Wednesday, April 30, 2003

RESCUE JOB

RESCUE JOB

Emerging from sheets of rain, the boy and I lift half-drowned ungrateful enemies who each stay in their corner in the bed of the truck. Luckily, the snakes and shrews haven’t yet heard the fable of the scorpion and the fox. There is the double aspect of the thing and its place: to make the invisible visible. However, all gods have their limits, even the rain gods.

The tide rises to bathe a full moon, dressed in clouds. He said the river will crest at midnight. The true poem emerges from the place of ultimate suffering, beginning and ending in water.

Only to go with the wrong wind at dawn and light breaking an egg over the world.

But we wade in too deep, and the water fills our boots. And when the scorpion gets to the other side of the river, he always stings the fox. That’s why the end begins with stinging words because it’s the nature of the beast. Only we can’t see the opposite shore because everything is river, river river.. Swept up by the coriolus effect, we’re swirling on a strange raft crowded with a flotsam of words.

5/03-9/03

RESCUE JOB, II is in the book My America, no title.





RESCUE OPERATION rev

Emerging from sheets of rain, three shrews violently shiver beneath an oak leaf umbrella. Garter snakes try to copulate with the yellow and red stripes of my rainboots and scorpions practice their crablike nature in the deeper water. To build an arc in the present tense, the boy and I lift half-drowned ungrateful enemies who each stay in their corner in the bed of the truck. Luckily, they haven’t yet heard the fable of the scorpion and the fox. Levi-Strauss believed in the double aspect of the thing and its place: to make the invisible visible. However, all gods have their limits. Is that why the truck bogs down in the mud? Even the birds are too wet to fly. The tide rises to bathe a full moon, dressed in clouds. Meanwhile, a Blackhawk rescue ’copter whips the laden skies, tests the pulse of air mattresses, windows, eardrums, the heart adrift. Someone said the river will crest at midnight. The poet said the true poem emerges from the place of ultimate suffering, beginning and ending in water. Only to go with the wrong wind at dawn and light breaking an egg over the world. But we wade in too deep, and the water fills our boots. Shrews prefer a solitary existence, and the snakes are the opportunists. And when the scorpion gets to the other side of the river, he always stings the fox. That’s why the end of the affair begins with stinging words because it’s the nature of the beast. Only we can’t see the opposite shore because everything is river, river river.. Swept up by the coriolus effect, we’re swirling on a strange raft crowded with a flotsam of words. 


RESCUE OPERATION
    from Simic prompts

Emerging from sheets of rain, a pod of shrews shiver beneath a leaf umbrella. Garter snakes try to copulate with the yellow stripes of my rainboots and I dream of scorpions practicing their crablike nature. To build an arc in the present tense, the boy and I lift half-drowned ungrateful enemies who each stay in their corner in the bed of the truck. Luckily, they haven’t yet heard the fable of the scorpion and the fox. Levi-Strauss believed in the double aspect of the thing and its place. To make the invisible visible. However, all gods have their limits. Is that why the truck bogs down in the mud? Even the birds are too wet to fly. The tide rises to bathe a full moon, dressed in clouds. Meanwhile, a Blackhawk rescue ’copter whips the laden sky, tests the pulse of air mattresses, windows, eardrums, the heart adrift. Someone said the river will crest at midnight. But we carefully measure half-lives, only to go with the wrong wind at dawn and light breaking like an egg over the world. The true poem emerges from the place of ultimate suffering, beginning and ending in water. Shrews prefer a solitary existence, and the snakes are the opportunists. And when the scorpion gets to the other side of the river, he stings the fox. That’s why the end of the affair always begins with poison words because it’s the nature of the beast. I get stuck in the coriolus effect, swirling on a raft crowded with strange words.

4/30/03
first draft


© 2003 Maureen Hurley, published in My America.Brandon Mise,  Blue Barnhouse Press, Asheville, North Carolina. More on Blue Barnhouse blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

The Color of Forgivness

Lagunitas School in the 1950s: I was in 3rd Grade, after the Pledge of Allegiance, we were singing Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies. Only it’s more like speciousness these days... Coin of the realm. But even from the relative purity of childhood, I recall a taint: my grandmother muttering something about the damned Anglo-Saxons again. Too close to God Save the Queen. I explained to her, it’s just the melody, not the same song—even the Irish stole songs from themselves and updated the words: but she’s off and running.

Soon Cromwell will arise and you know where that leads to. Don’t say anything to upset the antichrist in the kitchen...

I always loved the part about the purple mountain’s majesties. We had a WPA mural at our school with exotic orange groves and grapes framed against purple mountains.

Sometimes when the light was just right, the ridges framing the San Geronimo Valley really turned blue when the woodsmoke collected in the hollows, mid-winter.

There was something about the queen in the song and purple was the color of royalty. “Murex shells were used to make purple,” my grandmother said, pointing to a tiny black spot at the tip of the shell.

“It took hundreds of snails to dye Roman togas, that’s why only royalty was allowed to wear it,” she said. And it remained so until the invention of the aniline coal dyes of the Industrial Revolution. Beginning of the end of an era.

Father John Connery wore royal purple when he was serving the mourning masses: the color of forgiveness. Sometimes it was white, or red, or green.

"Uaine," my grandmother said in Irish.

Chemical green, as in illness, or the almighty dollar. Not glas, the color of fields and plants.

The big-bosomed old women of our parish always wore black... Life for the immigrant woman was hard: babies, and work and more babies and more work. They even wore black in the garden as if they were in deep mourning there too.

They greeted each other, each in their own language: Portuguese, Italian-Swiss, Irish, Spanish... the church, our common denominator against the powerful ruling class, the WASPS. And so the life of the poverty-stricken immigrant living close to the land has shaped my view of what it means to be American...

I was not the blue-eyed blonde, nor did I live in a tract house, or even in a town. I wasn’t raised in a nuclear family, with a mother-cum-housemaker and a father as bread-winner. Things we stereotype as American, like apple pie and mom.

My mom was a Beatnik, therefore crazy. My father was absent in the neck of a bottle. So my grandmother took over the business of raising me.

I was never a daughter of the American Revolution—we were related to Myles the Slasher, of County Longford, not Miles Standish of Plymouth Rock.

So it was suggested we were second-class citizens—like the pecking order in the barnyard—the chickens, the horses, the cats, they all had a pecking order.

We were the ones who quietly snuck up the feed bowl when the others had already taken the edge off their hunger, and maybe they wouldn’t notice us if we crept in slowly, folding ourselves into the crowd. Safety in numbers.

We were the invisible made visible by our ethnicity, which we clung to, a safety line of identity. We took refuge in the church from the state.

Did we inherit this division? Did we take it on? Ethnic inferiority complex. Or did it come from the outside? Or was it something put upon us from America itself? Indivisible under God, with liberty and justice for—whom? For the WASPS whom? who didn’t want to share their America?

The ones heckling my grandmother, calling her all kinds of names on the trolley because she was pregnant with my mother? Irish Catholic bitch always in heat.

*
My 3rd grade students are humming the song as they paint purple mountains on the silk banners for Saturday’s Art Auction/Spaghetti Feed for the Alexander Valley grange.

This is as close to America as I can get, community events at the granges. Like the Nicasio Druid’s Hall, Palm Sunday Brunch where all the west county ranchers gather and trade stories. This is the heart of my America.

I hum along as best as I can with my students who are all blessed with tin ears, it seems. We are covered in purple dye. A discordant crescendo of America, America, God shed his grace on thee...

The auctioneer’s lips are a blur and we give standingovationstotheoverbidders, swilling some of the best wine in the country. I rub shoulders with the old Italian families, the Mexicans and yuppies. Nike, Reebok are represented here at the CEO level. I have taught all their children poetry.

I try not to think of slave labor. That’s what built those companies, this valley, this wine on my lips. Sacrament. This is my blood...

These west county microcosms at the edge of the continent are where I have witnessed what it means to be an American as the next wave of immigrants, the grape pickers from Guanahuato who used to sleep under the Russian River bridge, now celebrate a son, a daughter or a nephew or niece graduating from college.

A daughter I once taught poetry to in 3rd grade, Ayacel, is a continuum of my tribal roots—but she is from another country of origin. Mexican-America.

In this valley we are forgiven under the benediction of commerce and grapes because it is what we choose to do with our citizenship, we have come here to make a better community for our children.

It is a dream we all hold in common.














© 2003 Maureen Hurley, published in My America. Brandon Mise,  Blue Barnhouse Press, Asheville, North Carolina. More on Blue Barnhouse blog.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Fidelity of the heart


Dogface violets, heart's ease in the lawn, small faces waiting for sunrise, turned toward the east, toward that softer danger, the sun, that eye, a merciless glare in some other desert, but in this lawn, the suburbs, stolen beauty trembles amid the green.

And the idea of home, or, being homeless, that irrational fear of losing the hearth when the heart itself is lost. Heart's ease—as if there were a remedy for that.

I cannot go back to who I was, and who I've become, is mysterious, but this stasis is no longer acceptable. Women absorbed language differently than men; men don't love as deeply as women…

Is it biochemical? Are we hard so hardwired? And no, I don't want to be self-indulgent, I don't want to indulge this pain and suffering but when a man threatens you with that final sentence...

My mind dwells on the salmon-colored steps, midafternoon, where the lemons glisten with inconstant suns, the sour aftertaste at the back of the throat, unbearable. 

And I know that I'm only barely maintaining a façade as civilization slips from my shoulders like a pashima shawl. Make that Rapunzel's hair falling down to the garden gate so the man can climb up to win her. 

It's all there, the pain and the suffering, only we don't see it because it's a fairytale where belief is suspended like the perpetually right pears or apples waiting for someone to pluck them and take a bite.

Then, the symbolism comes home. And these words are secret dewdrop after the rain. Or perhaps, unshed tears. Sooner or later everyone tells on themselves. And the cruelty of lovers towards their beloved knows no boundaries.

April showers: the old song, raindrops keep falling on my…
Gene Kelly dancing in the rain, in the flower of his career, celluloid history. And then it becomes instant replay at the movies – persistent showtunes tyrannize the mind, take no prisoners especially Babs. 

I don't care if half the drag queens want to be funny girls like Lady Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, because the rest of them all want to be Cher. The retirement show clichés keep falling from my head. 

Even the cat, hungry for lap, clichés herself to Diana's leg. Mine! Mine! That look of utter ownership. We once had a cat who, upset with the rain, went to each door and each window, hoping for a sea change. I can relate to that.

Meanwhile out in the yard, plants gathered at the rain into a pagan ritual of floribunda. Emma Thompson in Howard's End touching the blossoms, the lilac, the catulpa are magnificent candles of butterflied flowers. Lighting up the dreary day with the radiance impossible to define. Otherworldly and for an instant the catulpa was transformed into a vast candelabra glistening with April rain. 

Spring: new beginnings, death of old patterns, the letting go requires faith that spring will return. not pass me over, leaving me back in the winter, and an intermittent love is no love at all. Stormwatch: fingers of rain drumming on the untamed sea of the heart. 

A musical in C sharp.

4/25/2003
Writers' Group

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

EASTER EVE


EASTER EVE

Meanwhile, somewhere over the Rockies,
all that easily-earned green is beginning to disappear
as rain turns to snow at higher elevations.
Coastal spring recedes back into winter mountains.

Hell’s Gate. Helena. Lewis and Clark slept here.
What about Sakajawea? And the child nursing at her breast?
The dark thoughts of feathers hampered by rain.

If one listens with patience the old message still gets through.

As the plane descends, my mind won’t let go:
Though he still wears the angry colors of the tyrant’s robes,
he’s late in coming to that expansion of the soul.

The snow is falling like rice from a slow wedding sky.
Variations of white ride a landscape of inescapable rhythm.

The moon came up 50 minutes earlier than it did the night before.
The land of shining mountains: Montana. The Bitterroots, the Abskaroka.
What is truth? Beauty? If one knows how to listen.

When fall promised the salvation of darkness into the feather,
Chief of the Crows, Plenty Coups died at the age of 34.
On the bare tree, a hard leaf hangs on like a death sentence.
Red maple leaf encased in ice like a jewel for my foot to find
as I stepped from the heated van onto the truth of ice.

I’m not interested in the outcome where the loser gets the man.
I’m here to teach the children about poetry.

An Arab mathematician said: One is the first figure of endless numbers.
What about zero, null and void? and the negative nimbers?
If one listens with patience the old message still gets through.

After the stroke, Ram Dass sits in the darkening shadow of long evening.
The mind..., he says. The mind. Leaves rustle in the courtyard. The mind.
Silence. His eyes close, head tilted toward the stars, at a loss for words.

First gathering of words on the lips: ma ma ma ma
I am, I am: said the tang and surcease of the sea.
I exist, therefore I am. I yam what I yam. (Yogi Berra).
I stood there in front of his house, you know,
I just stood there looking at a closed door. Cogito ergo sum.

One tear met another floating down the river.
Said the first tear: I am the tear of the woman who lost her love.
Said the other: I am the tear of the woman who got him. (Chinese)
The wind nibbles at the corner of the eye.

The slow breathing of long distance rain on the hills.
That’s what poetry is. Simple, elegant: Occam’s Razor.

Tonal languages: ma = horse, ma = woman, ma = scold, ma = grass.
It’s all in how you say it and the context it is given.

Somewhere out there is the river. Yellow stone.
Little Bighorn. Greasy Grass. The Powder, the Little Powder.
53,000 miles of stream bed: each chooses one sea over the other.
The Great Divide. If a tear falls in each stream, then what?

Einstein discovered the flow of time is relative to the observer.
I carry a photo with me for when I need to restore what was lost.

I am the despair of the sand speaking in razor-sharp tongues.
The wind drives me from the crests of mountains to the depths of the sea.

Plenty Coups said education is your most powerful weapon.
With it, you are the white man’s equal.
Without it, you are his victim.
He saw it was time to change.

Time is relative to the observer.

The search for truth is hard, or it is easy. If one listens.
It is evident no one can master it fully or miss it wholly.
From all the facts assembled, there arises a certain grandeur. (Aristotle)

The sum of what is equal to the rate of decay.
Ancient Babylonians studied algebra, and they didn’t survive, see?
What is the half-life of a marriage?

There is a natural poetry in common names.
Read the names of the towns and cities, of the creeks and rivers.
Read them aloud. There is a pattern, a kind of folk-music in itself,
alive with a beauty that is sometimes smooth singing,
sometimes sharp as a trapper’s knife.

When she was a girl, Helena’s brother always carried her to the cornfields before dinner. He’d pick the ears of corn and then hand them to her. They were small suns resting in her arms. Fifty years later, he went to answer the phone and found he’d misplaced his speech inside the ear of the Trojan horse, alongside the weapons of the stroke. But those ears of corn whispered a poem in her ear, whispering the words she never said, and he could only mutely acknowledge her, nodding his head to her poem whispering in his ear. Cornlight.

Abskaroka: hides a tongue. Absa- large beaked bird.
Crow tongue: Shoshone: stinking water. Headwaters of the Missouri.
Ah-mah-tahro-shosh-sher: The stream that scolds all others.
Gros vendre, big muddy crow. Pick the eyes out of the fallen.
Missoula: issoul: horrible (Hell’s Gate) Annus horriblis.
Assinaboine: stone boilers. The loose-tongued music of the river.

At the Talking Tongue, the crookedest stream in Montana,
they named Sakajawea’s son, Baptiste.

Amor non tenet ordinem. Who is listening?
Love is a drowning in flood waters. (9th c. Irish).
Terra nullis. To walk, in Maylay, is to eat the wind.

When Plenty Coups died, the Crow decided no one could take his place
so they never again elected a chief. Where does that put us? With Carter?
On the bare tree, a hard leaf hangs on like a death sentence.

I inherited my mother’s hatred of her name. Not Helen. Maureen.
Why did she name me thus? Am I She of the sea? The Morríghan?
The great warrior queen stood raven-shouldered at the hero’s fall.
The Morríghan with the head of a crow and a taste for men’s eyes.
Her breasts were Trojan horses filled with shining cancer.

Fort Keogh: Captain Myles Keogh’s horse, Comanche, survived Little Bighorn.
They found him tearing the greasygrass—grass so rich, it would fatten a stone.
Garyowen, the marching song of the Cavalry.  Sean, south of...where?
A long way from home in any language, where are ye now?
The Morríghan found you here too.

William Blake was the son of an Irish hosier.
At the age of four, he saw God in an apple tree.

Timothy Leary turned his death into a media event, Ram Daas said:
We met as adventurers. People wanted wisdom from TIm. He was just playing his role.

What of Heremon, the King of Spain?

CuChulainn, Hound of Ulster, read the red hand.

Life, being what it is, one dreams of revenge. (Gauguin)

Epona , horse of strength and beauty; both male and female.
Rhiannon, The Morríghan, ancestor goddess.

Tir gan teanga, tir gan anim:  A land without a tongue, a land without soul.

Spring came early one year, third grade teacher Bob Kappel found a confused Canada goose on the playground chasing students. Since he had a farm he took the goose home in the truck.

OK, so it was the 6th century, BC.
Pleasure is plural, pain is singular.
To see eternity in a grain of sand.

Well, the goose noticed the fence posts whizzing by and he wasn’t having to work his wings, and so he began to flap them in the truck cab. Bob had to pin him down in order to drive.

The lack of symmetry, known as CP violation says particles and anti-particles decay differently. But CP violation doesn’t account for the antimatter paradox.

He let the goose go with his other geese, but it took off again. However, the weather had warmed so much, south wasn’t such an urgency for the snowbird.

The number of astronomical units in a light year (63,240)
is virtually the same as the number of inches in a mile (63,360).

In the local paper: a missing goose ad. “Please help Freddie come home. Still missing, was last seen on 9th Street two weeks ago. Please call Mrs. Ida Richardson 628-6311.” Well, someone photocopied the ad, put it on the teacher’s room fridge with a note: “Leave it Kappel to get someone’s goose!”

Beware of synchronicity. Therein lies the way to madness.

What is the problem? The speed of thought is claimed to be 150 mph. Few are caught speeding.

(Bob once put Elmer’s glue in Sharon’s hand lotion and soap in her hair spray. and as the day progressed, her hair got flatter and flatter... But he didn’t marry her.)

Sakharov proposed the laws of physics were out of balance
favoring the existence of matter over anti-matter for some reason.

Circling the rim rock of Billings at sunset, under a full moon.

Myriad tongues of the Clark Fork, multiple channels,
white against the dark numberless islands, saying goodbye in all languages.
Airborne over Montana. Granite Peak rimes in cloud cap, lit by the rising moon.

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces
to realize that memory is what makes our lives. (Bunel)

I can trace the course of the river canyons by strings of lights that begin like a lone flame cresendoing into a candelabra as it tumbles down the mountains to the Central Valley, a bathtub ring of light reestablishing the ancient shoreline of the Precambrian sea, as if the earth glowed from within.

There is no word for problem in Quechua.

The geometric patterns of industry and suburb like ideograms of light for the moon to see. Industry’s strange calligraphy abutting the edges of the hills, a spillage of light up the canyons, privileged herringbone of parking lots. The staring eye of stadiums long after the game’s over.

Stray renegade light slices the night as we descend, Dantesque. We bow before Moloch on this eve of Easter, a basilisk about to walk on water, but terra firma replaces water at the last minute...blue eyes to ward off evil greets us, guide us home to the portal.

4/23/03



Wednesday, April 16, 2003

SMALL VIEW, iii



SMALL VIEW, iii                                                                        
         —after Wislawa Szymborska                                            


1. Not content with things themselves,
we named small desires, translated them into stone.
The smithy’s forge transformed nameless dirt into iron,
stayed countless armies of sand into glass palaces.

At Zaandfort, we admired the slow hunger of glaciers
and the ceaseless appetite of the Rhine, carrying a payload
of what once was the secret heart of mountains.        

Midsummer: we stood on a dune above the North Sea,
talking of Caesar and philosophy, naming the intangible
sandwiched between schools of thought. Cogito ergo sum.

Things cannot stand for what they are,
without moniker or name as if we brought them into being
with our mad desire for definition. To think is to name.
At Descartes' huis we measured the ratio of shadow
to light and found it wanting within our own darkness.
Throwing stones at the shattered ego, an afterthought.


2. As Blake would say: to seek eternity in a grain of sand.
But then, he saw God in an apple tree when he was four
   and newly come to the naming of things.
How did he know God if there was not yet a name for it?
Was it verb or noun?

                           This naming: And God said...
sheds no more light than the man in the moon.
Yet we persist, we insist on this naming,
yet overlook the way warbled glass in the old house
imperfectly admits sunlight into a room.

Should we turn the windows upside down every 50 years?
Stand the rubric of time on its ear in order to see clearly?

3. We could name an aspect of time, call it slumped glass,
explain it with the poetics of physics: slow fluid
seeking gravity’s lips, admire rippled light cast onto skin,
a genesis of follicles and dappled shadows on the floorboards,
or imagine an ancestral memory of sea and sand and wind.

Appellation, cognomen, epithet.
We hammer and tong Latinate structure
into verb or into noun as it suits:
we designate it nom de guerre, nom de plume,
we call it pseudonym, or maybe nothing at all.

4/03; rev. 9/03 for Zimmerzine

DRAGOMAN

DRAGOMAN

what is faith writing me. spell it. fate. change it. furies. spare change for what future? what guide? what targumanu (from the Akkadian). I am remodeling my vocabularium to fit the need. what dreams are. Miranda’s island of cannibals. what brave new... we are busily writing into verb. into clay. what is writing me? writing it? the eye of fate? or the hand?

but the cat howling on the doorstep has faith that someone will come. starved for love. at the Richmond refineries: desert oil love. Vito interprets. the cat. only when I have people over. He doesn’t love me. is at war with a cat. what’s cat faith? pet, scratch, lap, fluff the kibble. oh, to sit in a window facing west, late afternoon. foghorn moans. cat tries every door, then all the screens. luck finds an open window. on the screen, he hangs a crucifixion of paw and fur. let you in from the night. let us in.

strange cat at the doorstep
politicking for love
foghorn moans in the distance


yellow hostages on legal paper, hold hostage the words. they can’t come unbidden. I was too busy pulling the energy up from my feet. out the head. a garden of tube worms beneath the Sea of Oman. call it meditation. call it visual blockage at the heart.. but not the head. a blue thread attached to the sky, dragonfly blue, mid-summer, make it Desolation Wilderness. what current man on what horizon? we are defined by. names of the past resurrected from memory. a blur of faces kissing my. but others came. call it faith. no time for coffins. handwriting on the wall.

Lent. who asks what did you give up? what holds the heart hostage? yellow paper & the black night of words leaking in. soldiers dying in what wheat field, what scarlet poppies dropping petals in the wind? in the name of. faith is a hostage, the sun in bondage from the night, from mortar shell. evil eye. all the blue of. and ramadan nights. the same river twice. I didn’t know I loved

yellow ribbons round sweet magnolias. the civil war. frankly...

Herodotus’ perfumed country. myrrh, frankincense. fires burn in front of the sandstorm, scattered they lay...the people lay in heaps ((2000 BC). what is caught between two rivers like a doe in the headlights, stepping over the slender shadows of her legs. like obverse sunbeams. we have crossed the Euphrates, we have crossed the Tigris. what will we have to do in order to bring ourselves home? what about them? what ransom on the skull of the world? I am clinging to the names of rivers, Hiddekal, al-Furat, Shatt al-Arab, Khazer, Diyala, the Zeb al-Khyber. . and the wadis.

Khyber Pass. skip the war bits & it’s a short read. get to the part where they go through the mountain. skip the war on prime time, on every channel, we’re all in bondage. we’re good at guilt. fast forward prisoners of lost trust. we look away from. don’t want to see. fruits of tradition: war and civilization. pause. winged bulls. the call of the muezzin. equinox, sandstorms have taken the sun hostage. firewells turn the sand into green glass. they found oil jugs of the crusaders.

clay tablets. abstract symbols opened the door to history. we learn the names of cities as old as civilization. where are the hanging gardens? a shift of fortune, the Euphrates banks. Solomon’s messenger bird. what about Mecca? 25,000 archaeological sites, less than 10% have been excavated. but the reign of war ended that legacy. Sargon’s bow unleashed the missile age. battalions seek heights, ziggurats. in a moonless city flashes of light the garden. you could hear the debris wheeze in the sky like lawnmower blades. we have taken Baghdad, but no matter how far we advance, we can’t seem to find the heart of the citadel. freedom is untidy. behind the seventh fiscal veil, odor of bitter chordite. professionals looting the treasures of Baghdad. as we learn new words. what dragomen interpret the new century. the looting has begun. yesterday was year zero for Iraq. they have burned the National Library. all the books. what does the handwriting on the wall say now?


4/16/03 

Friday, April 11, 2003

EASTER SUNDAY CAT

EASTER SUNDAY CAT

Faith, what a word. Can you spell that? 
Change the word to fate, or the furies. 
The cat meowing on the doorstep,
Now that's faith. He has faith 
that Vito will eventually come around 
to petting him, then letting him in.
He is starved for attention, 
he meows plaintively through our meditation.
It must drive Vito nuts.
This pen is giving me cramps, 
real writer's block, write faster than you can think. 
I think I'm I am surfing on everybody's meditation, 
I'm getting a free ride. Writing about a cat.
He's clearly not surfing on our vibes.
He's yodeling on the doorstep. 
hH's gregarious. Uncatlike. Like a dog.
Vito says it's only when I have people over. 
He doesn't love me. But what is cat love, faith? 
Faith that someone will pet you, offer you lap,
scratch the places you can't reach, 
then fluff your kibble, and change your water?
In that order?

To be a cat sitting in a western window
 in late afternoon, fur trapping sunlight. 
The cat tries every door again, hoping for entrance. 
He tries the shower window screen, 
his arms outstretched Christlike on the cross.
He yowls, why have you forsaken me?
Sometimes faith is like that. 
It's a matter of resurrection and redemption.
The knowledge that someone will come to the door, 
let you in for the night, Foghorns moan in the distance.
At the doorstep, a cat at the doorstep.
He wants in, he wants in, he wants in.

 4/11/2003
Writers' Group
Richmond, CA

Yellow ribbon Hostages


Yellow ribbon hostages. Stuck, I couldn't think of what to write on the paper. So I wrote the word yellow, but the paper is yellow, legal paper, held hostage the words. 

And the words won't come and didn't. My head is thick, my feet buzzing from meditation. I was too busy pulling the energy up my body, through my chakras, and out my head. Usual blockage at the heart, but I like the buzz out the top of my head. 

I think of a blue ribbon attached to the sky, dragonfly blue. The cat tries the shower window hanging onto the screen like a furry crucifixion. It's Lent. how appropriate. What did you give up? What holds the heart hostage? When disappointment erodes it like a hostage? The sun in bondage. All this yellow paper, the black night of words leaking in. 

The Civil War soldiers dying in what foreign field while loved ones restored their faith, tying yellow ribbons around sweet magnolia trees to bring them home. What soldiers in what wheat fields? 

As we learn the names of the cities, the oldest civilization cradling the past between the rivers. We have crossed the Euphrates. We have crossed the Tigris. What will we have to do in order to bring ourselves home? What ransom have we put on the world? I am clinging to the names of rivers, the Zeb, the little Zeb, the Khyber as in Khyber Pass. 

I loved that book. I skipped all the military strategy in order to get to the part where they go through the secret mountain passage. I skipped all the war parts in War and Peace too, making it a quick read. But this war is on prime time, every channel. 

We are wearing yellow ribbons on the inside. We have taken Baghdad, but no matter how far we advance, we can't seem to find the heart of the city. Prisoners keep track of the days by tacking imaginary yellow ribbons on imaginary trees. What holds the heart hostage?

4/11/2003 

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

SMALL VIEW, ii


SMALL VIEW, ii                                                          


Midsummer: we stood on a dune above the North Sea,
talking of Caesar and philosophy, naming the intangible
sandwiched between schools of thought. Cogito ergo sum.
At Zaandfort, we admired the slow hunger of glaciers on stone
and the ceaseless appetite of the Rhine, carrying a payload
of what once was the secret heart of mountains.

Not content with things themselves,
we named small desires, translated them into stone.
The smithy’s forge transformed nameless dirt into iron,
stayed countless armies of sand into glass palaces.

Things cannot stand for what they are,
without moniker as if we brought them into being
with our mad desire for definition. To think is to name.
At the house of Descartes we measured the ratio of shadow
to light and found it wanting within our own darkness.
Throwing stones at the shattered ego, an afterthought.

As Blake would say: to seek eternity in a grain of sand...
But then, he saw God in an apple tree when he was four
   and newly come to the naming of things.
How did he know it was God if there was not yet a name for it?
Was it verb or noun?

                           This naming: And God said...
sheds no more light than the man in the moon.
Yet we persist, we insist on this naming,
yet overlook the way warbled glass in the old house
imperfectly admits sunlight into a room.

Should we turn the windows upside down every 50 years?
Stand the rubric of time on its ear in order to see clearly?

We could name it an aspect of time, call it slumped glass,
explain it with the poetics of physics: slow fluid
seeking gravity’s kiss, admire rippled light cast onto skin,
a genesis of follicles and dappled shadows on the floorboards,
or imagine an ancestral memory of sea and sand and wind.

Appellation, cognomen, epithet.
We hammer and tong Latinate structure
into verb or into noun as it suits:
we designate it nom de guerre, nom de plume,
we call it pseudonym, or maybe nothing at all.


4/9/03




Saturday, April 5, 2003

POSTCARD FROM IRAQ



4/5 Baghdad: Artillery hissed overhead
slammed into wheatfields,
spewing shrapnel into the air.
You could hear debris wheeze
whirling in the sky like lawnmower blades.
Indiscriminate death and the bitter smell 
of chordite filled the air.
Kurdish fighters stood amid a field of daisies
& poppies glowing scarlet as drops of blood.
The exodus began before dawn. 
Anything to escape the city.
Desperate, unsettled scenes: 
no electricity, no water, no fuel.
After a night spent in darkness,
they were bumper to bumper, many in tears.
In the desert, water is more precious than oil, 
than blood.

4/5/03


























IRAQ notes;

Taking Iraq fire in a wheat field culled from the Chronicle 4/5/03 (Anna Badhken)
Artillery hissed overhead, slammed into a field with a thunderous crack shaking the ground, spewing shrapnel into the air. Journalists threw themselves facedown into a wheat field while poker-faced green Berets casually studied the clouds of smoke rising from the crater.

“that was a pretty good one, “ said Jack
“that one was close.”
“It’s best when you can hear it,” said Scott.
“If you don’t hear it, then you’re in trouble.”

You could hear the debris wheeze,

whirling in the sky like lawn mower blades,

ready to deliver indiscriminate death.

The bitter smell of chordite filled the air.

With rifles painted light green, Special Force troops and Kurdish peshmergas elude death in the rolling hills of northern Iraq.

“nNt a problem, “ said Jack, “All you need is a radio, a gun and a good attitude.”

On the Zab al-Kabir River, Iraqis left behind their ammunition, their fuel, their cars and their dead.

Kurdish fighters stood amid a field of daises and poppies glowing scarlet like drops of blood.

“The peshmerga know this land like the backs of their hands. They are from here.” Jack said

The Iraqis retreat to the ridge overlooking the Khazer River.

“They got range on that last one, it’ll be interesting up here when they get us bracketed,” said Jack, who asked that his real name not be used. Another Iraqi shell slammed into a wheat field.

“That was close. They look like Volkswagens flying over you.” Jack explained.

“Don’t you have a round trip ticket?” one of the reporters asked.

“Oh, I’ve got one all right, I just don’t like the itinerary. Let’s go kick some ass!”

* * *

Meanwhile in America, a mother is visited by plainclothes police because her son played music at the SF anti-war rally on Mar 16, he sang: You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace.”

--Michael Franti, Spearhead


RESIDENTS FLEE FROM BATTLEGROUND

The exodus began before dawn. Baghdadis piling pots & pans, B&W TVs, radio, colorful bedding, stoves, cans of gas, water, bags of flour, rice, tea, into taxis, rigs, broken down VWs—all plastered with bumper stickers saying “God is greatest, “anything to escape the city. The war is here. An understatment. First sweltering day of spring. Knots of people waiting for rides squat besides their TVs and carpets and luggage on sidewalks soaking up the sun. Desperate unsettled scenes. No water, no electricity. No TV, only radios. Long before sunrise, after a night spent in darkness, residents snarled the main road out of Baghdad. They were bumper to bumper, headed for the pastures and orange groves of Diala. Chaotic lines at gas stations like dendritic patterns of trees. Several men pushing a red cattle truck carrying 8 women in black chadors. “We’ll come back maybe tomorrow, maybe a week, maybe a month. It all depends on God,” said Jassim. “War is death,” he says. Hopelessness has become a constant theme. Fatalism is a leading sentiment along the road to Diala and the women and children are scared. Um Abbass, his mother, is impatiently screeching, “Hurry, hurry.” Vehicles of every description loaded with men, women, children and all their possessions fled in a river of traffic several miles long. He got in his car, leaving his home behind. For how long he didn’t know. “That depends on God,” he said. But it was time to go. He looked out the window and said good-bye.”God save you. God save us all.”


HOW REPORTER MICHAEL KELLY KILLED

In the desert, water is more precious than oil. In the fertile Crescent, the land between two rivers, the idea of civilization sprouted. In the land of Hammurabi, in the land of Nebuchanezze, where Alexander met his end, a humvee rolled into a canal outside the Saddam Hussein airport drowning Michael Kelly and the driver He was the first US journalist to die in the war. The airport was renamed BaghdadInternational Michael Kelly who wrote “Martyr’s Day” after the 1991 Gulf War was killed on a Friday.” Karmic debt. He said “There was a real sense fate the last gulf war that witness had been lost.” Another witness has been lost. On St. Patrick’s Day, he said, “My gut feeling there is some degree of danger, but here you’re literally surrounded by an army to keep you out of danger.” He hadn’t counted on the water or driver error.

* * *

At ease in the Euphrates River, US soldiers take the opportunity to bathe near Karbala, dusty boots rest on the reedy shore like Moses’ cradle.

* * *

Without power residents depend upon word of mouth.

Across this city, the absence of information has become more deafening than the rumbling sounds of war. Baghdadis are missing the TV broadcasts from both sides. They are packing up for a quick get away.

* * *

At the onset of war, three units crossed the Euphrates

to seize the Rumaila oil fields, they paused, low on supplies, and a sandstorm howled across the country. The marine colonel was relieved of his post. The heat wave will reach its peak today with temperatures well over 100°, with high winds and sandstorms will be thick enough to decrease visibility with chance of local showers in the northern mountains where the Kurdish are waiting to claim booty.

Cluster bombs.When the bomb is dropped, air passing over its tail fins causes it to spin, separating the bombs outer shell, releasing smaller bomblets that deploy parachutes to ensure a better angle of attack. They are designed to explode into 300 fragments, but may fail to detonate if they did not hit a hard surface.

A rain of bomblets on the desert sands, each one capable of exploding into one fragment for each day of the year.

Dragoman (DRAG-uh-man) noun,an interpreter or guide. [The word took a scenic route to its present form via French, Italian, and medieval Latin/Greek, from Arabic tarjuman, from Aramaic turgemana, from Akkadian targumanu (interpreter).]

Thursday, April 3, 2003

SACRED VALLEY 2003 (GARBLED TEXT)


In Ollantetambo,
the sun reveals its secrets at dawn.
Winter solstice.
Delicate breasts on the rocks.
We crossed ancient bridges
that have stood testament for 600 years.
Pizarro was routed here. Say the names
Ollantetambo, Huaynapicchu, satellite cities
marking the 12 routes to the sacred city.
Temple terraces face due north
towards the temple of the sun.
At the temple of water
science and religion and power
are one thing and speak in rills.
At Ollantetambo there are
water mirrors everywhere
to remind the Southern Cross,
the Chakana, stairway to the threefold world,
to bring back the season.
The four directions were invoked 
at the pachamanca, the earth oven.
At Saxayhuaman, the ballcourt of the panther,
that mirrors the darkness of the Milky Way,
there are potato ovens everywhere.
At the altar of the intihuacana,
potatoes are the center of the world
the inti rey invoked the days
and the seasons to return
to the navel of the world.



2003 April 3

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

VICTOR JARRA SPEAKS:


VICTOR JARRA SPEAKS:     


I remember how doves circled the stadium walls
counterclockwise against the light.
Endless flight, white against clouds.
No, I was not aware. Yes. The sun at noon.
I remember the sound of dry husks breaking.
The body of a guitar, so like a woman we can never possess.
Walking the fields. The odor of bruised rosemary.
They have broken her. A fist slammed into a side of beef.
Splintered rain. And then, more rain. A pipe against flesh. Dull.
You ask how many angels on a pinhead? Las Trovistas.
Duerme, duerme negrito, Papa va en el campo....
No, I did not dream, ever. The doves, they... The midnight knock.
Me voy en el campo de los sueños. Me voy en el paiz del muerte.
A revolution. The simplest of weapons:
A voice, a guitar, a message makes a martyr.
My voice took flight, sought refuge in the past,
it flew into the future, it escaped these prison walls.

Ordinary things. I remember. Angelito, mi hijo.
The purity of doves settling on bright rivers of blood on stone.
Under torture, the rational mind confesses to circumstantial evidence.
When the Junta took my hands, they... Yes. The light. They flew, they...
Sometimes I could see my own face reflected in cesspools
in chrome, or in the dark secret layer beneath their polished boots.
So I could remember who I once was. Yes, September, 1973. Etched in stone.
Military time. Dancing the cueca. Pinochet and poor Allende.
Interrogation. The way they approached it like a call to prayer.
As if something holy and profound. And then, the cruel smile.
No. The answers weren’t enough. They are never enough.
That kind of silence before the thin scream that escapes the lips...
There are degrees of victimhood. It isn’t hard to humiliate or to be humiliated.
Benediction, yes. Tell me one thing that one man will not do to another.

Children of Pinochet, yes. Those who survived. No, they...
Evita on display like a beautiful wax doll.
But it was a deja vu of death mocking the living.
Repentence? No amount of revenge can satisfy our sad country.
In any regime, the poets are always the first to go.
The words of lambs before the slaughter.
No, I didn’t remember. Mis manos, mis pobres...
Hell is paved like the prison cell. Si. La música, el corazón.
There is so much I don’t remember. The deaad rise.
Can’t remember, my mind broken, like my hands, they...
But still I sang, I sang, my voice escaped El Estadio,
it fled to the sky when they took my hands,
but not my will. And still my voice could be heard
singing throughout the city long after I was gone.
Yes. Si, si. Even death could not take my voice.
Singing Santiago de Chile, mi tierra. Por la libertad.
Yes. I would raise the stumps of these arms to embrace them all.
For my songs are the children of memory.


4/2/03 rev. 5/12