WHAT HAPPENED WHEN JUAN FELIPE HERRERA
U.S. POET LAUREATE CAME TO THE CAPITOL THEATRE
“What happened to the students?”
Juan Felipe Herrera,
U.S. Poet Laureate of the United States asks,
speaking to the pueblo in Yakima
at the Capitol Theatre on Monday
in May, after spending the day
with students at the college,
“…and you’re smart, you write
from the heart…” This is a pueblo
right here, and Juan Felipe Herrera,
…they were going to be teachers,
and he asks them about the 43,
What happened? Do you know?
What happened in Ayotzinapa?
We wanted funds for our rural school
…queríamos fondos para nuestra escuela rural.
…to say to the mayor that we wanted funds
for our rural school for teachers
No/somos/desechables//We are/not disposable…
The idea of the Poet Laureate in Yakima.
The reality of his presence at the Capitol,
the community gem.
I leave a Little League game
in the second inning, my grandson pitching,
walk into a row and sit beside a father and son.
Angelica and Alex, mother and son,
walk in and sit with me, minutes later.
We ski together, the three of us.
Yesterday, Angelica brought ensalada de nopales
to our home, a celebration for the young.
Notes on the Assemblage opens
with a three-poem section called Ayotzinapa
and an epigraph from Phil Levine,
beginning, From the ferocity of pig…
for all the dead, for all of us, for the 43 murdered
students with their dream of teaching
to Michael Brown and Officer Liu and Officer Ramos,
naming names, asking, “Why does the street divide
as we pass by…why do we not speak?”
Starting there with context,
our laughter from here on out
connected by tenuous thread to outrage,
Juan Felipe Herrera coaxes each of us
in our seats at the Capitol Theatre to speak
each word after him, 187 reason why Mexicans
can’t cross the border. Our word being,
“because.” Because, because, because,
and now we’ve heard Juan Felipe read
and we’ve responded and we can go online
and read the poem to ourselves out loud
in our living rooms and gardens,
and read the reasons Juan Felipe didn’t get to
last night with the time allowed
and pretend we hear him responding to us,
because, because, because, because, because,
five times in a row like that the way Shakespeare
wrote never never never never never
five times in a row in King Lear…
We can do that. We had so much fun
at the reading, we laughed so much,
and we followed along doing everything
Juan Felipe asked, and now it’s the day after
and looking back, it all seems so much
more serious, the words, the fragments,
and I ask myself, What happened to the man
in the blue derby wrapped with a black ribbon,
the man in the blue plaid shirt and the glasses
with white rims? What happened?
What happened in that moment?
What happened in Ayotzinapa?
We were having so much fun
we almost forget the journey we’ve been on,
traveling like this, with the poet.
After the reading I get two books,
Half of the World in Light, his new & selected,
Lotería Cards and Fortune Poems:
A Book of Lives, and the big book falls on my head
in bed when I can’t read any more
and I don’t know how long I held it after I could no longer read.
“I didn’t want to be condemned to history
or condemned to anything I felt I had to say.”
In the morning I look at my notes,
remembering the students from the night before,
at attention, blossoming in inspiration.
“A round dance, up and down the rows,”
Juan Felipe called it as it happened,
“I want to become you, you want to become me.”
He tells us of his brother Bobby battling cancer
and things he puts in his poems pineapples, corn,
wooden masks, prickly eyes and ocean liners.
“Everybody say, ‘Calabaza skin.’”
Going in and out of poems and talk,
talking, “If we mistreat animals we’re going to find them
a little later in the crossing…I can’t believe how brave
our families are…We were all super bilingual,
we wore bilingual capes. My hair was bilingual.”
Juan Felipe tells us of a poem made
in an unoccupied water tank that police
were using for stolen bikes.
He recounts the joy of our struggles.
“In the middle of the book
we’re going to find yellow flan on our shoulders.”
And finally he says to all,
“Go back and find your seed voices.”
I’m alone with his books on the porch
and open A Book of Lives, fortune poems
from Lotería Cards, linocuts by Artemio Rodríguez
news cuts for our time, and the poems by Juan Felipe.
They break open the chances for today.
I’m gambling now, and this is my life.
Who thirsts? El Brujo asks. “Here is the water.”
Adam and Eve naked in the corn field.
Adam’s right hand covers his cock,
El Brujo holding up the water,
a row of hands emerging from corn, waving.
The cuts by Rodríguez swing dangerously
close to my eye and Juan Felipe matches them,
“…so many bodies in butter sauce.”
COMBINING THE LOVE POEM
AND THE INTIMACY THAT COMES WITH LETTERS
ON THE RETIREMENT OF TERRY MARTIN:
A PORCH POEM
Nothing about what its now
Nothing about about or either
Nothing about more or and
Nothing about the
Nothing about is
Nothing around even
13 June 2016
AT THE BONSAI BENCH
WITH THE JAPANESE BLACK PINE
REMEMBERING THE TEACHER
It's better to pull
crush it under the wire
Trunk moves upward
branches move down
takes the pitch
from fingers and hands
4--10 June 2016
READING ON THE FRONT PORCH
These poems again and again.
They begin to sound lie my mother talking,
and I know this isn't the case.
Mom didn't know about these things--
galaxies and stars, sitting on the edge
of an unfinished bridge over the ocean,
feet dangling. Mom talked baseball
and grandkids. She did talk
an awful lot about North Dakota.
An awful lot.
I guess Harrison's Upper Peninsula
might be the something.
The two of them, poet and mother,
both with tenacious voices,
voices of the justice wail,
and great capacities
for denial and pain,
great, great singers,
great singers, both.
29 April-7 June 2016
THE SITTING PORCH OUT FRONT
The size of most writing rooms,
10’ by 12’, enclosed on three sides,
the fourth open to rock garden
screened by trees, allowing warmth
from morning sun. A set of wicker
furniture Karen found at a yard sale,
spray painted white, one a love seat,
two small stands with lower shelf
and a small white table
large enough for tea and scones.
Karen has placed one long yellow pillow
on the loveseat that sits on the inside wall
facing the sun, and two smaller ones
on each end covered with flowers.
Perpendicular to the sofa,
two blue semi-rocking lawn chairs
covered in blue cushions
face opposite each other
with a blue covered hassock in between.
Blue and yellow primary colors
receive morning sunlight.
The Front Porch Room is partially covered.
The blue lawn chairs, facing each other,
writing chairs or reading chairs,
chairs facing each other
elbow to elbow, knee to knee, deep
talk placement. Chairs can be moved
under cover or under sky light, depending.
The Front Porch Room
is the first of the Sanctuary Rooms
surrounding the house.
Flowered pots of different size and height
surround the room, and are visible
from the street, include two large
hand-painted traditional clay pots
brought from Cuernavaca,
over-flowing with million dollar blossoms.
An antique wooden chair with a copper-plated sign
reads “Ladies Room” has a moss-covered seat
surrounded with a pot, a five-pointed star
and wrath made from grape vines, painted white.
Shade and privacy are provided by four trees,
Little Cherry Twist with an eight inch trunk,
globular and about nine feet in height,
it grows in the middle with two Japanese Lace Maples
in front, and just a bit to the north of it.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick Tree,
an ambivalent choice, quirky
with its suggestion of old men and canes.
Twisted and arthritic.
Green leaves, lush, and then sun-burnt
turned to brown paper. Vinelike.
A questionable choice for an entrance,
better perhaps for leaving?
Other specimen trees making the Beauty Screen
between Porch Room and Yard:
slow-growing Lion’s Mane Maple,
and a 4-petaled mature white-blossomed
Dogwood, on point.
Beneath the trees, the river stones,
ragged and rough from the summits
tumble toward town. Stones from
home rivers—American, Tieton,
Naches, Little Naches, and Yakima.
California Rivers—Klamath and Eel,
famous Suiseki stone rivers, to the small
Washington State Rivers like the Queets,
with stones found by fishermen friends
like Vance. Water rocks, scholar rocks,
and stones from special hikes with friends,
placed and misplaced, moved around
by chance and design. Stones on carved
daizas made especially for each stone,
all in a dry riverbed beneath and beside
the trees and visible from the Porch Room
22-25 May 2016
After rain, birdsong,
hawk over head.
Rocks full of color
in their wetness, grateful,
and perhaps nostalgic
for their rivers.
Trees, energized fresh,
already in their leaf-making
and fat robins in the grass.
I sit with coffee and notebook
listening to bird-squabble
and open the book
on the wicker stand
beside me, sun-warming
eastern thread searching out
Nothing Ever Dies,
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
21 May 2016
TAKING UP WHERE THE DREAM LEFT OFF
Morning sun coming through green leaves
of the Walking Stick Tree, backlit
and sunlight stunning. News from the poems
take me out of myself, while I wait
for Karen to join me on the porch.
She’s gone for the next two days,
quilting landscape with an artist
who teaches blind children.
Last night Karen showed me
images of quilts
she took with the camera on her IPhone.
Barn and mailbox. The quilted sky
I mistake for a mountain range.
This is Karen mapping her way
from the garden, out of West Valley
through the eye of the needle.
She’s going through Ukiah
carrying her own material,
along with tulle, a soft cloth,
finer than netting, toning and disappearing,
foot peddling images of painted hills.
19 May 2016
TURN THAT SUN AROUND
for Dean Stewart
Front porch morning sun
after tacos with lime-garlic
marinade on grill.
late night meal.
Dean and Gretchen.
Gretchen brings a salad
with more stuff than one
can fold into a burrito.
Gretchen likes the stones
in the garden more than the trees
and it warms my Hank Williams heart.
So do I love those river stones
shaped by time, older than any tree.
Those same trees doing what they can
to save us all.
Saying good night
in the driveway Dean giving me
that Greek word for forgiveness
which I leave a space for in this poem,
writing him for it.
this morning’s so far gone
I remember nothing
that has anything to do with sunrise,
the hole for forgiveness
in this poem the one thing
I have left to cling to.
Under a weeping birch tree
Lou Reed sings clear
in the year of his passing.
It’s a temporary thing, he sings,
Keep singing, Lou, I say,
Keep singing, waiting for the word,
and it arrives in the mail,
in time, Dean’s letter:
And it is the typical word
used for forgiveness
in the New Testament.
It has several uses/
translations: Send away,
let go dismiss forgive
The question: let go of what?
What does forgiveness do?
For the effect: take what was separation—
remove it. Let it go.
Start again without separation
lets go of the advantage
Lucky man temporary as the song as eternal
A pastor’s etymology—
Word in time
Finds the whole in heart
20 April—19 May 2016
Too much water
on a Shimpaku Juniper
and it goes anaerobic.
A new leaf uncoiling
like silk from Karen’s studio,
on the Half Moon Maple—
as if, as if it’s beauty
18 May 2016
WHAT ABOUT THOSE COACHES COMMITTED TO MAKING
AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? BOBBY KNIGHT, LOU HOLTZ,
DIGGER PHELPS AND MIKE LEACH,
THE ONE WHO THINKS HE’S GERONIMO?
“Few people use more timber than Donald Trump, I can tell you that.”
--Donald Trump, Spokane, Wa,
as reported in the Yakima Herald-Republic 8 May 2016
as reported in the Yakima Herald-Republic 8 May 2016
Shiver me timbers, my people sing,
Thank you very much, May God strike me well.
Lather me with your lush voices,
Tom Waits, Bette Midler, and
Adrian Croenhauer, sitting in the jeep.
Croenhauer putting a condom over his nose.
They're behind an APC full of troops.
"It's a Vietnamese word," he says, “Con Dum.”
Good morning, Robin Williams.
The dj has been taken from the air
but the troops want him back.
Captain Ahab, Sam Hamill, Catullus.
Take us home by way of invective.
10 May 2016
SOUP FOR JIM HARRISON
Harrison’s Letters to Yesenin
is one of the first book of poems
I found after the time with Williams.
Another door to what I carried
from childhood. The letters
were comfortable terrain
which gave me,
a kind of courage
set against doubt and entitlement.
Entitlement is one of the words
kept from someone like me.
Hidden, I didn’t know it was political.
I knew Harrison had something
I needed when he wrote to Yesenin.
My mother gave me
the word “suicide”
going out the back door
with the kitchen knife.
Shaping the journey,
Harrison and Mom.
“This thin soup tastes great.”
My mother gave me
all of North Dakota
letting me take the kitchen knife
from her hands.
At different times
I had to reject what
got handed down.
came to me in this manner,
what looked to be gruel
took its flavor
from the hambone in the pot.
28 March 2016