HERE AND NOW
so many lights in the neighborhood…
motion sensor lights
the battle of human
against night and the dark
continues with every downing of the sun
thus it was, always so -
freedom from the black travelers
of night, held at bay
at the flickering red edge
of the camp fire
for the fire
still they wait today
those shadow things always
there on the black edges
of our imagination
and still we push them back,
from the falling to the rising sun
we make our circles
and build our
wrapping all we love
in the fire’s
in a Mexican courtyard, 1959
a Mexican courtyard
under a rhinestone studded sky
on a black, border town night…
slowly, like a cat,
around the courtyard,
pausing before every table
to stretch, again, like a cat,
perfect in its shadow body,
feet barely brushing
the dirt floor, compact,
sleek, full breasts,
dark Indian nipples
no go-go dancer, nothing overtly
sexual, more like
a cat stretching, except she is
naked and it is a whorehouse
and it has to be about sex,
sex as a cat can be like sex,
slow and sensual in every step,
every smooth, silky step
a caress of the night….
clutch their tight crotch under the table
and wonder if the girls
could ever be like this
The rest of the poems in this post are from my book, Always to the Light, available, as are all my eBooks, wherever eBooks are sold, including, most prominently, Amazon.
There is a dark side to life and a light side. One can choose which life to lead, dark or light. This cover, illustrated by the photo, says to always look to the light, the light being a more rewarding and fun and safer approach than the dark side.
From where I sit
where I sit
I cansee past
a small grove of
to Interstate-10, east & west routes,
the one way to Houston and, through Houston,
Louisiana and points east and north beyond
the other route, followed westerly 600 miles
through hill country and high desert to El Paso
and four states beyond,
the orange setting sun reflected on Pacific waters...
most of the people I see passing are not going so far,
most know the futherthest you travel in any direction,
the closer you get to home, so why not just stay there,
untraveled, but satisfied, right where you and your life belong...
I don't know that I've ever been at home
so I'm always pulled between leave and stay...
under a cold, overcast sky,
I think I want to stay
that's why we have night and day,
night a curtain that comes down between old and new,
a sign to us as it rises every morning
that new things are possible after all
what use a curtain if nothing changes
Smile for me
it's the lunch side of Sunday brunch
& the place is packed,
a mixed crowd of church folk in their Sunday best
& the just crawled-out-of-bed crowd in shorts & flip-flops,
bed-hair flat on one one side, sticking out on the other
like a porcupine in heat, & the golfers from the quarry,
clip-clop clip-clop-clip in their golf shoes
& grandmas and pregnant moms with last year's babies
in high chairs, dads in khakis & hard-starched checkered shirts
thinking how simple life is
& that baby again, looking at me from across the room
a big toothless smile for me
this swirl of sound & color is like I'm alone,
unmoving in the center of a whirlpool of sensation,
all moving, sound & color streaming like paint flung in a circle
except the baby,
smiling a big toothless smile
the movie we want to see this week
starts at noon,
so we have some time to kill
I've had my breakfasrt
and the multiple coffees needed to set the world
back to its proper rotation,
and the Sunday morning peasure of both my local paper and the Times,
Dee just out the door for a walk and some window shopping
making me think,
as writing a poem always makes me think,
this time about how much pleasure there is
in these slow Sunday mornings
and how happy I am I'm not hung-over
as so often I used to be because of the way
Sunday mornings always followed the self-abuse
of Saturday night
Scattered in the wide night sky
in the wide night sky
are pinpoints of light bringing star-heat
to worlds like our own
biological stews pining the universal spark on some
and on others, life at its most simple is cradled,
protected from the cosmic storms,
and on a relative few,
creatures who strive and dream like you and I
like some people
know God, such knowledge
a product of longing
in the lonely bright for a comanion
worthy of our best nature
Here are two short poems by Nanao Sakaki, from the collection, Break the Mirror, published by North Point Press in 1987. Sakaki was a Japanese poet, author of Bellyfulls and leading personality of The Tribe, a loose-knit countercultural group in Japan in the 1960s and 70s. He was born to a large family in Kagoshima Prefecture, and raised by parents who ran an indigo dye-house.
After completing compulsory education at age twelve, he worked as an office boy in Kagoshima. He was a draftee radar specialist stationed in Kyushu in the military, and surreptitiously read Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kropotkin, Marx, and Engels as time allowed. After the war, he went to Tokyo, living in an underpass near Ueno Station.
I clean up windows.
I clean up mind's windows.
I clean up green forest
I clean up the universe.
Now transparent windows-----
Againist the glass
Chickadees, robins, jays
hit their heads
and lose their lives.
I pick them up
eat them up
Winter Flower Trails
After two days snowing
A rosy evening glow.
You remembrr suddenly
The star shining in daytime
And flowers blooming her in summer.
And icy thistle field.
Staggering with heavy boots
You break dry flowers
Into small pieces of the sun.
Shine over the zodiacal light
Along the Milky Way.
A found poem, from a story in the New York Times, Front Page, January 14, 2009
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
on a motorbike
pulled along side her
what seemed an ordinary question
"are you going to school?"
then he pulled her burqa
from her head
and sprayed her face
with burning acid
17 years old
and bravely back in school,
"They want us to be
in all his cruel and
My younger brother, my older brother, (both deceased) and me
Beat down but never backed down
I always admired
those whip-thin guys
who run their lives on instinct
when disrespected, lay the offender out on the floor,
light a cigarette, walk to the bar and order another beer
while I'm still lost
in internal dialogue...
"what did that guy say?
"did that guy just call me a punk-ass motherfucker?
"he did, he did by God. he did just call me
a punk-ass motherfucker.
"why would he do that?" I would query myself.
"Im a nice guy, plus, I never did anything to him.
"well, I don't care. I can't let anyone call me
a punk-ass motherfucker! I'm gonna have to take him down!"
"where'd he go?"
of course, by the time complete my internal dialog and react,
he's probably moved on to his next stop,
laughing with his friends
probably forgot he called anyone a punk-ass motherfucker,
and everone else in the bar, disappointed that there wasn't
no fighting after all, has turned back to their beer
and moved on...
I'm standing in the middle of the room by myself..
one of those whip-thin instince guys
would have swung first
and thought about it later
and you can see from the scars
they swung first when they should have thought about it
maybe just a litle bit longer...
my older brother was one of those whip-thin guys,
gone now for more than fifteen years,
beat down, sometimes,
but never backed
This poem is by Mexican novelist, poet, essayiist and translator Jose Emilio Pacheco from his first book City of Memories. The book, published by City Lights in the United States and Ediciones Era in Mexico was winner of the James Asuncion Silva Award for best book of poetry to appear in Spanish from 1990 to 1995. The American edition is a bilingual book, with Spanish and English translation by Cynthia Steele and David Lauer on facing pages.
It is a true poet's poem, cast our for whoever might want it.
Not a bottle at sea nor vampire's flight,
more like a torn scrap of paper blowing toward you
in the street, the poem.
It's one or the other: you trap it or let it go by;
read it or throw it in the trasn.
The wind blows where it will:
putting it in your hand or steering it toward
It's a miracle that your eyes linerger
on a scrap of paper in the street.
Do with it what you will.
This pictureis from about ten years ago, taken on a day like this day, the second of the new year, in San Antonio, were the sun is bright and the temperature is in the mid-thirties, reminding me of the pleasure sitting outside on a cold moring, by a fire drinking the morning's first cup of coffee.
Pumpkins a little frosty today
pumpkins a little frosty
and the footbridge
across Apache Creek
a little slippery
with a light rime
sheet, dog pulls
I slide along
it’ll be 60 degrees
within two hours
of the sun’s rising…
warmer again tomorrow
we are confused
no more a friend of the cold
dog thinks it’s all
I take her
off the leash
down by the creek
and she runs
and runs and runs,
in the low cut grass,
then stops to jump
up to my chest
for a scratch behind
then runs again
and again and again
in wide circles
in the grass…
wet paw prints
on my coat
where she jumps
a bird on a bush
right outside my window
not sure what kind
maybe a mocking bird,
but feathers so fluffed against the cold
it’s hard to say
a ball of gray fluff,
like the soft lint
you pull off the filter
in your clothes
sharp little beak,
tiny, coal-dust eyes,
at the warm people
on the other side of the glass,
especially at me since I am nearest,
a black stare before it flexes
its fluffed chest
morning it is, a time to prepare
for a slow day
Photo taken near sunrise, January 1, 2010
a small boat
on calm seas, ripple
suggests, but forgotten,
lulled by soft tides
that rise and fall such a very
little bit, day to night, night
to day, drifting
small boat calm
day to night
a tiny whirlpool
In the time of emergence
an old Navajo chant
speaks of the "time of emergence"
and I think of the all-there-is
not a product created by the hand of a god,
but a creation that emerges from the mind
of the all-mother/all-father,
creation, not as a single event, a job of work,
complete over the course of a week of seven god-days,
but a continuing process of never-ending creation,
a creation-flow, an emergency of ever-deepening truth,
like the night emerges and from the night a day emerges
and from the day, a night, like the sea emerges from the deep,
breaks on shores far from where its water essence begins,
then returns to the deep that sent it, and back again to the same
or different shores, far-traveled, enriched by its journey;
like rain on cut hay left in the field overnight,
the fire of creation processing within, its must odor rising again
with the fallen rain to become a cloud, drifting over continents,
over prairies and mountains and cities and great forests,
across the oceans, bringing the musty smell of wet hay
with new-falling rain around the world and back again
to mowed fields where it began,
in a moment of passion emerged from one of us to another,
then the continued emergence through a life of ins and outs,
comes and goes, contributing as we come and go,
our own passions to the universe we are part of again,
flowing through our time until our end
and in a moment of death-ecstasy, souls singing
as we join the all-there-is from whence we came
our part of the great emergence complete, until we, like the sea
return again to new and different shores,
enriched by our time drifting in the creator's emerging conscious
"I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life. What I don't like is mis-management of chaos."
- Franketienne, Haitian author, poet, playwright, painter
there are patterns to the univese,
from the orbits of galaxies
to the circling of the tiniest electron
around its mother neutron anchor
to the greening and falling of leaves
to the daily commute of bankers and painters and donut makers
to the soft sleep of babies and the long, dry nights of old and time-worn men,
all circling, each circle a world within itself,
inter-acting with its fellows in shadows of confusion,
like looking at the color patterns of gumballs encased in glass,
patterns seen only through a one-eyed squint from some great distance,
the further away clear becomes the organization,
red upon green next to blue under yellow,
each placed in a structured chaos,
like the universe in all its chaotic glory,
structured truth we can never get distanced enough to see,
an incubator spewing chaos,
indestructible unalterable manageable only through
the indirection of unseen hands that must never fumble
or chaos will solidify and all the circles will stop their spinning
and fall to the lethargy of inertia stilled
and all that is will, like Lot's wife, turn to salt crumbling on a silent palin
in the steady wind of never-again...
The poems in this post come from New Days & New Ways, my most recent, and probably last, book of poems, specifically from the 6th and last chapter in the book,"Out There," an attempt to close the book in a more philosophical vein.
I don't expect to ever again do the work involved in putting a book together and putting it out there for people to read.
we are all children of the big bang
and that nothing truly new has been added to the mix
and while I don't know what came before the bang,
I'm guessing we'll figure it out
before the end...
bangs within bangs,
bangs bouncing off bangs like a six bank corner pocket hustle;
one bang banging another like steel balls hung from strings
banging one after the other in a row in a forever and ever progression;
bangs banging out there, banging in somewhere else -
that's one to imagine,
creation in reverse, the Garden of Eden returning to uplowed field...
or it could be a single, once-and-only bang -
that would make us really something,
us and all the universe we know, or don't,
our stars, the only stars anywhere
you and me, the only us anywhere...
somehow, I just don't feel that special
Born again, and again and again and again
I know many people who proudly proclaim
to have been born again,
under-achievers I call them
since, not satisfied with being only twice-born,
I have been born again;
and again and again again
for I am a being of universal elements
and thus, certain to be born again
as I have been born before uncountable times,
for the parts that make me as old at the universe itself
and so must be all the things I have been,
things near to home and faraway -
lost in the vast unknown regions where stardust still drifts -
vastly traveled are my parts,
so vastly traveled I must be as well ,
so varied and old and well-traveled
look around you at the vast everything-ness
that we are,
and will be a part of ...
consider how marvelous I am,
and you as well
sometimes I think of the me that was a daffodil,
and how beautiful I was,
much more beautiful than I am now,
though rooted and consequently less curious than the proto-cat I was,
roaming with early felines, newly crearted to hunt that was the me,
that was the deer, or the beaver, or the small mouse hidden in high grasses,
or the grass I might have been,
or the wiggling worm that fertilized the grass-of-me with my worm droppings...
so many places I have been
so many beings I have been, so more than the twice
the pentacoltals brag of ,
and so much more than twice-born I will be in the millennia ahead,
so much more to be, so much longer to be them
I can imagine how jealous must be those who consider themselves
to be only twice-being
Explosion at the Campbell Soup Factory
of the moment before
the particle of a second
when the universe stops to inhale
before breathing again
with a gasp of stars shaken and stirred
in their orbits
the thought complete,
all pieces floating in confusion slide through the chaos
to find their place together...
and you know, you finally know how your life
fits in the greater, pulsating, ocean of creatures
both like and unlike yourself
the greater theme is finally yours to know...
now it is only to not forget
This poem is by Marilyn Hacker, from her book, Winter Poems, published by W W Nortorn in 1994.
letter on June 15
I didn't want a crowd. I didn't want
writers backbiting in a restaurant.
Last night's leftover duck, some chilled Sancerre
(you've called fresh-tasting) beckoned to me more.
I crossed the Pont Sully, into an eight-
forty sunset, toward home, and whom I'd meet.
In the letter that I didn't write,
I tell you, I was meeting you tonight.
You in an envelope; you in the braille
of postmarks footnoting the morning mail.
You, bracked from life with someone else
though part of every page is what she tells
you; not my morning clarity of bells
to matins, phoned links to life with someone else.
I met you here as if geography
wee all that separated you from me
though hand to hand and lovely mouth to mouth
magnetic norh and doubly polar south
are on lost maps, the trails are overgrown.
It's warm, it's almost dark, it's half past ten.
"I can't imagne Paris without you"
was the tearjerker on the radio
when I begana to cry in Julie's car
under the Nashville skyline where you were
the bottom line. By the time we got
to Phoenix (with bald tires and gluey hot
seatcovers) I was already half way back
to Paris without you. In time, with luck,
anyone can imagine needing less
than all this food, these books, these clothes: excel
uholstry, distraction dead wood, bloat.
You're what I had to learn to do without.
I did. But there you are, no farther than
the whirring of the small electric fan
we bought that summer when you had night sweats,
then a sore back, then just a cold, then doubts
that you'd blot out with morning lust against
my chest, my cunt my mouth, as evdence
that you were present. Later, you'd deny
what you'll admit to now: the late Julythree-quarter moon on shuttered bars, the meat
and vegetables, the dim glow when you lit
a candle in the chapel after Mass.
An ancient park attendant clears the grass
of kids who where imagined jouissance
when we conceived and miscarried out chance.
We each have whispered, written, other names.s
There are more dead for whom to light small flames.
Down on the street, waiters crank up the awniing
of the cafe en face. Tomorrow morning
I'll be no farther and no closer than
your walk down to the post office with Jan
along a storm -pocked tertiary road.
Word-children, we will send eac other words
that measure disances we have to keep
defining. When I lay me down to sleep
you stack up your day's work sheets on the porch
table, light up, lean back. Two silver birch
trees for a twilit arch above your head.
I't hours before you're going to bed.
it's all a circle,
these lives we lead,
and in its time, comes again
like this bright and beautiful morning,
sky clear, the light blue of bright
yellow sunshine and yellow-laced shadows...
i've been here before and, with luck,
be here again - and again and again, knowing
even as I luxuriate in this cold bright,
that dark will come again,
welcoming that dark, for bright is not bright without it,
as day is not day without the brackets of night,
as people who live in the dry desert, how they welcome
the rain, people who live under a forever cloudless sky,
how they marvel at a cloud's slow passing...
and as I think of my circular life,
I think of my dog, lovely, sweet Reba, for whom
every minute is the only minute, like all dogs,
living in the moment, every minute a lifetime,
sixty life times in an hour, how disconcerting,
how wonderful to be so inflicted by nature,
so blessed to live like that,
to live outside the circle of time,
to live in the constant changing
forever strange and forever new
and I wonder if I could ever be dog enough
to live a life of so many lives
A cold, fishhook moon
a cold, fishhook moon
floating in a black, star-specked sky...
the universal pool of all overhead
as I walk the path down hill in the goose-bump cold
of this post-midnight, pre-dawn morning...
I wander in the star-lit dark, searching,
as I sometimes do in the night while others sleep,
searching for the answers
that even in these late years elude me,
searching through the mysteries of night
whether full-moon light or dim, no-moon dark
for the the whys and ways and whats
of a day in the life of the one among millions
that is me -
carbon-cluster me, assuming,
with the arrogance of my kind,
that there are answers that are mine
that's what they are now calling
"The Age of Man"
meaning, I'm not sure, either
the time humans began to occupy the earth
as masters, or the period
beginning earlier, when man existed primarily
as small, sampering jungle and prairie prey...
but I'm pretty sure "the age of man," hower defined,
came after the "age of dinosaurs," about which I'm not sure
were they reptiles or mamalian cousins of man
that just happened to lay eggs, or, as I've begun to hear,
somehow related to chickens and I'm not sure
if chickens are reptiles or mammals with wings,
or something else, along with turkeys and hawks
and eagles and red,red rohins, and even
carrion eating vulture...
but I am delighted that there is a chance
that the "age of man" followed the "age of chickens"
and, considering how stupid chickens are,
whether the "age of man" would have ever come about
if we had been competing for an age of our own
with something smarter, a dog, or maybe a pig,
leaving us, had it been thus, scrathing fleas
and sleeping a slop pen in the "age of dog and pig"
and putting all that ancient history aside, I can't help but wonder
whose age the next will he...
considering our record so far during my particular part
in the "age of man", tkhe "age of ash and cinder" might seem
a fair prospect for the next age. or, maybe a better scenario,
like the "age of cockroach" (think of that the next time
you squash a cockroach with your pointy-toed cowboy boot,
it might be your heirs you are suashing,
and heaven forbid they have a long genetic memory -
plan for the future, that's what you have to do
when you're responsible for a whole age)
meanwhile, across the way,
a herd of deer graze across a broad pasture,
except not bunched like a herd,
but scattered individually across the field,
as if each deer, walking his on way,,
decided on its own to stop for a bite of pasture grass,
solitary deer each at its own meal,
not Texas deer, too much alone, New York deer, maybe,
commuters at a quick-stop pasture, adapting
to the "age of man"
and my cockroach mean mood is lifted...
maybe there's a chance for an "age of deer",
a return to golden fields and forests,
a return to the "age of first nature" -
befor the jealous god split timel
and brought the misery of ages to humans
and all the other creatures alike
if I believe that hard enough
it will make, at least,
a better day
Who will be the poet then?
say that a poem is not the word spoken
or the word printed in some proscribed form
designated as poetic by tradition or fashion of the time;
go instead to the image the words,
however presented, are meant to provoke
and find the poetry directly in the vision,
images in the air of real space and time,
transmitted through your senses to that part of your mind
that dwells among the visual cues and clues of the world,
the de-randomized pieces that combine to for a picture
that means an emotion, visions that fire chemial reactions
that push eletronic jabs to our frontal cortex
to createl a contex within which emotions form,
think of poetry as transcending words,
internal visions of the poet going directly
to an external vision to be seen and shared...
(the most beatiful poem I've ever experienced,
a French short film of horses,
a herd of horses running through fields of high grass,
the beauty of their flesh and their muscled bodies,
and the sweat blown from their nostrils,
and the steam, too, from their mouths and nostrils,
the internal heatof their great bodies under great exertion
blown into cold air, and the colors of their coats
and the grace of their great running leaps
over high grass and shallow waterways -
the most beautiful poetry I've ever experienced
and not a word was spoken - no words written or spoken
could match the image direct)
think of poetry as visions transmitted through
some visual media, like the screen of your local cinema,
or think of future poetry, transmitted directly
into your dreams...
think of the day when dreams are the ultimate poetry
and poets the ultimate dream-makers...
who will be the poets then