we fear, of a time that might be coming. Assuming another five, maybe ever ten, years of life. For how many of those years will I be present and accounted for.
It is the word men of my age don't like to think about.
Dementia, the disappearing self.
the very proper lady in the black Sunday dress
the very proper lady
in the black Sunday dress
and jeweled necklace
and dangly earrings
blows her nose
into a tiny lace hindkerchief
and her eyes bulge
like a bug's or maybe
like a big spotted frog
caught wide awake on her lily pad at midnight
thinking silverfish thoughts,
and her ears, I swear, are flapping
and I'm tiinking, "holy shit"
her head's gonna explode like the bad guy's head
at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie
and I don't know if I should watch
or shield my eyes from the sight,
so I compromise and peek through my fingers
and watch as the pressure slowly eases
and her head shrinks back to regular size
and her ears lie supine at rest against her head
and her eyes slink back into mean little slits
like when she came, only I didn't notice then
like I do now...
that is one evil woman,
in her proper black dress and jewelry
and hanging earrings and, by gosh,
I'm glad she didn't blow up
or I'd probably have evil debris gunk
dripping all over me...
a pretty scary experience for this early in the morning,
but it is one of the reasons
I like to have breakfast here -
you meet the most interesting people,
and other creatures one can't be
entirely sure of
Art by Vincent Martinez
This is another piece from One Hundred Poems from the Chiniese, this one by Ou Yang Hsiu.
In the Sprintime I am always
Sorry, the nights are so short.
My lamp is burning out, the flame
Is low. Flying insects circle
About it. I am sick. My eyes
Are dry and dull. If I sit
Too long in one position,
All my bones ache. Chance thoughts from
I don't know where crowd upon me.
When I get to the end of a
Train of thought, I have forgotten
The beginning. For one thing
I retain I forget ten.
When I was young I liked to read.
Now I am too old to make
The effort. Then, too, if I come
Across something interesting
I have no one to talk to
About it. Sad and alone,
I sigh with self pity.
Another practice board
Over the course of a 30-year professional career I attended, often convened, many such meetings as this one.
there is a large crowd,
on several tables
a business breakfast meeting it seems,
for a congregation of insurance agents
(my guess, they look like insurance people)
mostly men in dress shirts and ties
and a couple of women frantically
over-compensating for lack of male genitalia...
at the head of the table,
a large red-faced man who appears to be the boss,
with the assurance of a person genetically in the dark,
telling sleep-deprived staff all about the Shinola
he don't know shit from, and beside him,
a mid-thirties blond, well-put-together, who
has a 17-year-old daughter at home
who's driving her nuts with skimpy dresses
and good-for-nothing boyfriends,
all this exposed to the world before the meeting began,
and now that it has, reveals herself to be
the boss's carry-on brain, taking over his Shinola punditry
to bring the meeting to order, providing such business
as there was scheduled to be
at this early morning business meeting
other eight at the table know
who knows what needs to be known
because their droopy-eyed attention to the boss's Shinola
is immediately replaced by edge-of-their-chair attention
when she starts talking, chewing reduced from a roat
to petite and silent chomp-chomps
as eggs and bacon slide quietly and respectfully
down alerllt and thoughtful gullets
I have been to, often convenec such meetings,
sat at the head of many such tables
spouting my own Shinola, killing time
until my right-hand brain finishes her poached egg
and fat-free milk and sets herself to take care of business,
while I relax, my job done for the day
This is an old board, but I don't remember ever posting it here.
Cortez Discovers Mexico
Poor little Pumpkin
among the trees