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Showing posts from April, 2018

Sancho and NaPo Day 29

Last night, went with GH to the National Black Theater to watch Sancho, written and performed by Paterson Joseph. Brought from the Caribbean to London by his master, Ignatius Sancho rose from servitude through education and patronage to become an author, composer, and letter writer in the eighteenth century. He was even painted by Thomas Gainsborough as an English gentleman. No Moorish prince or spear-shaking warrior for him. The talented Joseph, whose parents also came to London from the Caribbean, from St. Lucia, showed a vital connection to one whom he considered legitimately an ancestor. The first half of the play was well conceived and written, dramatizing his birth on a slave ship, the theatricals at his mistresses' London house, his education by the powerful Montagu family. The courtship portion fell a little flat and the opening of a grocery shop at Westminster felt anticlimactic. But the writing brought the one-man play to a suitably triumphant end, which I won't give…

NaPo Day 27

Nebraska

Banged-up
Chevy jitters
past Wenzl
Hardware (closed),
Pioneer Theater,
(shuttered), Western
Outpost (cowboy
boots for sale)
to Long Home
Coffee Company.
Inside,
three men
rhyming with Cezanne
mutters
about Walmart.
A schoolgirl
is excited
on her phone
about a college on the coast.
The tablemat
plugs a play (New!)
about two ladies
who lock themselves in a closet
and pray
when America
elects a Democrat.
Over the brown sink
of the Missouri
swoop
tiny white-bellied
insect-eaters
in lasso loops.

NaPo Day 26

Montana

Little
was lynched here
for organizing
the miners and lumberjacks
and speaking
against the war.
German
was forbidden
for a time.
Further back,
a general asked for the bison
to be slaughtered
to starve
the Indians.
In these
rich valleys
between sky-topping mountains,
a river
runs through
the last best place,
and by the river
roamed
families of triceratops,
plucking
at the palms
with their
beaks.

NaPo Day 25

Missouri

He came into the world
with Halley’s Comet
and went out with it,
as he fore-said.
He trained as a steamship pilot
and studied
the river’s every swirl and snag.
He nicked his penname
from an old sailor,
an old river cry,
meaning, mark the two fathoms
that give safe passage.
He changed his mind.
He decried the domination
of the Philippines
and praised the Chinese Boxers.
He was against slavery
but made his masterpiece, Huck,
struggle with
the common prejudice,
terrified he was
going to hell for freeing Jim.
Have I read it?
No… I’d rather float
with this boat
downriver
and think of his dark last years
when his daughter Suzy died,
and then his wife Olivia died,
and then another daughter, the youngest, Jean.

NaPo Day 24

Mississippi

Good levees,
once built
by slaves,
then poor
Irish, taken
over by the
state, funded
by the Fed,
make good
fortunes until
they don’t.
(The wetlands,
endemic sponge,
are vanishing.)
The river
sleeps while
it runs the
manmade
course and
once in a
while wakes
up, like
an epidemic
or a riot,
into flood.

NaPo Day 23

Minnesota

Get on
the green bus.
It stopped
when the plane
on the way to the funeral
of steelworker Martin Rukavina
crashed
into dense forest,
but the bus
has started up again.
Ignore
the jeers
that you’re hopping
on the bandwagon,
some wagons
just have
the better music,
Bob Dylan i
s playing,
and anyway the bus
is passing
some nice bits of water—
Minneapolis, city of water,
Minnetonka, big water,
Minneota, much water,
Minneiska, white water,
and, Dakota
for waterfall, or curling water,
Minnehaha.

In memory of Paul Wellstone, United States Senator from 1991 to 2002.

NaPo Day 20 - 22

Maine

If the Old Sow,
sucking whirlpool,
with treacherous
troughs, standing
walls of water,
boils and spouts,
and that natural
impossibility, the
reverse waterfall,
is the American
Charybdis, Scylla
is the exposed trail
of hikers making
their endless way
through Acadia,
up the mountain,
with their packs
and in their good-
grip shoes, to the
glacial erratic called
Bubble Rock,
which they threaten,
in so much photo
evidence, to push
off and crush who-
ever is below,
smiling for the
record and showing
all their teeth.



Massachusetts

There is a Quality,
so familiar,
to dismay
in social media.
The table
is set for us
to be quotable,
be thunderous.
Time to
slip away
from our chair
and
parley—
with the Air.



Michigan

Five died
building
Mackinac
Bridge—
one fell
into a
caisson,
one of
a heart
attack,
two when
the catwalk
collapsed
their first
day on
the job,
and one
ascended 
too
quickly
from the
straits and
died from
the bends.

In memory of James LeSarge (26), Albert Abbott (40), Jack Baker (…

NaPo Day 19

Louisiana

The state
produces
the most
number of
vampires.
Imprisoned
by their
immortality,
disdainful
of science—
how can it
stand up
to sorcery—
perversely
proud of
their hue
and cry, the
music of
hurricanes,
the undead
are figures
of corruption.
Don’t go
near them
or you will
catch their
fang and feel
their half-
throttled
angst and
turn in a
funk into
one of them.

NaPo Day 17 and 18

Kansas

The ghost, cowboy hat,
curtain moustache,
sidles up and chuckles
appreciatively, howdy,
boys, welcome
to Kansas, and slips
into the bar. The street
is deserted, except
for the pale sheriff
with a five-point badge,
walking a skeleton
horse, who glares at us,
spits near our feet
and croaks, liberal elite.
When we turn the
corner, a tall woman,
hooked to translucent
wings, is giving out
flyers that say in red,
What Would Jesus Do?
and show a pair
of rainbowed hands
letting fall a bloody
fetus. There isn’t much
else to see. For more
than unfunny cartoons,
we will have to follow
the flight to the cities.
What’s this? A terrier,
hair gone white, sniffs
our penny loafers,
crawls away, muttering,
Dorothy, we’re not
in Kansas anymore.


Kentucky

Not our place,
not anyone’s,
although we name
the caves
Rotunda,
Grand Avenue,
joke about
Fat Man’s Misery,
even
mythologize
the stream, calling
it obviously
the Styx.
Bats, with their
livid cries, live here,
little eastern pipistrelle
with its
t…

NaPo Day 16

A break in the alphabetical order to take in the news of the day:

Maryland

O say
can you see
by the dawn’s
early light,
what so
proudly
we hailed
at the twilight’s
last gleaming,
whose broad
stripes and bright
stars through
the perilous
fight, o’er
the ramparts
we watched,
were so
gallantly
streaming?
And the rockets’
red glare,
the bombs
bursting
in air,
gave proof
in the night
that our flag
was still
there; o say
does that
star-spangled
banner yet
wave o’er
the land of
the faith
and the home
of the Ba’ath.

God's Own Country

Friday night, watched "God's Own Country" (2017), about a young Yorkshire farmer (a very credible Josh O'Connor) who numbs his frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex until a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu), joining his family farm for the lambing season, shows him how to be himself, a gay man capable of love and connection. The film brings to mind "Brokeback Mountain" except that "God's Own Country," directed by Francis Lee, is much better. It actually shows the blood and death of newborn lambs. Some survive, some don't, a visual comment on the dangers and pitfalls of coming out in this day and age still. Not in love with the title, though.

NaPo Day 15

Iowa

What’s the line
around the barn,
a viewing line for
some dear leader?
Oh, it’s the line to see
the butter cow,
600 pounds
of U.S. Grade AA salted butter,
or else it’s to see
the butter Elvis, or the butter Obama,
or Grant Wood’s
bony couple in butter.
Barbara Ehrenreich
writes, “I’m not going out
of this life
without butter
on my bread.
I’ve had so much grief
from people about butter.
I like a glass of wine,
or a bloody mary, too.”
 Oh, look,
this year, Norma “Duffy” Lyon
tops herself.
She has sculpted
with 2000 pounds of butter
a life-sized
The Last Supper.

NaPo Day 14

Indiana

Open cockpit,
open wheels,
writing an O
200 times
in dust and smoke,
on the oval track,
plotting ahead,
jostling for
position with
other high-
strung vowels,
every zero,
slightly different,
always imperfect,
if it is not erased
in flames,
every event
a non-event,
going nowhere
fast, despite
the hundreds
of thousands
of diehard fans
randy for
memorabilia,
just for one, just one,
to lift
at finish
a bottle of milk.

NaPo Day 13

Illinois

It is called
Little Egypt
because of
its rivers and
the fertile
land. Because
of starvation’s
trek
for a handful
of meal.
Because of
slavery and its
deliverance
in uncivil
war. Little Egypt
is not in the south
of the state,
it’s everywhere,
its boundaries
the boundaries
of the promised
land, its capital
the capital
creamed off
of labor. It’s make
hay while the sun
shines, it’s the
massacre—mass acre—
at Haymarket.

NaPo Day 12

Idaho

You have come
to the heart,
division and double,
of the matter,
the deepest canyon,
a fall
higher than Niagara,
but more secret.
The sun
comes down
on potatoes and semi-
conductors.
The river
is called Salmon,
or No Return.
Neither in
Mountain Time
or in
Pacific Time,
O my governor,
O my private,
is there
a highway
between Boise and
Coeur d’Alene.

NaPo Day 11

Hawaii

My myth too—home,
the underworld,
an ancestor
who returns as
a sea turtle
when he is not
the naval officer
who died
at Pearl Harbor.
From the school,
which trained
the black
president,
my aumakua
took
the name of
Steve McGarrett.
Hawaii Five-O 
was sometimes
shot
in Singapore,
do you know?
How do you
know a man
would die
for you
if you don’t
sleep with him
first?
Under another
trademark,
he took up
with me
in New York
where we were
happy-unhappy
for two years
until he was
recalled to the spirit
world,
reappearing
under the
world-class surf
a shark.

NaPo Days 9 and 10

Florida

This evening walk
around Lettuce Lake
begins on the planks
of good intentions.
Palm fronds droop,
like fingers over
railing, over land
sliding below
wetland, and weeds
yielding along an
indeterminable
wave to duckweed,
a false green
carpet to the door
of the lake.
Bald cypresses, wearing
beards of moss, sit
surprised in water,
their grayish knees
breathing above the
rootless bladderworts.
Here, the wading bird
is king, the Great Egret
picking its way between
land and lake, spearing
the temporary frog
to an unexpected
hump of ground. Here,
the roseate spoonbill
swirls the mud.
Even the osprey,
which nests in feather-
tips of trees, must
bury itself in the
lake, wings held up
like an archaic angel
landing on a gravestone,
before rising with
silver in its beak.
And here, reads the sign
in stainless steel
raised by park
authorities, is
Alzheimer’s Walk
that travels two feet
above the bog, two
feet from the leafy
stink, but does not
sink.


Georgia
Flying, flying
so high, circling
th…

NaPo Day 7 and 8

Connecticut

Wrong, the idea
was found in the boats
of the Punic Wars,
 the idea of inter-
changeable parts
for building
American muskets,
delivered only
after the death
of the contractor
by his family
left behind.
American words
were standardized
earlier
by the great Webster,
who taught generations
of American children,
including the kiddos
from Sandy Hook,
to spell center
for centre, program
for programme, and
armory for armoury.


Delaware

Where are the catapults
firing pumpkins
into the sky? Where are
the slingshots flinging
the hardiest squashes—the Caspers,
the Luminas, La Estrellas—
for the longest way
without getting
pie? Where are the
complicated air
cannons with the names
Big Ten Inch, 2nd
Amendment, Old
Glory, De Terminator
pumping their fists
in victory and vengeance?
All gone. The World
Championship
Punkin Chunkin
has been canceled.
A machine exploded
two years ago
and hit
a female TV crew.
We don’t wish
for anyone,
anyone,
to be hurt,
but where will
the boys go now
with thei…

NaPo Day 6

Colorado

After the gold, the silver,
it was the turn
of the carnations,
the precious metals
of a rush
of colors,
the historic medals
coaxed
from the ground,
won and worn
on the lapel
by queers and presidents—
first to grant
women’s suffrage
by popular vote,
first to repeal
Prohibition,
first to legalize
the recreational use
of cannabis—
you can get high
and green
just thinking
about it.

NaPo Day 5

California

Arnie has no more
devoted follower
than Olympus Chan
from Guangzhou.
For at least a year,
between fifteen and
sixteen, he went so far
as to put on
the Austrian accent.
Trained and won
Mr. Universe at age
20, same age as Arnie.
Moved to Hollywood
to be in the movies.
Had his big break
not as Conan, but
Young Confucius,
breaking his opponents’
jaws when they did not
heed what he said.
Grew rich selling
herbal supplements,
grew famous too.
Then the ultimate
test, the gubernatorial
contest, he loved
saying “gubernatorial”
with a Cantonese twang,
which he won
handily against the
El Salvadoran, on the
back of a huge Asian
turnout, and not a few
El Salvadorans, at last
striking gold as Asian
American and universal.

NaPo Day 4

Arkansas

for the Little Rock Nine

It’s KAN-sas
but it’s AR-kan-SAs,
the final “s” is silent.
Here you can dig
for diamonds—prospect,
it’s called—
and name them
Hallelujah,
Amarillo Starlight,
Okie Dokie,
Superman’s,
Bleeding Heart,
Uncle Sam,
Brown Rice,
Limitless,
and Sweet Caroline.
Little rocks,
the markers of the change
from delta plain
to the Ouachita foothills.
Little rocks,
the final “s” is not
silent.

NaPo Day 3

Arizona

Remember “Raising Arizona”?
Infertile couple,
a convenience store
robber and a cop,
kidnap one
of the “Arizona Quints”
and raise the baby
in their desert trailer.
Daddy’s bounty
hunter finds them, and they
blow him up.
You want to know
my interpretation
of the Coen Brothers movie?
The couple, Nicholas
Cage and Holly
Hunter, are European
colonialists, white
trash, Papa Arizona
is the Injuns,
and Junior is the land.
The kidnap
is all very fine.
When Cage & Hunter
return the kid
in the end, it makes no
sense.
Remember the reviews?
Technically brilliant.
Incoherent story.

NaPo Day 2

Alaska

You like the sea?
You’ll like Alaska,
34,000 miles
of tidal shoreline.
Not for nothing
is it the object
to which the sea
is directed. It is
something of a
marvel, a marriage
of extremes,
the sea locked
solid in an iceberg,
the outcrops
of rock
melting and running
over all forms of life,
even the hardy
shield ferns
that cling
to these
unpromising islands.
You like volcanoes?

50 States in 50 Days

Image
It's National Poetry Writing Month again, and I've started a project tentatively titled "50 States in 50 Days," as a way of getting to know this country better. Suggestions welcomed. Here's Day One:

Alabama

Why would you
want to see
a natural disaster,
even if
it’s the greatest?
Visit the Vulcan
instead,
cast-iron god
holding up
his new spearhead
to the sun.
You can’t see
the impact crater,
even though
the impact rim
is intact.
You can only walk
in the maze of rings
of fractured rock,
more than 3 miles across,
hope to find
in the ground
a splinter of shocked quartz,
which proved
this is indeed
a star-wound.


*

PB invited GH and me to a sake tasting last night. Terada Honke has brewed sake for more than 340 years in Kozaki, in Chiba Prefecture, 87.5 km to the northeast of Tokyo. The lecture was by the 24th Head, Masaru Terada, who married into the family, like the two generations before him. The brewing house specializes in so-called natural fermentation, which al…