I just finished two limited edition hand-sewn poetry books, Vodka Musings & Cloud Poems and High in the Andes, Book One. (That means there will be a Book Two one day, right?) An accomplishment for sure, it took over two years of talking about the books. I wrote lines of words onto ecological sugarcane paper to re-perceive the ordinary, to linger in the diverse. I worked hard, edited, hand sewed, signed and numbered each edition of 100 books of both volumes. I was gloating for weeks, but now I sit with these beautiful books in boxes. I have created more stuff. I make sure the books have plastic on top of them in case Thelonious the cat wants to get in there and rustle my words and images. Or in case there is a flood behind my eyes.
In the aftermath, I feel like a faithful fool to words and images; my lines have been cut off, my poetry has been shortened to commas and periods and very long naps.
Today I force myself into the studio to write. I find words like diluculum and crepusculum, dawn and evening twilight, words related to lucidus, bright, and creper, dusky. William James talked about the crespuscular depths of personality, the source of all our deeds and where decisions take their rise. Crepuscular depths? Maybe I have sunk too far or perhaps not far enough. I do not want to fall into the dark hole of no body, no words, no images, but perhaps a culum, a diminutive suffix for twilight can be encouraging, morning and evening. At daybreak I may be able to reenter that stream, even if my eyes are puffy and my brain got left behind during the night. In between diluculum and crepusculum I can bake bread, eat my spicy soup, drink strong coffee, eat chocolate superballs, sit and write nonsense until evening twilight when I can have my cocktail and edit.
Use what you have
in your refrigerator
Don’t reject wilting vegetables
And fill up the compost bin too fast
You can start by wiping the steel covered island
She is a poet and a cook
but the cook whispers like a fast speed train
Your studio is a mile away, out of sight
When in fact it is merely 35 steps away
Long ones, leaping ones
You know knives need honing
with that sharpening steel tool
it makes you feel good.
And slash, slash, off comes the head
lettuce and her brain melts into butter.
The poet is restless
She looses her shoes and tries on different ones
Not hers, someone else’s, she does not know
Of course it does not work and she hops around
like an invalid, one shoe on, one shoe off.
Enough says the poet.
No more cooking, just go sit in the studio
She watches the hectaganol steps meander
Around the tree with thorns
Sometimes getting it wrong
is the best thing
but in the end, she knows she will get it right
having the divine at her muddy feet.
It rained hard in Uzhupud
a good cotton sheet of rain
the grass, trees, birds, nose, limbs, unwind
a three centimeter orchid out of a blanket of cobwebs.
Before the rain the orchid hid like a delicate insect
in the shade of a bright yellow Fresno tree
but now it imitates a spoiled sister
monkey with candy striped apron wings.
Oxygen squeezes through half open
(continuously half open, oh who knows old age)
esophagus of the woman’s aging body
and massages her lungs like poetry.
A bit of rough flesh and rippling muscles
reveal stories no one cares about.
What stories are those? Who are they? Watch out,
she may snip tongues in the afternoon wind.
Her memories play with near edges of music
Angelo Romero is singing a bolero
a silhouette of window frames looks for stability
and words turn to every angle of the edge
while she waits for Manuel and his loud bitch
~it could be as persistent as a bark from the distance
to arrive in his mixto white-green-striped taxi high
on the hillside or at the corner of her property.
Once she accused him of a local robbery
and said, my name is Magdalena Johana Maria
he threw up his hands eyed her sideways
reeked and shook hands
Manuel looks after the old woman now
with his sugar moonshine eyes eyeing
the gun toting neighbor Homero up the hill
twice a day, while the bitch barks guilt over fences.
What if it is rainy or foggy and the breeze kicks in?
Then Magdalena sips cedron and mint with honey
and refrains from cutting the bitch’s lungs
with blunt scissors, like a proper gringa
until the late afternoon winds have gone.
I watched clouds break, crumble and scatter
like Baudelaire’s clouds would never do.*
~I love the clouds…the passing clouds…up there…up there…the marvelous clouds!
Grey ones afar and white ones near, clouds can rupture
this is how literature is made
any day in Ecuador, or anywhere else.
Poetry is not innocent.
You ‘d better get used to it
An individual is no match for history
I ask how things were in his Chilean land
but he does not answer.
He died in Barcelona
I try not to digress to homemade Snickers
and gooey caramel sweets in marvelous clouds
You ‘d better get used to it
When the sounds of black insects and worms
whisper an unfamiliar syllabus to the poet exposed
to bright sunlight at noon
it brings Nothing
Only dry bones in the yard
unattended by the white dog
I can string cloud words
together in slender sadness
in exchange of choked
roots of the willow
Beware, a tree in winter may
*By Night in Chile
** The Stranger
He was beautiful
I watched him enter the bus,
looking intently at who was sitting in front
He scanned the seats,
perhaps someone would get up
offer him a seat, but everyone pretended not to notice.
He stood close to where I was seated
hung onto the metal sweaty rails, resigned
used ropes looped around his hands
dirty white and blue
wired to catch a horse, a cow, or a calf,
precisely then, an animal unexpectedly caught.
A young woman with tight pants
her black hair pulled back
voluptuous and respectful
like a ripe mango, orange and full
offered him her seat.
The warmth of her buns and crotch held him tight.
This old Latino man sat straight,
his salt and pepper greased hair
chiseled by a small black plastic comb
into a sharp line
of a distant plowed field.
I could not take my eyes OFF of him:
his wool shawl wrapped over his extended
chin, his cream colored sweater brushed,
but his hands, his finger nails, full of dirt
tapped a young woman’s back with child
and offered her his seat. She refused.
He sat down again, chin forward,
a narrow mustache above his lip
a well worn life line.
In the middle of nowhere, in a narrow rocky valley
he got off the bus, a lonely
striking old man. I felt left behind.
Rhythm is not by its own nature
versed in iambic pentameters
to echo perfect pink clouds
Perhaps rhythm is a small triangle
of sea blue sky, at the edge
of a darkened horizon
Or a hiccup probing gently
while I catch my breath
between running rivers
Or rainwater in the stem
of a fragrant red rose
releasing its perfume
But when my heart goes too fast
the earth does not pause
for my second-hand
for my body to keep time
for my right leg to stop trembling
When unbearable hard drums
reverberate daily rhythms
and prayers are without color
When superstitions are chanted and stitched
carelessly on my underpants
with a large safety pin
When inebriations have gone too far
my lips of fear do not sing
my breath tilts backwards
In that moment of muteness
I unwind my helixes one by one
ever so lightly
Its intricate uncurling rests
near my open window
in a wind circle of lilting voices
Just before late afternoon, unwound
and unwrinkled I travel on foot – fearless –
between rhythms everywhere
She does not care if the razor freezes
in a heart beat and when slowness
of yesterday or the day before
becomes all the same
She does not shudder when hard rain splits
unstable earth and loosens big stones
She forgives herself – for her trespasses
for seeing all the same
Her useless mouth opens, closes,
nothing “but this”,
wherever she goes
beads leave a trail
when she fingers her pearls