Monday, February 28, 2011

Venus of Brassempouy

The above figurine was found in a cave in Brassempouy, France in 1892. Known as the Venus of  Brassempouy, she  was carved from mammoth ivory, and  at about 25,000 years old, is one of the earliest known examples of representational art depicting a human face.

Venus of Brassempouy

Neanderthal venus
walks the proto-forest
very carefully.

She has no lipstick
but her lips will be red
as soon as she eats.

Under the furflare of hair
her occipital bun is tidy.

Her berry eyes glow beneath
an artfully ash darkened
supraorbital ridge.

She has a leopardskin miniskirt
and is goin clubbin.

The ferny air is like a gravy
of wet delicious smells.

Soon, she will invent gravy.

 But first she must catch
the makings.

She pauses in a feral crouch
dead in her tracks with a pair of ughs
pulls a fat snail from under a hairy heel.

She has invented h’ors d’oeuvres.

Crunching this gastropodian bonne bouche
between her mandibular prominences,
she scuttles through the underbrush

searching for the ever fragrant
slender and succulent
Cro Magnon man.

February 2011 

Image and information on Venus of Brassempouy courtesy wikipedia and wikimedia commons.


The following music clip is totally optional, and other than containing the refrain 'Cave Woman,' and being as non-serious and possibly offensive as the poem, has nothing to do with the subject. Nonetheless, a casual hearing after many years inspired me to write this, and I can't get it out of my head, so I'm including it as it seems to want to hang out with the piece. (This is all your fault, anonymous person who knows who she is.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Musical Interlude~Which Side Are You On?

From wikipedia:
 Alan Lomax, writing in the American Folk Song Book (1968), says "Florence Reece, a shy, towheaded Kentucky miner's daughter, composed this song at the age of 12 when her father was out on strike. She sang it me standing in front of the primitive hearth of a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky in 1937 and it has since become a national union song

I hear Peter Yarrow sang this yesterday in Madison. 

So, will you be a lousy scab. or will you be a man?

And for Fireblossom, two versions of Union Maid:

D.C. After Dark

D.C. After Dark

The machine of legend looks like its been on a binge,
listing clackless, hungover and abandoned,
screaming out no more secrets
from its rubbery cylindrical mouth.
It sheds bits of rust with the angry silence
of an old man’s  rheumy tears,
as if in its cancerous steel gut it misses
the caressing fingers of the Famous Beltway Reporter
who once sat here, fueled by tanks of scotch,
fat white cigarettes like obscene stiff worms
leaving their spoor on the scuttling fingertips
pounding the keys with a lover's self-focused delight
crescendoing release on the last page.

For years he covered D.C. after dark.
The pettifogging mooncalves
shysters and snollygosters who
bottomfeed themselves in the salons and dives
came to him first with their reeking tidbits.
He thrived on the unspoken but finally discovered,
followed his nose through the fug of sex and death,
tapped out the authenticated fables of braggadacio
or translations of confessions barely breathed in the dark
as innocents say their soft prayers to a predicated god.
He was inquisitor and thief to those who loved their sins,
smug counters and recounters of their iniquities,
his job to rob the boxes under their beds of guilt and proofs
of potency, strip the skin off their success
and show the bloody emptiness within.

His old Royal was a mad scientist's laboratory
where all the lies and ramblings, all the body parts
of stories were given a blood test, 
filtered through clean white adjectives
administered a shocking phrase
then sealed with tight lines from insider sources
into neat packages to alleviate for some few minutes
the bland boredom of the world.
His choice to make banner headlines
out of ginwhiskered rumors or
lay a blanket of newsprint over cold uncomfortable facts
and put them to bed forever.

Now young blogging upstarts sniff and tap while the
empty wind of words whistles down the internet,
for the Famous Beltway Reporter died
like all the rest, coughing up a lung
and wringing out a bad liver,
clackless, hungover and abandoned,
outlived by his byline, with only the cold
sad truth to sit at his bed and
no one even to inherit his typewriter,
a mumbling derelict forgotten,
passed out under some bridge in the night.

February, 2011

snollygoster: –noun, Slang . a clever, unscrupulous person 

Posted for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday Flash 55 ~ Spare Change

  Spare Change ~ Two Tankas

Dawn to dusk he works
all his life but work’s not done.
Gold’s a slattern wife
hard to keep, easy to steal
always laughing while she cheats.

The world is waiting
for signs and comets and change.
Only signs appear
in the hand, flashed on tv.
Change, comets, can’t be written.

February 2011

Image: dragon center jumpingym coins, by Kam TANGO  wikimedia commons

Off the Shelf Archive - February #2

Before the month completely slides past, it's time for one more Off the Shelf poem.

This new selection, The City that Does Not Sleep, by Federico Garcia Lorca, came to my attention earlier this week when I rediscovered it after many years posted on twitter. I read it first during the turbulent '60's and perhaps its message of the insanity of our world is even more pertinent today.

It's now up, here on the Off the Shelf page

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was a Spanish poet and dramatist associated with the surreal and avante garde movements of the 1920's, a close friend and collaborator of Salvador Dali and a prolific experimental poet and playwright with leftist leanings and strong ties to the Andalusian culture. He is believed to have been among the many executed by rightist death squads during the Spanish Civil War for his political  views, outspoken writing and homosexuality. Thanks to NellaLou for tweeting this great piece and reminding me of it after many years.

                          ***                       ***                    ***

The previous selection, Sailing to Byzantium by W.B.Yeats, is presented one last time here in the Archive for a final read.

As always feel free to comment on either poem here as comments are disabled off the main page, and also to suggest any favorite poet of your own for next time. You can always access the Archive to view prior selections by clicking on the Off the Shelf Archive tag in the sidebar.

So without further ado, Sailing to Byzantium:

Sailing to Byzantium


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats  1928

Image : Returning Home, by Michael Parkes, 1980

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In The Prism

In The Prism

In the prism,
quivering in liquid replication,
spangles each wrinkle, wart, 
linear placement of the face’s edge.
Each gleam 
and freshening wink of the replenished eye, 
each refracting facet, each dimpled moment 
bears back another face 
nebulous, repeated.

We meet with yet
another show of force 
striking in plosive shatters 
where face contradicts face,
making soundless endless
divided duplications redivide,
beaming outward
as we enter ourselves like light
into the expanding prism.

This is how it goes here;
units replace and contradict the spirit numbers.
The soul-eyed stag ghosts inside the glacier
but the hunter no longer eats of that meat
though he craves and hunts it 
down the fractured paths both night and day.
Jaws grinding, he peers but only sees
glamoured in the prism
the dolls of his insignificant whims.

But what do we know of these?
We know only the feel
of tight knuckles on the wheel,
the flickering kiss of the pipe,
the unrobing black way 
before us where two lights are one
piercing the night road
into the prism

September 1986
substantially revised 
February 2011

Posted for OneShotWednesday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tanka on Illusion  (c) charlottteziebarth

Every sunset
paints our western trees new shades
always lost at dawn
with the whim of the days’ brush
how our faces change color.

Undoubtedly one of the hardest forms I've ever tried, this attempt at a tanka is submitted for
with many thanks to Lady Nyo for sharing her insights 

Image: Sunsets/Trees /Windows, #2, quilt by  Charlotte Ziebarth 
Used by gracious permission of the artist

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the jazzman gets the blues

This poem has two sources of inspiration, this um, prompt from JackAz Photography for One Shoot Sunday(link below) but more importantly, my deep admiration for the surreal post-modern existential, nihilist poetry of the great  
to whom I dedicate this humble offering:

the jazzman gets the blues

the jazzman came to Wyandotte
he was lookin to play.
he had his axe in a worn out case
looked like it had been pissed on
by a thousand dogs--
black, peeling, no stickers--
and a bone box with a
beating heart
in his back pocket.

the jazzman found a corner by the bus station
where the winos were huffin it up 
from a paper bag.
decided it looked like a place that
needed accompaniment,
so he took out his sax and made a noise like a combine
on a july day in Longview. 
the winos left.

an old latina woman on her way to work
threw a quarter in his case
out of pity.

the jazzman left Wyandotte
because he’d paid his dues
and hitched to the West Coast.
he had some money left
but he let the
truckers and salesmen
feed him anyway.

he finally made it to L.A.
and cast the hairy eyeball around.
he was wiped out and freakin,
needed bong hits and bedrest.
he was lookin to get laid.

he did.

scroungin a gig was harder
but he hooked up with a whacked out bass player
from Fargo who made everybody call him Fats
two hipsters with guitars
and a rastafarian on the conga.
they called the band the Lounge Lizards.
they played Manny’s Chuck House every Friday 
for two months.
the jazzman thought his chops 
were finally there.

then the waitress Manny was boppin
ran off with all his bread, and Fats.
Manny went flat busted and got kidney trouble.
The one guitar player's old lady had him 
thrown in the slammer
for ten years' child support
and the other went mariachi in Tiajuana.
the rastafarian kept playin the conga
but it was no good, man.

the jazzman was frosted.
he had to agitate the gravel.
he left L.A. thinkin about Wyandotte.
he still had his axe and his dogpiss case
but he was runnin low on reeds
and he thought he might be 
gettin the blues.

there was a flick at the time--
it was bitchin, about Death Stars.
it razzed the jazzman's berries.
he knew he needed a schtick, so he kyped a violin,
got the vader threads, and learned to hiss and wheeze.
he wrote a song called “I’m your big daddy-o, Luke baby.”
it bombed.

so the jazzman hit the road
for the last time.
he thought he met Keruac once
outside an old diner in St Paul
but it was just a shadetree mechanic
named Dwayne. he never made it back
to Wyandotte and he lost
the bone box with the beating heart
somewhere just north of Burns Flat
when he got those hellhound blues, Clyde,
really bad.

February 2011 

Posted for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blast From the Past

One Stop Poetry is featuring a look backwards into ourselves today, and asked for postings from the very beginning. I couldn't pick between these two, so you have both my single published poem that ever won a prize, Dialogues with Angela, and another called Dead Poets. Dates are approximate, but both were written when I was between 16 and 19 years old. I have strenuously resisted the urge to polish or rewrite, and you have them here as they came off my battered Smith Corona.

Dialogues with Angela

I can see from here quick squirrels
and the trees they run quarreling over
and the parallel swamps of street and sky,
stumbled over by birds or boys.
And, from here,
the cats, black and bitter, trotting over the frozen ground.
        “An infinity of interconnection,” she intoned.
        “Everything is hungry”

I took a grey walk through harmonious vacancy
but through some miss of chance I saw
‘Franz Kafka was Here’ red-chalked on subway walls
and laughing, she said,
        “That kills me.” but refused obstinately
        to fall in front of the train.

We walked hand in hand, through the greenhouse.
It may be that day winds are dark winds,
but the flowers are to be loved.
I pointed to the tables of petaled cream, of smoked white
and suggestive smoothness.
And Angela, gently pointed:
        “The magnolias,” she said, pausing significantly,
        “have dry rot.”

We went on sadly together, our eyes folding
on faces frozen in suspension,
The real cows are not in pasture,I told her,
Prudent chewing, producing contented milk.
Cows and squirrels and mice are fat and happy in the city.
        “Kangaroos and camels are beautiful,” she muttered,
        “And I think it’s a pity there should be none here.”


Dead Poets

There are no more poets, the frosts have killed them off
in their Floridian orange groves, once long ago
the copses of Aphrodite.
The long north wind blowing from America has taken them
with the trees it turned to slime.

The poets were banalized to death,
pursued by Daughters of the American Revolution,
social secretaries,
and in their turning sleep
the ghosts of Mid West college boards hunted them down
with speaking appointments before creative writing seminars.

Their eyes grew shadowed with a lack of dissipation
and they took to yogurt and NET,
sobbing sometimes in the night loud enough to be heard
by their wives and wishing machines.

But one was found, running naked down a Pacific beach
with daisies braided in his pubic hair and
smack tears puddled  on his thistled face screaming
weeping diamonds of words to the L.A. cops,
who belched a little as they booked him,


for he had given his name to the little gods
and the graves of his youth.

Written sometime between 1966 and 1969
(NET refers to the extinct network, National Educational Television)

Posted for A Saturday Celebration~Your Past  at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Flash 55 ~ Rich


I dreamed
I received $5000.00
From an unknown source.

I didn’t know what to do with it.

Then I dreamed of you
We lived in a house of purple branches.
We made love and talked all night

Then I knew what to do with 
the five thousand dollars,
just not how
to buy the ticket.

February 2011

Posted for Friday Flash 55  at the G-Man's

Image: Tree House,  (c) B. Jerome all rights reserved, @ FantasyArt Design

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Last Dream of the Snow Spirit

Moonlight Kinetic

Last Dream of the Snow Spirit

The Snow Spirit is old, psychotic and white.
Icicles hang like devil’s teeth from her soul.
When the black wind rackets in the twelve-hour night
they gnash a rattling storm till nothing’s whole.
She weights down the housetops, steers toy cars to flight
kills birds in the air with breath as dark as coal;
and yet all things old and wretched once were young.
She’s forgotten what she was, or what she’s done.

Was she a blue irreverent river sprite,
who crossed some bitter god with her defiance,
made ice to live an eternity in white?
She seems to see instead a green alliance,
herself a leaf that danced in dumb delight,
ten million sister leaves her full reliance,
woodborn in a place of sun and wind made song.
But she’s old and mad; her memory’s often wrong

Or didn’t she drip, a lanquid amber mist,
Over fields and woods at dusk, all warm wet airs,
a drink for fiddling crickets, a slippery wrist
that washed down idiot mice or hipshot mares?
Perhaps she was the ripened pale poppy’s fist
a wild wind’s daughter whose white and jagged tears
bled the sap of sweetest rest beyond all thought,
punished now for the ignorant death she brought.

Whatever she was, whatever form now lost
that was changed into her harsh new symmetry,
she was not this moving famine or this frost
that wracks the world with it’s frigid ministry.
She imagines her leafgreen soul is what it cost
to pay for this unwanted eternity.
Still she dreams as she dances the sky apart
she’s not a damned storm hag with a stonecold heart.

She can’t see her own mad eyes, her ice-boned thighs.
In  dreams she’s one snowstar with a million more.
Sisters flown like white leaves across the skies
dancing a wind ballet on a cloudpaved floor.
She dreams the sodden snow is white butterflies
with life instead of death humming in their core,
choired clouds of frozen wings who’ve just begun
to live, melting in the early winter sun.
February 2011

Ice Age #5

 This poem is written in the ottava rima form, each stanza consisting of six lines of eleven syllables rhyming alternately, ending with a differently rhymed couplet. It is irregularly metered, but conforms to the eleven syllables per line format original to the Italian, though perhaps not to the Italian pattern of stresses. English ottava rima is often written in iambic pentamenter (10 syllables)as well. 

Ottava rima is traditionally used in the writing of heroic or mock-heroic work, from Boccaccio to Lord Byron to Yeats.

Title Image: Moonlight Kinetic, by Petteri Sulonen 
Many Thanks, Petteri

Footer Image: Ice Age #5, by Alex RK

This is my entry for OneShotWednesday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Monday, February 14, 2011



The heart is
blind but spinning, like a jewel
transparent in darkness.
If there were light,
igniting colors…
but even in the blind black
colors wait for a chance to break
out of the holding stone

Their sleeping presence spins and
turns inside each facet,
seeds within a pod rusting in the wind,
germ within the seed that soon will know
quickness in the green;
only give light
to what already exists.
Only give the meaning to the form.

But I don’t think
this is a thing that you can do.
You don’t know which the gem, which the jeweler
which the instrument, or
what of me is determined by your incessant tapping
and what by the temper of the stone.

You think I’m soft metal, an abradable plate
blank before you etch it with the acid of your desire,
scratched by the stylus that swings between your legs
to give back in my life the imprint of your will.
But I am diamond hard,
and it’s hard to shape what spins in darkness,

and hard to see what’s carved
in the fretwork of scars upon the holding stone;
wind in the dead leaves dancing
a horn of honey poured into the sea
a network of veins full flushed with color
that waits for light to be given
to what already exists.

September 1987, revised February 2011

Uncredited photo of a salt cellar provided by Magpie Tales removed

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Optional Media Accompaniment to "Coming and Going"

Two versions, the original, and Diane Krall.

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

Brown eyes full of gold.
that wink like a bird’s in wholehearted wariness,
rapid as a bird’s heartbeat
as you tip up your head to laugh
like a man upends his bottle
  for the last swallow.

We sat in the bar and you talked,
Canada and Molson’s cool on your lips,
my hands sweaty under the table in case
something I said might give it all away.
No part of you was safe
that day.

Like Doolittle’s magical beast
half of you is always coming toward me
and half of you is going away.
You can’t be told how much I want
or the coming half will become an ass,
merge into its mirror self and disappear.

I can’t say
 that I want
your voice in my ear so low
not even the mosquitoes can hear it,
your body a fever melting me to the bed,
memories burnt to ash
by your laser eyes.

A thousand birds may be chattering in my heart,
flowers may spring from your palm,
but I can’t say:
Love me again before it’s too late.
Instead I wait
to see whether you are
coming or going

July 1991
Molson export case24

Image: Molson Export Ale, Case,
By Molson Coors Brewing Company (Molson Coors Brewing Company) 
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], 
wikimedia commons

River Rock

photo by Sean D McCormick

River Rock

He looked out the window at the gold grass plains,
and beyond their rolling miles,
the far, untouchable mountains hanging unseen;
something endless there always drew the eye but
he was glad there were a few clouds
to break up the forever blue of the sky.

It was hot in the cabin from the cooking,
but not as hot as it would have been
without the window.
He was proud of the window, right angles trued.
Next year he might get glass sent up
from Edmonton.

He was tired, and just sat and watched her
cutting up the potatoes and onions.
He liked to see her fingers dancing with the knife,
chopping the way he chopped firewood,
With absent concentration, 
just to get it done and on to the next thing.

She felt his eyes and looked up smiling,
A strand of hair wet on her forehead.
He gave a grunt that didn't fool, went back to
sharpening his skinning knife while the light was good,
an endless job, done to be done again,
like all of them.

The baby was just learning to walk,
rambling around the one room as if
it were a giant’s castle, into everything,
sucking on a river rock to ease her gums.
He took it away, set it on the windowsill
and gave her a biscuit instead.

The prairie wind can't see just
when the smoke stops blowing from the chimney,
nor the earth do more than swallow the emptied bundles
wrapped with care and laid within its open mouth,
any more than the hard-packed road 
feels his boots walking away. 

Today the gold grass plains,
the far mountains and the forever blue
don’t know that potatoes and onions 
aren't found here anymore.
The Edmonton glass is weathered shards and daggers
on the insensate ground.

On a cracked window frame, smooth
odd-shaped river rock.

February 2011

Posted for OneShootSunday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry