A Poem for Today
“Passing Through Albuquerque”
By John Balaban
At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.
A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.
Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.
Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.
In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle
playing “The Mississippi Sawyer” inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.
Below – QT Luong: “Flowers, ladder, and abode wall. Albuquerque, NM, USA”
Art for November – Part I of III: Deborah Butterfield
Below – “Snake River II” (Bronze)
Musings in Autumn: Lao Tzu
American Art – Susan Bennerstrom
Artist Statement: “I don’t think of myself as a realist painter in the currently accepted sense. I work from photographs, which are themselves abstractions – one step removed from reality. I travel further into abstraction by removing details, shifting things around, changing perspective, exaggerating the quality, color, and direction of light, investing the shadows with greater emotional intensity. The paintings wander far afield of straightforward observations of reality, and instead become my own emotional response to the places and objects depicted.”
Below – “Salon Refu”; “Georgetown”; “Ionia”; “Paper”; “Newell Post.”
A Second Poem for Today
“America [Try saying wren]”
By Joseph Lease
Try saying ‘wren’.
in my body, 4 a.m. in my body, breading and olives and
cherries. Wait, it’s all rotten. How am I ever. Oh notebook.
A clown explains the war. What start or color or kind of
grace. I have to teach. I have to run, eat less junk. Oh CNN.
What start or color. There’s a fist of meat in my solar plexus
and green light in my mouth and little chips of dream flake
off my skin. Try saying ‘wren’. Try saying
Art for November – Part II of III: Kathleen Adkison
A Third Poem for Today
By Greg Hewett
beauty is a postage stamp,
a composed self-portrait
of Frida Kahlo
wearing a simple necklace,
an image chosen by the USPS
not because it was like one she painted
for Trotsky. Of course
beauty could not include
imagery of hammer and sickle
or black monkey leering
over her shoulder or parrot
twisted under her chin.
And not the one with snakes.
Not the one of her
all butched-up, hair cropped short,
wearing one of Diego’s suits
after they split for the final time.
Not one with wheelchair, spinal-brace,
or scar down her long trunk.
Forget the one of her cloven wide open,
a jungle of history and myth, of poetry
burgeoning forth from her innermost.
Most definitely not
the one of her wearing the collar
of thorns in memory
of Jesus and Trotsky
Musings in Autumn: William S. Burroughs
“Knowing you might not make it…in that knowledge courage is born.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Francisco Aragon
Despite the absent head (whose eyes
were the green of apples)
the supple flesh hums
with the afterglow
of those eyes
which is why the curve
of chest shimmers which is why
the twist of loin turns
that look into a smile, snaring
your eyes, leading
them slowly to regions
below the waist…That block
of stone more than a figure
disfigured and short; cascade
of shoulder glints
like a sinewy beast
of prey, whose edges blink
like stars—that torso:
gazing on its own. Step closer:
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Jim Daniels
An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.
I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He ain’t no average joe.
The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit. . .
pssss. . .
The counter girls laugh.
It is the crucial point–
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.
Art for November – Part III of III: Tony Angell
Below – “Falcon” (Carved Chlorite Sculpture)
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Poem for the Wheat Penny (1909-1958)
By Judith Hall
The amber the clamor the waves of grain
The need for animal feed
And liquor yes the need for heaven
I heard a voice in the midst of beasts say
A measure of wheat for a penny
Voice that loafs and voids a day
A voice numismerized
Is it love my one
Nation leaning her cheek upon the grain
The penny cried which wheat which voice
Which night the penny moon
Shall subsidize the need for heaven
I heard a voice need yes a prop abundance
The measured fat of the wheat the penny-wise
Say the penny candy prayer
The dawn a gleaming pile
Of trampled swords and friends
The coined and counted nice the penny life
Musings in Autumn: James Howard Kunstler
“The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, yet its inhabitants are strikingly unhappy. Accordingly, we present to the rest of mankind, on a planet rife with suffering and tragedy, the spectacle of a clown civilization. Sustained on a clown diet rich in sugar and fat, we have developed a clown physiognomy. We dress like clowns. We move about a landscape filled with cartoon buildings in clownmobiles, absorbed in clownish activities. We fill our idle hours enjoying the canned antics of professional clowns… Death, when we acknowledge it, is just another pratfall on the boob tube. Bang! You’re dead!”
Canadian Art – K. Neil Swanson: Part I
In the words of one writer, “Deeply rooted in K. Neil Swanson’s painting is the symbolic nature of his work, with elements of past, present, and the future. Ever present in his works are a sense of place and a deep spirituality.”
Below – “Moon Over Ha Ling”; “In The Winter Woods”; “Banff Moon Bear”; “Assiniboine Cabin”; “Call of the Mountain Elk”; “Star Fall Upon Emerald Lake”; “That Fell From The Sky.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
“Moon for Our Daughters”
By Annie Finch
Moon that is linking our daughters’
Choices, and still more beginnings,
Threaded alive with our shadows,
These are our bodies’ own voices,
Powers of each of our bodies,
Threading, unbroken, begetting
Flowers from each of our bodies.
These are our spiraling borders
Carrying on your beginnings,
Chaining through shadows to daughters,
Moving beyond our beginnings,
Moon of our daughters, and mothers.
Musings in Autumn: Sherman Alexie
“They’re all gone, my tribe is gone. Those blankets they gave us, infected with smallpox, have killed us. I’m the last, the very last, and I’m sick, too. So very sick. Hot. My fever burning so hot.
I have to take off my clothes, feel the cold air, splash water across my bare skin. And dance. I’ll dance a Ghost Dance. I’ll bring them back. Can you hear the drums? I can hear them, and it’s my grandfather and grandmother singing. Can you hear them?
I dance one step and my sister rises from the ash. I dance another and a buffalo crashes down from the sky onto a log cabin in Nebraska. With every step, an Indian rises. With every other step, a buffalo falls.
I’m growing, too. My blisters heal, my muscles stretch, expand. My tribe dances behind me. At first they are no bigger than children. Then they begin to grow, larger than me, larger than the trees around us. The buffalo come to join us and their hooves shake the earth, knock all the white people from their beds, send their plates crashing to the floor.
We dance in circles growing larger and larger until we are standing on the shore, watching all the ships returning to Europe. All the white hands are waving good-bye and we continue to dance, dance until the ships fall off the horizon, dance until we are so tall and strong that the sun is nearly jealous. We dance that way.”
Below – Arapaho Ghost Dance
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Zachary Schomburg
I am given a pony for my
birthday, but it is the wrong
kind of pony. It is the kind of
pony that won’t listen. It is testy.
When I ask it to go left, it goes
right. When I ask it to run, it
sleeps on its side in the tall
grass. So when I ask it to jump
us over the river into the field I
have never before been, I have
every reason to believe it will
fail, that we will be swept down
the river to our deaths. It is a
fate for which I am prepared.
The blame of our death will rest
with the testy pony, and with
that, I will be remembered with
reverence, and the pony will be
remembered with great anger.
But with me on its back, the
testy pony rears and approaches
the river with unfettered
bravery. Its leap is glorious. It
clears the river with ease, not
even getting its pony hooves
wet. And then there we are on
the other side of the river, the
sun going down, the pony
circling, looking for something
to eat in the dirt. Real trust is to
do so in the face of clear doubt,
and to trust is to love. This is my
failure, and for that I cannot be
Musings in Autumn: Marcus Aurelius
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
Canadian Art – K. Neil Swanson: Part II
In the words of one writer, “Like an iceberg afloat in the ocean, there is the feeling when viewing his art, that there is something below the surface. It may be hidden: like a feather fallen across the snow or wolf shadows among a small group of deer. On mountain and glacier, over the wind dried plains, the skies move with energy and color; crystal clear nights with a monumental moon, and stars illuminating earth and all below. Ancient stone circles, still found in many Alberta sites, become energy circles in a story Swanson spins on canvas.”
Below – “Wild Spirits”; “Victoria Glacier Moon”; “Valley Of The Three Rocks”; “Island Lake Spirit Bears”; “Valley Of The Three Sisters”; “Legend Of Banded Peak”; “Canadian Icon.”