Friday, December 31, 1993

FATHER HAIKU


RETIREMENT

the day after his birthday, heartsore—
in the wrinkled sheets, death found him
sleeping in the cloistered darkness of the morgue
weeks later, the electric blanket incubated
a rusted carpet of kleenex blooms


BREAKING THE CORONER’S SEAL

beneath the stained mattress
one blank bullet in the gun—
a drowned halo of light in the waterglass


A DECADE  SINCE I SAW HIM

the embalmer gets his mouth all wrong—
with a red rose on the white satin pillow
I say goodbye to the parent of my Akhmatova nose


TO THE FATHER I NEVER KNEW:

the word rests uneasily on my lips—
suddenly jealous of the young man 
who said, He was like a father to me


FAMILY PLOT

where the dead outnumber the living
our shadows circle the casket clockwise
shards of sunlight & whispering feet


LAST DAY OF THE YEAR

after the funeral
I dream of crawling over pictographs
in the desert to find some rest


THICKER THAN WATER

I dream my father’s candle is out—
the slim, musty book he hands back to me
to prove his blood          and mine

My aunt said: He's trying to pleas you.


 DUTIFUL DAUGHTER

welfare child, never saw him much
his precious money went to a stranger
my final inheritance—other than my life


12/31/93

Thursday, December 9, 1993

LAST RIDE (for my cousin Richard Reilly)




LAST RIDE
             In dreams begins responsibility
                —WB Yeats
             for my cousin Richard Reilly
             Dec. 21, 1954 - June 5, 1977

      He loved death more than me
      and so slipped back
      into the bosom of the sea.

The cold rain of memory
cresting each wave of thought—
the half-life of yesterday
approaches the gardens of sleep
takes root, finds the fertile fields
of imagination lonely
for the dream’s embrace.

     They took my new red tricycle
     For his leg, they said; the steel brace,
     a strange, uneasy piston.

I had no reason to face the dawn,
my prince of tides returned to the sea.
My legs ached as I crossed the floor
and though I cried, no fins appeared.
Reality bent itself toward sleep—

     beneath the streetlights’ sodium glare
     patient and unyielding, dark cars
     waiting for the motorcycle’s drone—

Small mermaid, I carried the burden
of that night home to the dream’s final sea.


12/9/93



















Wednesday, December 1, 1993

Poetry Unites the World by Dr. Andrei Bantaş

from
THE REVIEW OF FOREIGN REVIEWS, ROMANIA LITERATURA
5-21 Dec. 1993,
POETRY UNITES THE WORLD
by Dr. Andrei Bantaş

BUCHAREST—From the Pacific Coast, California, there comes to us a cultural surprise and exceptional reading: a poetry magazine—or rather a tabloid review, like our weeklies. It is not a mere publication meant to convey to readers the latest production of American poets (as many other poetry reviews do) but an entirely uncommon one: a sort of Secolul XX (the 20th century) of the Romanians, yet devoted to poetry alone, in order to spread publications which the public has few opportunities to know.

The first issue of Uniting the World Through Poetry (UWP) is devoted to Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost, a 24-page tabloid, with a similar format to our Romania Literatura, is full of translations from Arabov, Slepynin, Lubenski, Soloviov, Kulle and many others—verses written in the last six or seven years.

With the decoration of the journals—or perhaps it’s pop-art—with press clippings, photos, collages, and vignettes, an entire page is devoted to a poem of Oleg Slepynin’s, printed in the shape of a cross, with the title buried in the center: SYNCHRONIC.

Some general data, with a short excursion into history, and with substantial topicalization, are offered in the essay entitled, “A Poet in Russia is more than a Poet” by the Ukrainian poet of Armenian descent, Oleg Atbashian (who, with UWP editor, Maureen Hurley, did most of the translations).

The general presentation of the themes and aims of the review is made by the two UWP editors, Herman Berlandt and Maureen Hurley. Berlandt is chairman of the National Poetry Association, and editor of Poetry: USA, a quarterly, and after more than 30 lectures on this very theme of uniting the world through poetry, he decided to publish these international anthologies with Maureen Hurley (an educator, graphic designer, photographer, and writer, with poems translated into Spanish and Russian.

She is an initiator of an international conference of writers for the 30th anniversary of California Poets in the Schools (CPITS), tenatively scheduled in San Francisco, in October 1994. An earlier CPITS conference, (the 25th) was joined by more than 150 poets from the U.S. and Mexico.)

The second issue of the review is entitled Mother Earth, with the same internationalist motto as the subtitle “Let the voice of the poet be heard throughout the world”. These 24 pages bring together (in translation, or in the English original) the voices of poets from Bulgaria, China, Poland, Hungary, Holland, Macedonia, India, Pakistan, Italy, Israel, Greece, Great Britain, Argentina, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, and—surprise—Romania: Geo Dumitrescu (translated by the late Dan Dutescu with post-translation by Maureen Hurley) and Ana Blandiana (translated by Andrea Deletant and Brenda Walker, as well as by Andrei Bantaş, also with Maureen Hurley). They are accompanied by fine engravings by Victor Brauner and a Romanian stamp.

In the third issue—devoted to East European poetry, Romanian poetry (including Valeriu Matei of Moldova) is represented in over three pages by the same Geo Dumitrescu and Ana Blandiana as well as Nichita Stanescu, Maria Banus, Nina Cassian, Daniela Crasnaru, Carolina Ilica, and Mircea Dinescu.

The translators are the same, with the addition of poet Fleur Adcock, the version being reproduced mainly from Silent Voices: an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Women Poets, published by Brenda Walker and Andrea Deletant in Britain about 5 years ago (when they also published Mircea Dinescu’s Exile on a Peppercorn—their persons and books were proscribed in Romania—but well-received in Bulgaria!)

Highly valuing these new tokens of appreciation offered by foreign publishers and translators of Romanian poetry (I happen to know of the financial efforts made by these two English women and the editors of UWP), I am taking the liberty of asking two rhetorical questions: What are we doing for ourselves and for our poets, for our literature, as a whole?

Suppose I rounded off my anthology of 20th century poets (Like Diamonds in Coal, Asleep, Minerva Publishers, 1985) with poems formerly banned by censorship as well as with those of Romanian poets abroad, who would publish it? (today, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. . . .?





Note Bene: Dr. Andrei Bantaş, with whom I had the pleasure of corresponding, in order to collect Eastern European Poetry, was the compiler of the Romanian dictionary, an eminent translator and a Professor of English Literature at the University of Bucharest, Romania. I had no idea of his fame as I embarked blindly on this translating adventure. Those Romanian stamps we used in the collages were Andrei's. —Maureen Hurley

Thursday, September 23, 1993

POSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD, REDUX


POSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD, REDUX

Dear Jim,
Wending our way cross-country with laptops, sleeping bags,
evening dresses, broken hearts, hiking boots, Celia & I
managed to find the North Rim in the dark without a map.
Woke to your cowboy coffee, colon-blo, boiled french roast
that threatened to make off with the pot at Jacob Lake
which we never did find. Lake was a man, not a body of water.
Soon as we crossed the Utah border, Lord, how we suffered
from Mormon exposure, twisting our vowels (not bowels).
She insisted the sign at Dry Beaver Creek read
“Keep poets on leash/ or face fine.” We haven’t written a thing,
but could use a two-bit shower & a shave.


Dear Sharon,
We drive along the Virgin River, the towns of Virgin,
and Laverkin by the Cowboy Buttes in Beaver County—
& wonder, what was on those Mormon’s minds.
Celia calls me Mo-reen, says we’re in ’Merika now
but is confused by my speaking in tongues:
the ungulates crossing the road are cantaloupes. 
Oh give me a home…
Can you spell dicks-lexia, bulls and girls?
We’re born again, baptized in the Virgin River
(don’t know as to whether or not it actually took),
I say she baptized us in the wrong place: the difference
between dyslexia and dailysex is merely a perceptual matter.
Where does the the random mind stop and the prairie begin?


Dear Bruce,
Crossing the Sandia Mountains
I kain’t believe how much “Jesus saves” ’round here—
Or how on our 1993 White Trash Tour,
which officially began at the Cadillac Ranch
(a line of caddies planted nose first—car henge)
in Amarillo, Texas, folks take three syllables
(or all day, whatever comes first) to say fish and truck.
The trucks here are God’s personal rollin’ billboards
& the overpasses tell us poor watermelons to believe. 
God is dog; evil is live. Shone’s is one-up from Stuckey’s.
We’ve been on the road too long; Denny’s is beginning to seem like home.
We’re road worriers sinnin’ in the heart of the cholesterol belt,
getting good mileage on bad vowels and day-old puns.


Dear God,
El Reno, the epicenter of radio revival land is a shakin’ & a rollin’
but the cockroaches in the motel bathroom don’t seem very saved.
However, I do believe they will inherit the earth, by and bye.
Blanketed by kudzu vines, black-eyed susans suffer death by bed tax.
We’re humid beans descending into the syntax of the vegetable kingdom.
Like true love, and the blues, maps are abstract unless you’ve been there.
You’d like Hot Springs, home of Bill Clinton haircuts & the Sin Tax.
I bet the Mormons took to that idea. Say, God, who's your best friend?
Lightning storm—we pilgrims cross Old Muddy, enter Memphis,
& truly we have let Tennessee into our hearts, for at the gates
of Graceland, the chosen have come to testify the miracles.
St. Elvis is still King, and anything is possible—this poem, or even love.


9/23/93  Graceland

Wednesday, September 22, 1993

T’SIGE, MONUMENT VALLEY


            

A flock of sheep
like smoke floods the road.
Dressed in red banners, corn mothers
dance in furrows. Clapton sings the blues
to the passing blur of fields.
Trying to press onto Shiprock by sunset,
we enter into twilight, equinox.
Sabitaie, the rock with wings,
the great bird that brought the Navajo
from the north, unfolds and emerges,
a Pliocene knife to the eye of the sky.
The earth’s shadow, a blue eclipse
below the belly of a salmon horizon.
We are no closer to knowing who we are,
than to where we were.


9/22/93 
Tsé Bitʼaʼí, Four Corners
New Mexico



Tuesday, September 21, 1993

VERMILION CASTLE



VERMILION CASTLE

At Bowery Creek, the cottonwoods
undress themselves for the fall,
maples combust against
Navajo sandstone so red,
it makes the deer seem green.
Down from the summer pastures,
the Herefords part around the car
like the Red Sea. The cowboy tips his hat,
says his smile will break my camera.
Lariat ready for strays, he whistles
to the cattle milling at the stop sign.
A redtail hawk hovers above us,
vermilion spires pierce the sky.
Quaking aspens whisper sunlight
to the patches of first snow
and I am far from home.

9/21/93  Utah

PETROGLYPHS TO THE SUN, PAROWAN GAP


PETROGLYPHS TO THE SUN, PAROWAN GAP


The snake seeks the sun
crawling to the sky, a ladder
for the small spider gods
and the continuation of day.
Equinox. Sun and moon
and the trail to the sky is open
to the orbital continuation of days.
Amid the debris of the 20th century,
I am looking for the symmetry of worked stone,
finding only crystalline structures
in the desert varnish, the exposed marble,
the crushed hearts of riverstones,
and other signs of ancient oceans.
What of those concentric circles
with an upraised hand?
The beseeching of water, the labyrinth?
Is it the snake or lightning
that climbs up the rocks to the sky?
Hands at the end of the path to guide us—
At the four corners, an intersection.
The division of power—a circle and a cross.
At least the wind knows its own strength.
We are gathering rocks for those who will follow
the small hidden selves—
I am looking for symptoms of earlier cultures
than the amber glass, cans & cigarette butts
that will survive us.


9/21/93 Parowan Gap, Utah

1994 Steelhead Special



MYTHICS


MYTHICS

Dendridic clouds, juniper, yarrow & aster.
Yesterday’s pronghorn and road signs glow
amber and red as if lit from within.
Turquoise and jade greet the sunset—
I gather cedar and sage for smudge sticks.
The power lines, ancient symbols of man
carry electricity west. Equinox.
We are eclipsed by technology,
and the urgency of fall light.
Amid the rows of new-mown alfalfa
a tumbleweed gallops to the horizon.
We talk of horses, Sinead O’Connor sings,
England’s not the mythical land 
of Madam Georgian roses…
We pass a hogan—earth household.
A meadowlark collides with the car,
death on the wing, by the roadside,
wild cotton, bluebirds weaving the air.

9/21/93  Parowan Gap, Utah


Saturday, September 18, 1993

INTERNATIONAL CAFE


INTERNATIONAL CAFE

Once 10,000 prospectors roamed the streets
of Austin, a ghost town of 204 souls.
At the International Cafe
(the only one in town)
Butch tells me of my cousin, Julia’s ghost,
the spilled coffee. Out at the adobe
the crazy twin who sat sewing
with imaginary needle and thread.
There’s a bar here for every 40 people.

At Home Ranch I look at photos.
My family astride the names of horses:
Ribbons, Stable Boy, Blue, Whitey, Lady.
Which one killed Wild Bill when the bull was unloaded.
Jim tells me stories of my grandmother
gathering eggs before the Indians got to them.
From Ireland she came cross-country
on the Great Western Railroad
to Battle Mountain where her uncle,
Wild Bill, came to meet her in the buggy.
Her brother Joe came by way of Galveston
because the boat was $10 cheaper,
they didn’t have enough for two fares.

There were two Indian villages here.
At the end of the season, Wild Bill
paid the Indians only half of what was owed.
The rest he gave to their women
because the men drank their wages in Austin.
Wild Bill, who once sold his truck in Ione
for a 5-gallon barrel of whiskey & a good game of cards
knew about the wages of sin and hard work.
He’d built this ranch up from dirt to grubstake.
But a foreman sold him out in ’Frisco,
pocketing the bankroll for a round of drinks
and an inferior bull.

9/18/93

CROSSING THE SHOSHONES


CROSSING THE SHOSHONES

On Highway 50, said to be
the loneliest road in America,
the eyes of a coyote gleam in our headlights.
I am caught up in the web of history:
who I am, where I come from.
We climb up into Austin
crossing the Reese River,
the road to Home Ranch.
Who’d have thought this desolate valley
would harbor a child
who would work on the bomb?
We pull into the Pony Canyon motel,
fragments jogged from memory
loosened like milk teeth,
or rocks after the thaw.

9/18/93  Austin, Nevada


Friday, September 17, 1993

AIR OVER NEW MEXICO freewrite



Flying over the White Mountains
pines older than Christianity
flock the hills
in a sand lake, an island,
and islands of sand ships in the sand, 
like the sea of Azov
dendritic memory of dry riverbeds
the pale alluvium
most recent in memory
heading toward the sink hole below sea level
sand lakes remnants of oceans,
polyps and blooming coral, another kind of garden
that bloomed in the blood of our mother, the sea,
she is the first goddess to both emerge
and to give up her bounty
The Mojave with its green circles,
green coinage grows corn on the mother
on the other side of the rainshadow
sedimentary layers layed down 
like a ribbon cake from the air
it looks as if nothing grows in the pockets of canyons
the turquoise resevoirs, 
truly jewels in the desert
ghost cities layed out like Nazca lines
geometric knotwork of someone's failed dreams
but mirages are to the desert as waves are to the ocean.
We try so hard to leave our mark,
sometimes we leave it without knowing it.
Across Nevada, fault blocking,
we are flying along one long parallel valley
granite alluvium and bursting forth
cinnamon and ochre sandstone
a large city Reno?
a finger lake with fractaline shores
geometric complexity of the land
or is the is Arizona? Las Vegas? the stars?
no vertical history timeless geology
the rivers eat time    the Grand Canyon
the muddy Colorado, a hungry snake devouring the natal rock
like an old man seeking the fountian of youth
it eats ever deeper
coming back to a time when the earth was young.
It eats time the hungry beast
soon it will devour itself
becaus it eats through the earth's crust,
to the heart of the mother,
lava sensibilities hidden in the depths
give no clue to the passion
Set in stone, time itself is fluid
cracks in the earth, fissures in the soul
a lone dissident mountain the Rockies?
Why do I marvel so, the topography of the earth
varied skin of the mother
mysterious deep names for the earth
vermillion cliffs, Rainbow Plateau
from the air Glen Canyon and Hole in the Wall
recognizable from the air: Utah   Four Corners
canyon fringe, the plateau like lace
the landscape resonates
First Mesa, 2nd Mesa  Hopi lands  Navajo Lands
Kaiporowitz to the north
according to the map, Canyon de Chelly coming up
line across the earth in resonating patterns.
What do they mean? Power line visible from space?
Defiance Pleateau. How big, and utterly defiant
the land must've seemed to those crossing by wagon
no woonder they brought camels to the desert
Now the land has become less distinct. unified
It is an amalgum like the people who settled America.
We are flying over Acoma,
the oldest continuously inhabited city in the US
Coronado came here looking for gold 
and flund only the uninhabited cities 
of the Anasazi, the Old Ones.
Gold enough.

9/91 
San Francisco to Albequerque

I went to NM 2 x, once with Lucia Hammond in 1991, and later with Celia Woloch in 1993