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Dancing Bears

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I had seen more dancing bears before I ever saw my first golf-course. I mean real golf-courses, not miniature golf.  And I mean real dancing bears, not something off of a Grateful Dead bumper sticker.

In the market in Lahore there was a Pashtun wearing dirty perahan wa tunban with a long grey vest and lungee, on his feet Pathan sandals, by his side marched a muzzled sun-bear with chain collar and long chain dangling from his master’s hand, arms entwined behind his back.  Very cavalier for a man with a bear.  For a few rupees he would make the bear twirl on his hide legs, paws in the air.

The Russian circus came to town before I had even learned to drag a camera about.  Their bears where brown, large and un-muzzled.  I remember the red vests the trainers wore, very striking.

It was not too many years later that I discovered my first golf-course in the middle of the night.  But I never learned to play.  I did learn that high school children liked to drink beer there, smoke dope, and hook up.  I imagine that college age people did to, probably for nostalgia sake.  You could find the empty green bottles, empty baggies, and occasional condom.   By then I had learned about grizzly bears, and black bears, Kodiak bears, and the extinct golden bears of California, and the great bear of Russia.

There is a wicker basket in the corner of where I live.  It used to be used for laundry; it is now used for balls.  All those nights and days wandering around avoiding the bears, the cougars, the skunks, walking by tennis courts, golf-courses, picking up lost balls.  My father played golf, but I do not remember him doing so.  There was a golf bag in his effects.  I took home the bucket of balls for the basket, my brother took home the clubs.  I learned to juggle.

This was all B.C., before Caddyshack.  Those were good years, B.C. I was younger and it was fun to find empty ground without people.  It was even more fun after Caddyshack.  “Biggest wastes of real estate, golf-courses and cemeteries” spouts the developer played by Rodney Dangerfield.  I took it to heart and was happy.  Cemeteries and golf-courses were keeping the world a little nicer because they were keeping the ground out of the hands of real estate developers.  I could watch the edges of towns blur the country, but the cemeteries and golf-courses were still safe at night.  I could wander around avoiding the cougars, skunks, and bears.

But now it is A.D., after Donald.  I try not to go near golf-courses.  They have become bad places, not preserving the ground from developers.  They are the playground of developers.  They are the place you go to look at the kleptocrats, to emulate the kleptocrats.  They are pretty like the gold souq of Dubai, or the frankencastles on the hills with well-manicured lawns and gardens.  I do not go there at night anymore, because I am afraid of the great bear.  He is no longer tied to Polaris.

That leaves me the graveyards at night.  I pass them in the daytime; they are getting busier, new holes, new mourners.   Night is the only time they seem at rest.

Somebody

 

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

Poem #260 from her catalog of works . . .

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

*

Once upon a time I had a teacher in a poetry class named Ruth Slonim.  She was fond of quoting Emily Dickinson and every once in a while snippets of these poems pop into my head.  Some I have even burned into my brain years later.  But this is an example of someone who effected my life in such a way that I didn’t even realize it fully at the time.  The old song goes “you never know what you got until it is gone.”  She died in 2005.

I later learned that during her life, she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in poetry.  Just to be nominated means she effected a lot more people than just me.   She had, and still has relevance in this world.  She is still effecting in her own quiet way.

The last time I remember meeting her was on a side-walk maybe 20 years after she taught me in class.  She remembered me from that class, and said she had been hearing good things about my work.  I mostly feel I have dwelled in hiding all my life, so when these little bumps come along, they make me reevaluate what I really am, what I think I have and have not done with my life.  And things like “How dreary to be somebody . . . ” pop into my head.

The frog tune that was posted on this blog a little time back in reference to the Donald Trump horror, must come from this poem, and Ruth Slonim.  “An admiring Bog” is a danger that Donald Trump never had a teacher burn into his brain as a warning.  It is really a shame that the humanities of a well-rounded education never sank in for Mr. Trump.  It is people like Ruth Slonim that I have to thank for adding this little angel on my shoulder, or is it a demon?  Whatever it is, it is one of those lessons that never really gets over.

Image result for Ruth Slonim

 

 

Religion

 

The bastard breeds as well as the Son;

remember the Father never married.

Not two wrongs but a trillion . . .

Against the will of woman, we have

been raped and the children suffer.

So breed the blasphemies.

 

published in Wind Row, Spring, 1983.

 

13

Photo: Old Moscow, probably in Washington Territories (USA)

Autumn Night

 

Dark night, cool and crisp,

softened dreams and settling mists.

Golden leaves fall so swift,

floating shadows with green well mixed.

 

Torrents of sounds from the drainage pipe,

thick rich earth after natures strike.

A scoured sky a joyful sight,

countless specks of twinkling light.

 

Endless green in the form of pine,

blackening shadows at this time.

Rising up from the cold damp leaves,

living the seasons as they please.

 

Growing warmth from within small homes,

people together, not alone.

Actually tearful is the night,

her soft light heart is far from sight.

 

published in Major Poets, Fall, 1974.

*

Let’s face it, I am not a major poet.  So this is another “Vanity Press” publication.  It was written as a literary conceit, I hadn’t been “in love” in over a year.  I managed to get this published without knowing what it was being published in.  I really don’t consider it a good poem.  Cute maybe, but not great.  Sitting on a shelf gathering dust and long forgotten.  I actually stumbled upon it by accident.

“We the People”

 

“We the People” should stop working for these dicks.  They would be helpless!  Do you think that Donald Trump can cook?  Do his laundry?  Make the scotch tape for his tie?  Clean his toilet?  Mop his floor?  Cut the grass?  Paint the fence?  Hell, build a wall?  He sure as Hell does not know how to build and fire a tomahawk missile.  And he is too cowardly to walk up the Khyber pass with a rifle.  Most of the rich are very much the same.

Crossroads

 

These bastions of those that come and go, each person to

their own choice of direction, could appear as castles.

Buildings stand to their appointed corners, lattice works

of red brick and mortar, like a crown of thorns upon a brow

that hangs its head in weary pain and abuse.

Bartizans at each corner made of carefully fitted stone,

towers of the guard to watch over the voyager who rests within.

At some crossroads there have been planted trees, perhaps in

winter covered with snow and not easily seen.  Their roots run

beneath the road and the traveler’s feet.  The roots lie beneath

each branch of the junction giving them support, giving them life.

 

published in Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems, April, 1982.

*

Just a quick comment of “Vanity Presses”.  I imagine this does sort of count as a publication, it is in my portfolio towards the back.  I do not think of it as a particularly good poem, but it is gathering dust on some library shelf someplace and will never see the light of day again.   The company that published it, World of Poetry, out of Sacramento, CA expects to make money off of people buying this volume to give to friends and relatives, that sort of thing.  I doubt that anybody else in the academic or literary community has ever seen it.  This is not a publication that is going to get a writer any exposure.

Christianity

 

To bleach away the magic

from man and nature

is to turn clay into stone,

yet even the pressure of death

turning life black as coal

can bring forth light.

Then too, given time,

the philosopher’s stone man appear and

under gifted hand and finest tools

the clay shall then have the magic

to break the light into colors,

and form the colors into a light

that shall drive back the shadows

and draw out the truth from the darkness.

 

published in American Collegiate Poets, Spring, 1979.

*

Just a quick comment of “Vanity Presses”.  I imagine this does sort of count as a publication, it is in my portfolio towards the back.  I do not think of it as a particularly good poem, but it is gathering dust on some library shelf someplace and will never see the light of day again.   The company that published it, International Publications, out of LA, CA expects to make money off of people buying this volume to give to friends and relatives, that sort of thing.  I doubt that anybody else in the academic or literary community has ever seen it.  This is not a publication that is going to get a writer any exposure.

Journey to the Center of the Sun

 

It was a short journey;

the preparation work took the longest.

The last epoch was a wink of Ra’s eye;

Verne and Goddard, Wells and von Braun, Steam Punk and NASA,

they did most of the heavy lifting.

Communication was lost in the corona.

 

first posted through triod.com, 2015.

 

Campus Images

 

I

 

Through the maples, red and green,

the early morning light intrudes

into sprinklers and onto lawn beneath

with color of hazy milk or semen

escaping into the swirl of bath water,

mist in the channel of beams.

The cube of lawn is bordered by

concrete walks, and the walks by

red brick buildings: some recent, some not.

Each summer it is the same.

Everything is maintained in motion.

Between the Spring and the Autumn,

new learning and old, there is

the geometry of intersection.

 

II

 

Black cat on freshy cut lawn,

feral and short haired,

watching and listening with tilted head

to the sounds and motion of the bunch grass

and foxtail hiding pleasure and pray.

The breeze moves both weeds and fur.

 

III

 

Grey and black asphalt streets,

smeared oblongs of checkerboards

from trenches and patches.

Autumn and Spring bring fresh

bue, white, and yellow parking

lines for parents and children.

Winter blurs them.

 

IV

 

Surplus items: severed and stuffed heads,

we did not kill them and have them preserved,

but somebody did. Somebody donated them,

was it a naturalist or a hunter?

We just inherited them in some move.

Bear and caribou, reindeer and elk,

skulls and hides, teeth and feathers

gathering dust in the corner,

too creepy to keep,

too sensitive to sell.

 

 

*

 

These four pieces were originally published on triod.com in about 2015. They are separate pieces, but as an experiment I decided to see if the four of them could become a gestalt. Let me know if it works, thanks for reading!

Axe Heads

 

dedicated to Gary Snyder

 

The branch broke off weeks ago,

in lightning, wind, and thunder.

I pulled it out of the road with the help

of an old Boy Scout hatchet.

I could only cut the smallest parts.

It is still in the yard,

a foot thick at its widest.

Across the highway,

they have already repaired

the billboard torn in two.

The cars can move:

no hazard.

Still, it is in the yard.

Chainsaws scare me, and

there is no crosscut in the house.

I’ve and old axe head,

the handle broken and gone

many houses ago.

It has been sitting there

on my kitchen table for a week.

Axe handle . . . . “Axe Handles”,

didn’t somebody write a poem?

It’s on the shelf, and autographed

over a decade ago.

I read it again this morning.

A thousand years plus

of axe handles . . . . and axes.

The limb still needs to be moved.

Write a note for a handle,

right after “stamps”.

Paper in pocket for things today.

Barter some paper

trade some work for

moving things around.

I wrote the note on the back

of a daily calendar sheet.

Axe heads were trade items

once upon a time.

The Iceman had a copper one

as the snows fell and the glacier

weighted him down.

He was walking that pass,

a path between neolithic and bronze.

I’ve a chert hand axe found

in a tool workshop outside

of Jhelum over a quarter century ago.

Neither one will move

the branch in my yard.

Sun is coming up hot

again tomorrow.  In cool

evening light I can meld

wood to iron: wedge tight.

It takes time to make a good tool.

Dawn is cool for chopping.

As woodchips fly,

the world shapes slowly,

and some days it seems

people are shaped slowest

of all.

 

first posted on triod.com, 2015, taken from “Some Notes on 21st Century Sorcery”.