HERE AND NOW
Setting out in a couple days for a two week trip to a couple of my favorite cities to visit, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Durango, Colorado.
It's a function of age. When young, we chase new experience. As we get older (and maybe I'm just speaking for myself) we begin to value more the old experiences and the old places, memories like ghosts of the past, that were dear to us before. Always in the back of our minds that each return might be the last and thus are doubly valued.
So I will do in each place what satisfies me best, sitting, smelling new air, seeing and sometimes meeting new people. I'm easy, that's all it takes for me.
I'll try to document the trip with photos and stories, probably not not new ones, for it's the downside of frequently visiting favored places. Not so much changes.
Except for necessary but boring introductory stuff like this, most of the text in this post will come from, Places and Spaces, my book of travel poems.
Beginning, as it almost always does when traveling west, the 550 miles to El Paso. We will extend that Monday by an extra 50 miles to Los Cruces, New Mexico for our first over night stop.
So many times I've written of that first long day, I'll just pick one from the book.
This story begin as a short trip to Silver City in New Mexico, Silver City being promoted on the highway as an arts city. Not so true, though was, at least, a very good coffee shop. Disappointed otherwise in Silver City, the trip ended up being a large arc across the state and home again.
A drive in the country
558 miles and one time zone -
San Antonio to El Paso
a long day's drive in the country,
to the long-stretched fingers
of pink Chihuahua Desert
blue sky, blue on blue
on deep ocean blue sky,
to jagged clouds
dark and sharply racing
And little towns along the way,
Segovia, Sonora, Saragosa,
and Van Horn,
the miles and hours
and skies and hills
and all the little towns
on the ridge,
a line of dead trees,
oak blight killing scrub oak
remind me of a picture
I once saw
of a lone tree,
bare and burned,
among the ruins of Hiroshima
these trees like that,
reaching up, grasping at the sky
in the pasture below,
a mare and her foal eat grass
generous and green
The roadway, blasted through stony hills, in the rock walls on either side layers of geologic time...
near the top,
a woman and a man passed,
and down here, by my feet
a fish struggled,
from the sea
A large buck lying half in the grass, half on the road, muscle and blood and bone and heart against metal and plastic,
old times of open graze and new times of death on black tar
He, the buck, loser in a clash of kinds...
A diversion, a small back road to Fort Lancaster ruins, a narrow two-lane, high mesas on either side
zippity-flash crosses the road
skinny little legs pumping,
thin neck and head
high and proud,
like an arrow passing,
no coyote, no can catch
A cloud billows up from the Chisos Basin like a white rose opening to the sun, cane fields afire in Mexico, black smoke billowing, trucks move in behind the fire with cutters to harvest the cane to sweeten your coffee...
Approaching El Paso...
a roots CD mix
my son made for me -
Bela Fleck, Loudon Wainwright III,
and a woman I don't know
that I could and did
listen to for hours
The city long since outgrown its little desert-slash of river green, built now on wastelands and its connecting ribbon of interstate 10 at 5 p.m. a raceway of drivers from two countries and three states hurrying be home first, before the wasteland shits and home falls between the cracks
North 30 miles to Los Cruces, west 59 miles to Demings, 54 miles north again to Silver City, an easy day's drive, two to two and a half hours, not counting the 30 minutes to find my hotel after my GPS confidently and with great precision deposits me on top of a mountain five miles from the city
green desert all the way,
a rainy year disguising the stone-hard truth
below the green
smudge of mountains against the horizon,
left and right, front and rear,
New Mexico, a state of mountains
and deserts and neither ever very far
from wherever you might be
In the city - an arts and old downtown district are well-preserved and surprisingly populated for a Tuesday afternoon, students from the university and other interesting people crowd the sidewalk and busy street, two good bookstores and the best coffeehouse since San Antonio, strong WIFI signal, coffee with a kick, all very nice,
but the main attraction to me for coming was I had never been there before, a moot issue now since I am here, so, with the new day, a decision...
The national forest and the Catwalk and the Gila Monument Indian ruins are north - should I go north then return here at the end of the day or should I take and extra day and continue further north to loop around Albuquerque, passing through along the way, not just one, but two mountain ranges and forests...
As a creature subject to the allure of tasty food,
it will probably depend on how good breakfast is
here this morning
three horses crossing a green pasture,
grass high, up to their knees,
crossing single file, one after the other,
like carousel horses with somewhere to go
Chasing down a dirt road, pulling a cloud of grey dust behind, looking for a red iron bridge I saw from the highway
Never found it, instead of the bridge, a rabbit on the side of the road
not one of your cute little bunnies,
but a big, male hare, three feet tall, two feet,
not counting his ears standing proud and pink
and scissor sharp, starts to run when I drive up,
but stops as I stop, watches as I ease the car forward,
reaching for my camera, poses as I snap off a couple of pictures
Dissatisfied so far with my drive, not having found the mountains and forest experience I came for, I decide to take a loop that will lead me right through the middle of the Gila Mountains and National Forest
Hwy 159 off 180 - a twisty-turnsy , upsy-downsy road, but well maintained, a two-lane black top
But after three miles it turns to one-lane and becomes
ever more twisty-turnsy, upsy-downsy
Eight miles in I come to the lost little village of Mogollon - originally a mining town, now I think it must be, the boarded up entrance to the mine visible on the side of the road
Federal Witness Protection's prime hide out it seems, for persons wanted by the "Mob" and other forces of evil
10 to 12 structures
including an old rock museum
and several well-maintained houses lining the road,
nice rustic houses, beautiful gardens
A very strange place, a nice place if you want to get away from it all
A one-lane bridge seperates Mogollon from the National Forest.
The paved road and a Forest Service dirt and rock road begins, very rough. Unsure as to how far the dirt road goes before returning to asphalt, for none of this is on my map, I have to decide, should I go forward or should I turn back. Should I see what comes next, which might be worth the whole trip or should I avoid what might be not so good.
Disinclined by nature to ever back up, I press forward.
The road travels along the bottom of a deep canyon alongside a dry creek. And it is about that time that it begins to rain and I become aware of a large, very black cloud hovering overhead.
I know from experience what happens when hillsides and dry creeks and heavy rain come together, I am relieved when the road starts to rise, leaving the canyon and the dry creek behind.
The higher I climb, the heavier the rain falls, and the slushier and slipperier the road becomes. Finally after an hour of twisting and turning and climbing and sloshing and slipping, the rain stops and the sun comes out and I can see the great gush of muddy water rushing down the hillside, building new channels as it races from the top to the dry creek below that I am no longer driving alongside. Thoughts of mudslides intrude for a moment, until I decide that I'm high enough to slide down the mountain on top of the mud and not beneath it.
Setting aside mudslides and all other hesitations - it is not further back than forward - I come to a break in the trees and look out and see that I am on a high ridge, above the clouds, churning white and billowy below.
Going down now, still on the dirt-rocky-rough road, a herd of deer cross the road in front of me.
a very large buck
and 25 to 30 doe and fawns,
fluty white and brown stub-tails flicking as they run,
all together, as a group coming down the mountain
in great bounds, then back up the other side of the road,
like winged creatures
who through fate or folly lost their wings
but still try to fly,
almost succeeding with each great leap
passing trough a burned out portion of the forest,
pine and aspen, tall and limbless, black as the coal
they have become, while they reach for the sky
I stop and listen to the wind, all around deep-forest quiet
but for the wind through these poor, standing-dead
Writing today from Santa Fe, I update current journey to yesterday.
Our original plan was to do over six hundred miles on the first day of travel. After five hours of driving, we decided our initial plan was too ambitious, so, instead of going on to Los Cruces as planned we spent the night in Van Horn, a couple hundred miles from our original plan.
But it was an enjoyable stop, spending the night at a hotel where we have stayed often in the past, the El Capitan, one of a number of hotels an architect rescued from ruin and restored to their former glory in the 1930's. There are three in Texas. We have stayed at two, the El Capitan. an old cattle and oil baron hangout, and the Gage in Marathon, a traditional railroad hotel. The third is in Marfa, the largest, where we have not stayed.
Up early yester day and did the four hundred and something miles to Santa Fe where it's 33 degrees and sunny with a fierce north wind. Today will be spend walking around the plaza and watching other tourists discover the city.
Tomorrow we will be off to Durango, Colorado, where we will spend three days before heading home, with a night on the way in Albuquerque and another night in Van Horn.
Folllowing a very busy day in Santa Fe...
I return to the past and a trip we made to Denver, Colorado.
My wife and I have different travel preferences. I like to drive, she prefers to fly. So I usually head out a couple of days before her and we meet at our agreed destination.
My dog, Reba, and I traveled 35 states together before she died, and she was with me on this one, riding along in the back, or, if she thought I needed help, alongside me in the front seat. She was a good travel companion
Since the first day of any trip west involves the many miles need to get out of the state, I start, from the book, on the second day.
A quiet Sunday morning, just like in the movies. Another 500 miles and I'm getting started a little later than I'd like.
But there's plenty of time.
after about 40 miles
I look behind,
a long straight road, gradually rising
The wind is blowing hard again and, like most of yesterday, it's blowing hard against me.
little twisters cross brown fields
on both sides of the highway,
throwing up clouds of dust that move with the wind,
but one, a smaller one, forms a perfect funnel
about 5 feet across, keeping its shape
for a hunded feet or more above the ground
a tumbleweed the size of a beach ball
blows in front of me, seems to pace the car
for several seconds, then crosses the road
Green fields, perfect circles, planted to fit the path of the irrigation sprinklers that circle, circle, circle, spraying their water like a merry-go-round whose horses spit as they past
The perfect circles of irrigated green are laid across the landscape of dry and dusty brown, the part that lives or dies dependinhg on the rain.
Passing through the little derelict towns that break the tedium of grey highway behind and ahead, with brown fields on either side.
The fate off small rural towns in America, death and decay as agriculture becomes too big for little family farmers and ranchers and the little towns that sustained them.
One little wide spot in the road, I don't remember the name, had fifteen structures visible from the highway. All were abandoned, collapsing hulks. Nothing left of the town but the sign on the highway.
As I pass through Las Vegas, New Mexico, I see the first snow-topped mountains making the bowl that holds Santa Fe to the west.
further north, as we cross into Colorado,
the winter grass is almost white, the almost white
of sand on gulf beaches, the white broken here and there
by red barns like red umbrellas on a vast beach
that has no sea
Just past Pueblo, I turn on the radio and hear my first news of the severe winter storm that's on the way
as I approach Colorado Springs, I see black storm clouds
pouring over the mountain crests
I enter the front of the storm,
rain, sleet, snow, and fog, all at once
in alternating bursts
traffic slows down and I fall in line,
an inexperienced driver in snow,
I am pleased with the slow-down
Traffic conditions improve slightly and I begin the long, slow crawl through Denver, find my hotel, register, walk Reba in the rain.
I abandoned this post about half way through our most recent journey, after days of driving 500 to 600 miles a day, too exhausted to even take my laptop out of it's bag.
Home now, I'm tying to get back in the flow, having learned a couple of lessons.
First, travel is much easier for the young than for the old.
Second, going back too often to those places once held dear, means that those places become as worn and uninteresting as those who held them dear. This is our last trip, we decided, is our last to Santa Fe and Durango. Next time, we go north and east.
Third, COVID has been a disaster for for service industries, especially for hotels and restaurants.
Hotels are bad, but worse for me was restaurants. I am a traveler who enjoys new eating places and new food.
We discovered in the last week and a half that restaurants, when you can find one open is understaffed, with limited menus, the food haphazardly prepared. This disappointment applied to several place where we dined often in the past and were looking forward to dining again.
The exception was a Mexican restaurant in Cuba, New Mexico. El Bruno's easy to miss and not promising from the highway, but offering friendly and eager servers and the best Mexican food I remember ever eating, including both New Mexican style and TexMex. We had stopped there before and made a point of taking the route through Cuba that would give us a chance to stop again. El Bruno's was the sole exception to disappointment elsewhere.
Setting aside our most recent, mostly disappointing, journey, this next story from Places and Spaces is about a trip East, aiming for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a long drive for me and my dog, Reba, with a side stop in Columbus, Ohio to pick up Dee at the airport there before continuing on together.
The trip, going and coming back in late autumn, is mainly through the southern states, so I titled the story, On the Cusp of Confederate Winter.
The first day is 545 miles through Dallas and East Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas, A lot of traffic on I-35, the first shovel of asphalt "Ike we Like" laid out in 1950-someting, but otherwise mostly boring.
a pick-up puling a horse trailer,
alone in the back, one horse,
golden mane and tail and eyelashes flaring
in the wind
a hawk slips slowly from the air
to land on a fence post,
sees all with yellow eyes that view
all that moves as potential prey
Through Dallas where snotty right-wingers go to get even snottier, whiter and even more right wing.
exurbs follow I-30 to the northeast,
a paved-over world,
the only grass that survives
struggles in the cracks in the concrete
I like Waxahachie because the name makes my mouth feel good and the only reason to say it is when you're passing through it..
orange sky like mist
through a forest of orange leaves
Then Texarkana, where a line down the the middle of the downtown street divides one state from the other.
lakes and small ponds and waterfowl,
a crane passes over the road,
low, long neck outstretched,
wings spread like a dark shadow
against a nearly dark sky
red sky in my rearview,
the road like a tunnel
through the dark,
tall thick forest on either side
Unlike a previous night in Little Rock years ago, in the only hotel I could find, a dark and dingy, a sleazy, rundown dump in a slummy-looking neighborhood where, if I was the kind to carry a handgun, I would have slept with it under my pillow. This night, a clear, bug-free night in a well-lit neighborhood.
Reba quickly asleep on her little bed in the corner. Eleven hours on the road, I would join her but for the woman singing badly in the next room over.
The second day, Nashville, bringing the trip's total so far to 940 miles.
I wanted to write about the forest,
the colors, yellow and gold, and the red-brown color
the Crayola people used to call Indian Red or Indian Brown
and in the middle of all that gold and yellow and red-brown Indian whatever, some low bush that's scattered among the trees like little fires burning in the woods
and I wanted to write about the flock of ducks
that flew over in perfect V formation,
near enough to the ground that each duck could be seen
and counted as an individual, close enough to the ground
that I could hear the flapping of their wings
and the mutter-quacks among the rank
and I wanted to write about the hills,
reminding me of the hill country at home,
but soft hills, none of the hard face of caliche and cactus
and mesquite, just soft, soft forested hills,
trunks climbing close together
and I wanted to write about the sun in the morning
and how it lit the colors of the trees
and covered the sky from mid-afternoon,
bring shadow and mystery and darker colors of the night
But for two days, through two states, I have been unable to find a national newspaper.
Leaving Nashville behind...
the colors now
are mostly shades of red and brown
on a hill surrounded on four sides by forest
a horse enjoys a pasture all his own
in a dell, green as spring,
a small church,
white clapboard with a white, wooden steeple
rising twice the church's height
on a hill behind the church,
rows of tombstones in rank and file,
climbing he hillside like steps to an afterlife that,
if we are all lucky, will look exactly like this little green dell
with its little white church
Losing an hour and running an hour behind...
I stop at a park just across the state line
so Reba can walk and pee
just across the highway
three cows line a ridge, dark cutouts
against the sky
the road rises in front of me
bordered, as always, by red and brown forests
at the top.
a silver-dollar moon on a pale blue sky
Skipping ahead, we enter Virginia.
a white house on a hill,
surrounded by leaf-bare trees,
and behind them, mountains
showing bits and pieces through the fog
on the road, short, thick-foliaged pines stand
crowded side by side, like spectators
standing shoulder to shoulder watching
a passing parade
or, I think of the hundred of clay soldiers
lined in rank after rank
buried with their Chinese emperor
and on the road, fog drifts between the trees,
and in the shifting fog, the soldiers seem to move,
gray-coated soldiers coming alive while their rebel cause
lies in bloody dust
This post is already too long and would be even much longer if I continue with the last half of this story which took us down the Blue Ridge Parkway and several Southern states as we drove home.
And, in the end, well done
there is pleasure in travel
in routine and the everyday
second table from the rear,
by the window, back to the river,
looking out on the corner of Martin and Soledad,
San Antonio, Texas
in the slow lane,
looking for a poem
in all the old familiar places
I've been sentenced to a 30-day term in Facebook jail, so, having nothing else to do, this could turn out to be a long post.
My offense this time was calling a dumbass a dumbass. Of course I called the dumbass a dumbass a number of times, determined by the Facebook Bot who rules us all, to be "bullying." My defense - reiteration is necessary when trying to communicate with the stupid, as in this case.
But the real dumbass is Facebook with their censorship by computerized keyword. All of my previous incidents of being blocked would have been recognized by any mentally competent human being as satire or parody. Facebook's little program doesn't allow any such humor or plain old human review.
And perhaps that's the scariest part of it, censoship by computer, worse than "1984" which at least had human oppressors who could be overthrown, censorship beamed from the sky, untouched human hands, even the oppressors oppressed along with the rest of us. Computer systems enforcing self-fulling prophesies.
Which is my second source of peevishness, there being no recourse to such misplaced censorship. The big Facebook in the sky says what it says and no questioning is allowed or acknowledged.
Which leads me to this...
Pimple-brained, nut-cake, nitwitted, thieving, sourball licking, witch-sucking, loony politic other guys
the blue open sky,
the gentle -falling leaves
the sparrows hip-hopping
branch to branch
the church-clothed-clot-herd folk
walking bible in hand,
childen skip skipping so Sunday School prayers
now I sit me down to eat
and if I choke before I swallow
Heimlich me quick
and don't you tarry
cause I'd rather walk than be carried on a stretcher
on this autumn-bright autumn Sunday morn
in the southern provinces of you esse way
but politics swallows my brain today,
but trying to walk lightly slightly brightly
around the subject
because I hate political poison poems
and I know if I get to talking about all those
lunatic political other guys
I'll never stop
I say to myself
it is a beautiful open-sky Sunday autumn day
that shouldn't be spoiled by such thinking about
as politi-chips and unsalted pretzel brains
look to the sky instead,
to the birds,
to the trees and the leaves
to the ground of many colors
it is Sunday after all
let us pray-prey on happy happy day-thoughts
and be joyful to the sun and the mountains
and rivers and hills and streams -
and tax deductible in London and surround environs
from Sherwood flats
to Sherwood meadows
to Sherwood forest where the King's deer
now roam safe & unhooded
goddamn it I said
I wanted to write something outrageous today
but it's still too close to the election
and my outrage gauge is hung on empty
so I thought I'd write something serious
a serious consideration
of the nation's and the world's
condition, but that only ignites panic attacks
and howling hysterical laughter
then I was thinking I'd write about sex,
but I'm getting kind of old
and my memory isn't as good as it used to be,
not so stiffly resistant to the lassitude of time
so maybe I could write about love,
no one's ever too old for love they say,
but that's the problem,
poets young and old have been writing about love
for ten thousand years, longer than that
if you believe the drawings on the walls
in the caves of Poontanghia,
so how could I possibly compete,
what new is there to be said about love,
except that I caught it and, unlike a three-day cold,
it has stayed with me, fevers morning and nights
for 47 years, resistant through the liquid flow of time
to all natural or super-natual events
that might deny and discourage it
or I could write about my lover's legs
and the amazing way they join at the hip,
but I don't want to get too graphic this morning
because that would be outrageous
in this august company
and I'm completely out of outrage
since the last election
Selling my jams and jellies
Naked rolling, parts rubbing
a slow Sunday afternoon
and we were trying to decide what to do
and I suggested
we get naked and roll around
on the grass in the backyard,
body parts togedther
but there's a chill in the air,
probably too much chill
to be rolling around outside naked
no matter how fiercely
we rubbed ourselves
so I was thinking, well,
we could go down to the art museum
and take a look at the impressionist exhibitin,
settle down naked
in front of the Monet
and give him a real impression,
rolling around on the carpet
rubbing body parts together
that might make the old guy
forget all about water lilies...
but they have these guards down there
that follow us around from room to room
and I don't know why,
except maybe they can read minds
and don't abide with people rubbing naked parts
in front of their Monet -
maybe if we moved over in front of the Duchamp,
he did a lot of his own naked rubbing-around,
as I understand it, and what's that nude going to do
after decending the staircase
but some parts-rubbing
cause why else go downstairs
naked as a jaybird
if there weren't some parts-rubbing intentions...
but the guards are guardedly attentive
so the museum is out
and I was thinking we might take a drive
in the hill country - the way the leaves are changing
in our backyard, there must be piles of red and orange
and yellow and gold lying on the ground
under some of those big hill country oak trees,
ripe for some good old rustic
naked parts-rubbng and rolling around,
but it is even colder in the hills
than it is here
so there's the chill factor to consider,
plus all those rattlesnakes
who love to hide in leaf piles
on these chilly days,
or maybe up in the oak trees to sleep
through the winter -
and I think they might now welcome
people waking them up,
rolling around naked in the leaves,
rubbing parts together with sylvan abandon,
despite the fact it was a snake in a tree
that started all this naked rolling about
and parts-rubbing in the first place...
or we might just do what we always do
on lazy Sunday afternoons, could just
take a Sunday afternoon nap
you, in the easy chair
and me on the
Santa Fe Afternoon
Here are two poems by my poet friend Gary Blankenship, taken from his book The Poetic States, and a drop of sunshine. His book is a collection of short poems inspired by each of the fifty states and Washington D.C. The two poems I selected to use here are, first, Texas, my home state, and second, New Mexico, which, since my first visit in 1963, has held in my mind as the place I ought to be.
Larger than a Breadbox
You are too huge to be captured
in verse written by a minor poet
who knows it takes two days
to cross you no matter where the start.
And you raised two modern presidents -
one mostly good, the other a bit less,
though they both seemed all to fond
of guerilla wars that couldn't be won.
Nothing more needs to be mentioned
in a short poem, but Dick's Riverwalk,
the perfect place for tequila shots
and buckets of boiled crawdads
as we forget which war explodes now
and the humidity blowing in from the Gulf.
A new sun bloomed out of the desert
defying Sol to roast white powder
glazed like broken pottery in a kiln
The light separated from the dark
to illuminate playas taauarned to stream,
clouds the sudden color of hell,
gypsum dunes and salt flats
It shone on chaparral forest,
creatures that crawled,
burrowed and fell from the sky,
seeds and fish awaiting spring,
beasts that hunted beasts
and those that hid from the hunters
It lit a sheepherder in his hogan,
Alamogordo, Carlsbad, old Santa Fe,
lovers eloping from Las Cruces,
jingle dancer waking in her pueblo.
truth and it's consequences,
the blood of a Spanish Crist
Its flash found a vendor on Honshu,
pineapple farmer on Oahu,
ballet dancer in Stalingrad,
soldier dying in a Pacific jungle,
rabbinical student at the Wailing Wall,
man of independence
as time shifts to five minures
before the last midnight
A good way to start, is all I'm saying
Rules suck - a libertarian manifesto
that's my conviction
except for those that protect me
from bank robbers and serial killers
and international assassins
and incompetent motor vehicle operators
and rogue cops
and Islamic terrorists
and Communist terrorists
and Lutheran terrorists
and Mormon terrorists
and Zen terrorists
And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
and Pat Boone fan club terriorists
and illegal Mexican aliens who want to behead people
and smuggle drugs
and steal my job picking grapes for 89 cents an hour
and cemetery plot salesmen
and term life insurance salesmen
and poison spinach...
I don't eat spinach, poisoned or otherwise,
so that rule sucks too, but the rule
that protects me from poison peas and corn,
and poison pork chops - that's another story
and the rule that says my employer has to pay me
when I work
and that my landlord has to fix my plumbing
when it leaks
and that I can take my AK-47 to church
to protect myself against international assassins
and terrorists and devil worshipers
and homosexual hippies from Harvard Square
and California surfer boys
and Lebanese switchboard operators
and gangsta' rappers
and Chinese tongs
and those damn Mexican narco-terrorists
and other nasty nabobs of nefarious negativity it's just the wa it is
that's my conviction
Twit about town
shivering in the trees
and that's the weather report for this morning
but I have more important things
on my mind -
the whole naming thing,
my insistence on assigning naming rights
so, for example, I drive a RAV 4, so named
by the Toyota automobile company,
so named, I'm guessing, by the creator of the company,
this principle is the source of my right
to name these little thing I write "Poems"
and I don't care what anyone else thinks
or wants to call them,
just like Charlie Toyota doesn't care
many think he should have named his company
or anything else
I drive a Toyota because
Charlie says so
and I write poems beause
I say so
and it raises the question
of how a lion came to be called a lion
and a snail a snail
and a jackrabbit a jackrabbit
and me a man and you a woman
if you are one and if you're not,
I'm not saying anythng about the depths of your
masculinity, just saying that, for example,
if you're a woman how did you come to be called that...
assuming I'm correct that the creator gets to name
then God the creator must have named me man
and you woman, if you... ectetera etcetera
Genesis says God delegated naming rights to Adam,
who, presumably, named himself, and, face it,
Adam doesn't seem to have been the smartest dude
in the garden, even though, disregarding Eve's
sometimes bossy tendencies. he's the only dude in the garden...
he's basically dumb as the thing he sits on
and later called "rock" which is probably a good thing,
since if Adam had any brains he might have also have
had a sense of humor, a frequent affliction of those witih brains,
and the whole naming thing could have turned into a joke,
like the Abbot and Costello who's on first bit and,
who knows, I might now be known as the
Twit of the Hour or
the Twit about Town,
or in some cases Da Twit,
and who knows, my gosh,
what you might be today if Adam had a sense of humor
Shadrach In The Fiery Pit
9 a.m. and I heading for my new coffee house,
den of ocassional creations of a poetic nature,
one of those Presbotarianist places
where you get a blessing with each cup of coffee
and an invitation to donate to their mission
in Zulabuland, with nice art on the walls
and old furnitue and chairs upon which
a person of my substantial substance
can find adventure in intermittent creaks and groans
and I was driving to this place of ocassional poetic creation
when two yuppie-puppie vans raced right through a red light
in front of me and if I hadn't slowed down two blocks earlier
to get a better look at a house I'm going to buy
after I win the lottery tonight, they would have creamed me
as we used to say, havng nothing to do with cows or
milking machines, or haystacks, or sylvan pastures of green,
just plain run right over me, leaving me in a bloody twist
of metal and flesh formerly known as me,
pretty bad for the flesh formerly known as me
but not so bad for the wife of the flesh formerly known as me,
said flesh worth more in such mangled and dead condition
than unmangled and alive, making it possible for her
to move into that house I was looking at without counting
on lottery winnings...
such are the economics of life and death
another sign of the craziness all about,
these yuppie-puppie moms in their yuppie-puppie vans
driving like Bonnie and Clyde running from the poooooolice
after a bank job - I'm telling you there is no safe place
for us sane people when yuppie-puppie moms
are driving their yuppie-puppie vans through
yiuppie-puppie neighborhoods, like Steve McQueen
chasing bad guys through the hills of San Franisco...
too damn many people seeing too many movies
they're not psychologically prepared for
is what I think is going on
This piece is by Stephen Dunn from his book, Different Hours.
Dunn is the author of ten previous collections of poetry, in addition to this book which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000.
The Reverse Side
The reverse side also has a reverse side.
- A Japanese proverb
It's why when we speak a truth
some of us instantly feel foolish
as if a deck inside us has been shuffled
and there it is - the opposite
of what we said.
And perhaps why we as we fall in love
we're already falling out of it.
It's why the terrified and the simple
latch onto one story,
just one version of the great mystery.
Image & afterimage, oh even
the open-minded yearn for a fiction
to rein tings in -
the snapshot, the lie of a frame.
How do we not go crazy,
we who have found outselves compelled
to live with the circle, the ellipsis, the word
not yet written.
As I mentioned before, I quit writing poetry several months ago. Most of the poems I've posted here and elsewhere for the past several weeks, came from this book, Goes Around Comes Around, my third book, second eBook. I've provided my own covers for all of my eBooks except this one. In this case, the cover is from a photo by Thomas Costales, an amatuer photographer I met at a book store. Thomas, suffering from insomnia, has created a wonderful collection of night photos such as this one. He also created a very good collection of portraits. I used both his night picures and his portraits in the old Here and Now.
I haven't had any contact with Thomas in years. I hope he's still taking his pictures.
As I've been reading the poems from Goes Around Comes Around that I haven't read in years, I'm impressed by my own work. The poems are loose and unpretentious and, often, humerous. It seems to me my work in later books tightened up and lost the free flow that I maintained in this book, as if I became to regard my self too seriously, losing the spontainity that made the poems here so pleasing to me.
My recent problem, and the reason I no longer write poetry, is I've lost the words and the free spirit.
As an old man, 77 going on 78, I'm facing the problem of losing the right word. Most of my readers are writers as well, and I'm sure they know what I'm talking about. There are the "right words" in a poem, usually a familiar word that just won't come to mind, requiring substitution of that word with a second or third choice that flattens the poem and drains the fun of writing it.
So that's the reason you're seeing only old poems from me, old poems or new poems that end up as prose.
For example, a friend of mine died died last year, a friend of 60 years who I met in 1965 in Air Force basic training.
We completed basic traing then went together to almost a year of Russian language traing at Indiana University. After that, another three months of of equipment training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Anglo, Texas. After completing this year of training, we were both assigned to the same post in Gemany, traveling together throughout Germany for a year. After that we were assigned different post, he in Turkey and me to the Pakistanni frontier.
Following military service, we continued to see each other for all the years, every year or two, meeting for a drink or coffee or a meal, despite living over 1,000 miles apart. As the years pass our own lives each went the normal way of lives, leaving us always something to talk about.
Now, following his death, I remember the years of memories that we alone shared but that are now mine alone.
And thus, this void is left, there being no one left who remembers it all as I do, no one left to talk about as we did.
This is a poem I would liked to have written. But this prose rememberences is what I have instead.
It's a fine day today
it's a fine day todaiy,
the sun shines
on all of us, children
of the bright...
it's a fine day today,
three pages of dead people in the paper-
only five younger than me
and one of those
a fine day today,
three pages of dead people in the paper,
and none of them
Day 24,387 and counting
a million dollars...
that's what the fella
down at the Happy Valley Home told me...
and, depending on your capacity
for long-term planning,
that view can be very encouraging,
even cominf from the Happy Valley cohort,
who, if you choose, can be seen
as not out of touch with reality,
in a greater reality closed
to the ore prosaic of us -
as for me,
I'm a believer in reality,
but only in romantic affairs...
when it comes to money,
I settle for no less
than the wildest fantasies
which is why I am sure
I'm on the road to riches every day
and while I may not get all the days
I need to get there all the way,
being on to something good
is better than being stuck in the weeds
like a back-road vagabond with a flat tire
and no spare in the trunk...
I'm a human being of the American persuasion
and, like my kind, want to get
everything there is to get
and expect, by god, to get it...
Thinking of the state of the world, as well as my country and even my state, I think of this poem. It's an old poem, one that I've probably posted here before, but it's a rarity for me, a "message" poem. But I think it's a good message worth repeating.
Habits of mercy
I was thinking this morning
about what I want to do with the rest of my life,
and decide it's the same thing
I want to do with the rest of my day -
kiss my wife
at least once or twice
eat some good food
write some good poems
sleep a nice nap
communicate with my better nature
& forgive myself
for all recent sins, known,
as well as those secret, even to me
easier for some
then for others,
those with no true love
no food to eat
no bed to sleep in
no poetry for their soul - those with no key
to unlock the door to self, their
true self as unknown to them
as a stranger passing dark on the street -
and most difficult of all for those
who can't find withing themselves
forgiveness of themselves...
poor miserable, ego-obsessed creatures that we are,
sinners almost from our first thoughts,
if we cannot forgive ourselves,
how will we ever learn to forgive others
and if we cannot forgive others,
how can we ever live in this world
that needs cleansed hearts
as much as we need clean air and water
habits of mercy
are what will save this world;
human sins forgiven
by human sinners
A minor poet explains it all
I'm eating breakfast north-faced
because normally I sit at the booth on the other end,
the one next to the electric plug where I face south as I eat
this morning, that booth was taken
by another south-faced keyboard clicking diner,
leave me at this end, in the only other booth
next to an electric plug
where I now eat breakfast facing north
I'm not sure what effect this will have
on the gastro-dynamics of my egg-over-easy
and super-extra-crispy bacon
but it does present a subtly different view,
which could have far-reaching psychological effects on
those like me, normally eat breakfast facing toward the south,
facing the oncoming traffic on the interstate
as well as those like me, today, who eat breakfast
facing north, facing interstate traffic going away,
this different orientation the reason, I believe,
why south-facing diners are usually highly motivated people
with the supreme confidence required to write
meaningless, totally trivial, poetry,
while north-facing diners
often suffer from abandoment issues
and are frequent victims
Lost Jigger of Gin
The Hawaiian shirt plan
it's a kind of orange/yellow thing
with palm trees and some kind of liquor bottle
with sailing ships on the label,
it's one of seven Hawaiian shirts I bought
a couple of weeks ago -
the one I have on today
part of my new strategy for facing
South Texas Summer - embrace it!
no more hiding in my air conditioned house
for four months, tasting unprocessed outside air
only for the time it takes to get from my air conditioned house
to my air conditioned car
I will sweat
as one's supposed to when it's 100 degrees in 85% humidity
I will wear my salt-stained Hawaiian shirts daily;
I will work at least one hour each day in my backyard
in the cinder-toasting sun as lightly dressed
as allowed by law,
my fish-white belly and butt
will be brown like the pecans that fall from the tree,
my feet will become summer rough again,
my hands black and bruised from digging in the dark soil
and sharp chaliche rocks
I will be like the ancient peoples who made their hard lives here
among the cactus and hills, and rocky meadows,
in the summer heat and north winds of winter
I will be seven years old again, when summer
was my friend
I will be summer
My town, from my neighborhood
My town, round and about downtown
i heard a new song on the radio yesterday.
The line is, "I like Austin, but I love San Antone."
That's true for me except, while I like Austin in the late 60s early 70s, my son lives there now and I never want to live there again. In fact, I've spent time in all the major cities in Texas and the only one I'd live in is where I live now, San Antonio, a city of a million and a half people, including a massive influx of people from all over the country, that still has managed to maintain it's own unique culture.
Notes from slower regions of the universe
the first time
we made love
I carried you
to my bed, like
a leaf on a high
in the apartment on Santa Fe,
lying in bed, watching it rain
through a damp window screen
watching the rain advance
in soft sheets across the gray waters
of the bay
the house on G street
open ceiling, rain on the roof
pattering, banana plant
by the window weaving
green pataterns in the wind
like sleeping dry
in the rain
the first night home
from the agency
crib at the foot
of our bed,
we sleep lightly,
listen in our sleep
for his beathing
we slip into sleep
flesh to flesh,
on soft skin,
my rough hands
cupping your small breasts
my leg between yours,
your arm across my chest
the fire banked,
the embers still glow