Monday, July 30, 2007

Part Three of - Ditchwater & Cook Smoke

todays update is the 3rd part of Ditchwater & Cook Smoke. This makes the entire manuscript included here. Feel free to make comments and to let me know what you think of the work. Thanks for dropping by and visiting.

A Thousand Points of Light
…that's why you need an imagination
to make poetry die of starvation…
Gu Cheng

…poems of praise should not be so damn noisy…
Gu Cheng

Midnight, 3/12/07

A thousand points of light
snap shut
the dark blue
like a window shade
drawn on ten thousand
or a thousand mosques

The sea of people
is all colors
six billion currents

and below
electric blood flows

The Garden

He remembered
what is left
of the garden
a little stream
a fountain
small mountains
of mole hills
made out of loam
some stems
sprouting blossoms
vegetables flowers
snails and dung
blue stones
red and yellow fish

the beauty of age

Summer, The Oval Office

A woman with long legs
and ten men without
arms or ears
three children
smiling at the cameras
ten men
in wheelchairs
and ten with ties
gathered here
and there
by the window
looking out at the rose garden
air-conditioner on high
logs burning in the fireplace

Fishing for Gold

Looking for money
looking for cash
a checkbook
credit card
lost like fish
in the sea

At the bottom
at the bottom
of the pocket

Fish for gold
an even trade

Girls Who Kiss

Girls who kiss
with their eyes
open wide
never know
the dark
tears on the coat
a handkerchief
wet with salt

They don't even know
the blinding light
will tear
their hearts

Heaven and Earth

Your eyes look small
and you wince
as I say
We were right to shift the moon
and raze the sun

Only light can burn us

The stars
lower their gaze
the fog lifts

We are completely
alone in the dark
the whole earth


Elegant as slender fingers
she's a little shy
when it comes
to boys
but perfectly
in mind and body
she squirms
a little
in her chair
when her mother

The Window

The distance opens
to the sea
the boat-
moon glistens

Near the headlands
abalone poachers listen
for the sound of craft
as the poet
looking from the hill
beyond the sea
listens to the roar
of surf on sand
the sea caves sucking
in his breath

The Price of Good Medicine

My fish is sick
I take it
to the hospital
where the nurse laughs
and says
Don't be concerned
he'll live

I take him
to the movies
to see
if he will laugh

The ticket seller says
a quarter for kids
and a nickel for the fish

The Bracelet

I take my pigeon
with a bracelet
for a leash
and people laugh

The pigeon squawks
flies up
and shits on them

I laugh
and write a poem

My pigeon struts
thinks he's smart
He is

Letting Go

One night
three evenings
all day long
something happens
I don't know about

I eat fish
drink coffee
and sit

The doorbell rings
I don't answer
someone calls
I let it go

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

11 more from "Ditchwater"

Today's update is Part Two of "Ditchwater & Cook Poems". The poems were originally written between February and May 2007, with some recent edits in July 2007.
Thanks for visiting and comments are always welcome.

Finding God
…a gradual eulogy to the world…
Gu Cheng


for Ava

I love the gap in your voice when I say something silly,
when your stones in the light pay tribute to dawn.
On the scale of one to ten I'd give you a nine plus
for all the beauty you bring to one blossom.
And when the room sucks in your air with a gasp
at one of my misstatements or misreadings, I just
stand there, shifting my feet, and stutter at the tongue-
lashing. It's fewer not less, you let me know
in a tone reserved for your children.
Like them, I'm happy to accept your guidance.
And you've learned not to say, That poem doesn't
make sense, but to caution that my metaphors aren't
reasonable. I've learned to listen, and well at that.
Your rhododendrons need pinching, you tell me lovingly.

Three Samples of Autumn

The first is the driving heat drafting up
from the cow dung in the meadow,
settling on the limbs and leaves
whose husky thirsts derive from want.
Second is the fruit on these limbs,
the apples, cherries, and pears
that rock left and right in the slight breeze
bringing relief, and fragrance from the flesh.
The last is the rain that gives way to frost,
when the rest of the garden is picked
and the stubble has gone to mulch,
when the robins arrive and peck for seeds.

Modern Times

At dawn, every face is a nightmare,
freckled children and heavily-bearded men
swirl about with garbage cans and school buses,
all checking the clock and rocking the streets.
Later, the business suits turn their eyes
to their watches as their wives gather
on driveways or porches, wave good-bye
wishing the absence would last longer,
or maybe not as long, while they struggle
with pucker-faced kids dawdling in doorways.
The laments they could turn into songs
remain frozen in their modern minds.
Dreaming of ten thousand Buddhas,
they go on, hopelessly fruitful.

Tiny Destiny

His own tiny destiny at hand, and skin
the color of dusk, with the small glow
of autumn in his mind, and a trailing wind
that blows him from the meadow, he grasps
the small coin of dream and goes to war.
It's so beautiful, he says, when he tells you
why he loves it. The desert is as lonely
as a wolf, and the packs of marauders
are as dangerous as flint. There is a fuse
in the eyes of the enemy and life is short.
Someone is hiding in the flickering light
of the hallway and he doesn't know
if the staccato sounds are in his head
or the fresh wounds of nightmares.

Anonymous Soldier

The paper money in his pocket makes a shuffling noise
when he puts his hand down and pulls out coins.
Outside, a few bird nests rattle like banners
so he knows troops patrol the neighborhood.
He has reached that place where life fools him
with the subtle awareness of a stranger's false teeth
in his mouth. He thinks, My whole life is a failure,
and looks at the hind legs of his dog thumping
the couch. The futility gnaws at him. He can't
chew the sandwich his wife left him for lunch.
Beef is so damn tough, he says to himself,
wishing for peanut butter and jam, or something
to go down easy like the brew he's sworn off.
Then he feels the dog lick his stumps.

A Eulogy for the Remains

In the beginning there are flowers
scattered on the ground, singles
and in pairs, there are also cards
and soldiers playing with guns.
They are like triplets waiting
to ambush the children who pass.
At the end of the street, a pretty girl
looks with her suspect eyes in motion,
with the calling card of terror in action.
Shocked with red, someone
takes a photo of her head blown off.
We think, how strange this is,
the daily reports of civilians
exhuming their children's remains.

Small Town USA

A grab bag of disaster, no one comes to town
anymore. The doors are barred, windows shuttered,
only a few winos and homeless at midnight
track down alleys, across town to the park
where they try to sleep without the bother
of killers or cops, the same breed in their minds.
No news is good news, they say, rising at dawn
to use the bathrooms locked down for the night.
But it's spring, the winter is over, and dogs
out for a walk read yesterday's news
among the smells of blossoms over the sidewalks.
A good day to die, a warrior might say.
But it's not so. They go to the bank to give blood
and hope their small curses won't curl their tongues.


We forget how strange it is to lose out
to death, but it always happens.
The oddest memories creep up
and become vivid in our oldest years.
How to say we live in lonely quarters,
and with not much more than quarters.
As lonely as looking into the street
where we know no one, not even
the neighbors. And our children
live in different places, one north,
another east, the first lost to war.
On the rare night we are up late, we notice
ants scurrying the cupboards. Next morning
we're surprised at gaunt cheeks and missing hair.

A Night at the Opera

Unable to pick up our feet from the mud,
we stand, fingering our hats, watching the fish-
monger hawk his wares in the rain.
It's not unlike going into a stream
and coming out in a storm. He flails,
the drops sail, and the wind bites
the umbrellas out of our hands. At the restaurant
we think, What a tasty way to sample dinner,
as we pass up the fried shrimp for three shots.
One too many, we notice, as our legs
buckle and laces untie. This is no way
to get to the theatre, you say, as a cab
passes us by and sprays gutter water.
Let's just go home and drink ourselves sick.

The Hand that Shook the Devil

On both sides of the tomb, a shadow stomps
its feet into my heart. Who could be this lonely
in a dream, with no one else in the other half
but the face of a demon squinting through moonlight.
The shadow reflects from a cave where one
enters alone, filled with fear. It plays in darkness,
shuffling cards, wands, trumpets, jesters and queens.
I am the Fool stepping off a cliff, into the abyss,
with a dog at my heels, wearing the yellow
clothes of the mind. Clearly misfortune waits
at the bottom, where I've been headed for years.
Jump, says the shadow, as my feet listen.
Below, skulls snore in the grass and laugh,
mock me for thinking I wouldn't live past death.

Finding God

Searching for something paranormal, I look
for God. Shuffling its way through the orchard
it plucks an apple and eats, then climbs up
a tree and dangles its feet in the autumn light.
Surprised it wears no clothes, I look up the skirt
of the limbs and notice it's a hermaphrodite.
I give thanks the leaves don't scratch its genitals.
The sun warms its back and it stretches, points
a finger at me. I'm warned that it can't stay
here forever, the rains are coming and after that
the frost and snow. Get me some garments,
it says, I can't go out in polite society like this,
people would think I'm a freak. I invite it
to wear my best pants so I won't have to look again.

Monday, July 2, 2007

10 from - Ditchwater & Cook Smoke

Ditchwater & Cook Smoke
(after Gu Cheng)

These poems were written while reading SEA OF DREAMS by Gu Cheng. Some of the phrases, images, and ideas were taken from his work, but in its entirety it is an original composition. It was written and edited in six separate early mornings (late evenings) from February 15th to May 8th, 2007, while listening to Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Mississippi John Hurt, Cannonball Adderly, The Quintet (recorded live from Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, 1953), Wynton Marsallis, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson and Steve Earle.

The Seeds
…your luggage just keeps getting heavier all the time.
Gu Cheng

The Seed

It is strange that death goes on,
that after I'm buried I come to live.
Lying down among flowers, I am mutilated
by the light. This is my opportunity
to greet the sun, to say hello to the forest.
Looking closely, I see an oak change
into a sparrow, stare at a garden which turns
into a desert. Their voices are only appearance.
The sounds I believe are but a child's, digging
a grave for his rabbit, as the birds scatter.

Autumn at the Farm

I step into the world with many lives.
One is not finished, one other has not yet begun.
Sidling past the river stones and bark canoe
I hear the meter of the forest, the gnawing insects,
the heaves of cows in the meadow, the ferment
of fallen apples. In the orchard, the bugs' fervor
praises the fruit, the cowflops are profound
with mushrooms and maggots. Lifting the skirts
of cedars, a tarnished wind brings metallic odors.
It is a day to lay flowers on graves and sweep-up
the clutter of old wreaths. A few red breasts surge
while I saunter to the barn and finger wormy leather,
step into the river at the earth's ledge.

Three Children

Three children pass down the road.
One is dressed in red, another green,
and the third wears stories and dreams.
They talk to each other and themselves.
The girl in red speaks of flowers,
the boy in green says, lions,
the third child remains silent.
When they get to the red girl's house
the green boy tells her he'd like a kiss.
The dreamer swoons and rolls his eyes.
The girl blushes and smiles at the green boy.
Then the two walk on. When they part the sun
is high and the green boy sweats. The last says,
I'm a stone. We can only hope for shade.

for David James Smith

All stones are solid, a foundation of brothers.
I have no sister, so who will teach me
of delicate things? I hear armies
of goldenrod thinking my songs
are planted in earth. Battalions
of bluebells open and I find the sounds
that I dream are rock-solid sisters
and brothers, our foundations from others.
We gather stones, flowers, dreams;
and form with ideas, image, and essence.

Dusk at the Farm

Fields lie beyond the green ditchwater,
clouds so dark they thin slowly. Here,
I wait for the light to grow dim, to churn
and bring the wind from the woods,
full of dormant children waiting to grow,
their tired eyes kissing the spring, sipping
water filled with the light of cherry blossoms,
with dusk's odors falling down
from the tree tops, the cedar spines,
and the large, aching maple that makes
me want to stop and rest, to breathe
and be joyful about the moonlight
and your eyes that are still new and unknown
when they look at me, then toward the clouds.

A Beautiful Oval

My voice is quiet, with a single bird
as its companion, somewhere in the tree,
here in the wind, altogether lost
in the forest with the dreams of oaks
and beetles, bark and wounded cedars.
And here one sees the silence the moon
sinks into its caves and craters,
its gouged-out skin with a reptile's surface
and its jagged edge of a file flaring
like flint, the stone that brings fire.
Then the voice takes off with the bird, ogling
the moon, a beautiful disc with painted eyes.

The World Circles

a small place of thirty acres
with a stream and surrounding woods,
an orchard, a maple, many cedars
and firs on the banks of the river
still young, having been planted
years ago, but growing above
the boulders and underbrush green
and gazing at the hillside opposite.
In this small place a man walks
his pasture, the trails to the woods,
the wetlands and badlands of the bear,
cougar, coyote, where, downstream
beaver dam the creek and a pool
rises in spring, subsides in the summer.


Growling ever lower, faces appear
on the wall, men with their feet backed-up
against eternity, where the bullets strike
and shriek, and the men remain quiet
having dug their graves with words
broken open like the span of a heron
rising to flick its beak, to peck a fish
or frog, even a lizard, those creatures
near the tops of rivers, on rocks and pads,
near the bottom of the chain that dangles
all our lives in the balance of one.

Water Jar

The well, a large jar, dipped in
daily, and with joy at the wonder
of water and life, the source.
It was a world with cook smoke,
wood fired saunas, the crickets
and tree frogs to the left and right,
all around the outhouse.
I wish I could taste it again,
that pale creature, the Pygmy Forest,
the light in the pines at dawn
making a stunted-tree bonsai
with the mist crawling over
the fragile stems, and the roots
barely able to open the hardpan.

The Pygmy Forest

The whole five acres was a drainfield
in winter when the rain rushed down
and the clay hardpan was three inches
deep in floodwater. On each side of the land
were ditches with torrents of brown
tearing off the scum left over from summer
when frogs dug into the mud
and badgers fed on the bodies of mice,
voles, while swallows picked insects
out of air at dusk with the bats.
At dawn, when fog camped on the pines,
the world grew small with rhododendrons,
wild blueberries, mushrooms, and trilliums
surrounding the logged over redwoods.