In the Happo-En Garden, Toyko by Linda Pasdan

Happoen-12

In the Happo-En Garden, Toyko
by Linda Pasdan

The way a birthmark
on a woman’s face defines
rather than mars
her beauty,

so the skyscrapers—
those flowers of technology—
reveal the perfection
of the garden they surround.

Perhaps Eden is buried
here in Japan,
where an incandescent
koi slithers snakelike

to the edge of the pond;
where a black-haired
Eve-san in the petalled
folds of a kimono

once showed her silken body
to the sun, then picked a persimmon
and with a small bow
bit into it.

PHOTO: Happo-En Garden, Tokyo, Japan (commons.wikimedia.org)

Sunrise, Grand Canyon by John Barton (Arizona)

Arizona prochasson frederic licensed

Sunrise, Grand Canyon
by John Barton

We stand on the edge, the fall
into depth, the ascent

of light revelatory, the canyon walls moving
up out of

shadow, lit
colours of the layers cutting

down through darkness, sunrise as it
passes a

precipitate of the river, its burnt tangerine
flare brief, jagged

bleeding above the far rim for a split
second I have imagined

you here with me, watching day’s onslaught
standing in your bones–they seem

implied in the record almost
by chance–fossil remains held

in abundance in the walls, exposed
by freeze and thaw, beautiful like a theory

stating who we are
is carried forward by the X

chromosome down the matrilineal line
recessive and riverine, you like

me aberrant and bittersweet, and losing
your hair just when we have begun

to know the limits of beauty, you so
distant from me now but at ease

in a chair in your kitchen, pensive, mind
wandering away from yesterday’s Times, the ink

rubbing off on your hands, dermatoglyphic
and telltale, but unread

on the chair arms after you
had pushed yourself to your feet such

awhile ago, I’d say, for here I am
three hours behind you, riding the high

Colorado Plateau as the opposing
continental plates force it over

a mile upward without buckling, smooth
tensed, muscular fundament, your bones yet

to be wrapped around mine–
this will come later, when I return

to your place and time, I know it, you not
ready for past or future, our combined

bones so inconsequent yet
personal, the geo

logic cross
section of the canyon dropping

from where I stand, hundreds
millions of shades of terra cotta, of copper

manganese and rust, the many varieties of stone–
silt, sand, and slate, even “green

river rock,” a rough misidentified
fragment of it once unknowingly

dropped when I was a boy into my as of yet un
settled sediments by a man who tried

to explain how slowly the Earth meta
morphosed from my meagre

Wolf Cub’s collection of rocks, his sheer
casual physicality enough to negate

all received wisdom, my body voicing its immense
genetic imperatives, human

geology falling away
into a

depth I am still unprepared for
the canyon cutting down to

the great unconformity, a layer
so named by the lack

of any fossil evidence to hypothesize
about and date such

a remote time by, at last no possible
retrospective certainties, what a

relief, your face illegible
these words when I began not what I had

intended to say–something new about
the natural dynamic between

earth and history, beauty and art–
but you are my subject, unavoidable

and volatile, the canyon
floor a mile from where I objectively

stand taking photos I will later develop of
the ripe, trans

formative light on these surreal
buttes to show you on the surface

how beautiful and diverse
and unimportant our time together

or with anyone else
really is–

Photo 31747418 © Prochasson FredericDreamstime.com

The Everglades by Campbell McGrath (Florida)

florida licensed brian lasenby

The Everglades
by Campbell McGrath

Green and blue and white, it is a flag
for Florida stitched by hungry ibises.

It is a paradise of flocks, a cornucopia
of wind and grass and dark, slow waters.

Turtles bask in the last tatters of afternoon,
frogs perfect their symphony at dusk—

in its solitude we remember ourselves,
dimly, as creatures of mud and starlight.

Clouds and savannahs and horizons,
its emptiness is an antidote, its ink

illuminates the manuscript of the heart.
It is not ours though it is ours

to destroy or preserve, this the kingdom
of otter, kingfisher, alligator, heron.

If the sacred is a river within us, let it flow
like this, serene and magnificent, forever.

PHOTO: Heron at sunrise in the Everglades National Park (a natural region of tropical wetlands in southern Florida) by Brian Lasenby, used by permission. 

Early Morning in Milwaukee by John Koethe

milwaukee janvdb95

Early Morning in Milwaukee (excerpt)
by John Koethe

Is this what I was made for? Is the world that fits
Like what I feel when I wake up each morning? Steamclouds
Hovering over the lake, and smoke ascending from ten thousand chimneys
As in a picture on a calendar, in a frieze of ordinary days?
Beneath a sky of oatmeal gray, the land slides downwards from a Kmart parking lot
Into a distance lined with bungalows, and then a vague horizon.
Higher and higher, until its gaze becomes a part of what it sees,
The mind ascends through layers of immobility into an unfamiliar atmosphere
Where nothing lives, and with a sense of finally breaking free
Attains its kingdom: a constructed space, or an imaginary city
Bordered all around by darkness; or a city gradually sinking into age,
Dominated by a television tower whose blue light warns the traveler away.

(Find the poem in its entirety here.)

PHOTO: Aerial view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, by Janvdb95, used by permission. 

Belle Isle, 1949 by Philip Levine (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

detroit licensed jesse kunerth

Belle Isle, 1949
by Philip Levine

We stripped in the first warm spring night
and ran down into the Detroit River
to baptize ourselves in the brine
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles,
melted snow. I remember going under
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl
I’d never seen before, and the cries
our breath made caught at the same time
on the cold, and rising through the layers
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere
that was this world, the girl breaking
the surface after me and swimming out
on the starless waters towards the lights
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks
of the old stove factory unwinking.
Turning at last to see no island at all
but a perfect calm dark as far
as there was sight, and then a light
and another riding low out ahead
to bring us home, ore boats maybe, or smokers
walking alone. Back panting
to the gray coarse beach we didn’t dare
fall on, the damp piles of clothes,
and dressing side by side in silence
to go back where we came from.

PHOTO: Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park in the Detroit River, with a view of Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Jesse Kunerth, used by permission. 

Love Poem to Los Angeles by Luis J. Rodriguez (L.A. Poet Laureate, 2014-2016)

LA licensed choneschones

Love Poem to Los Angeles
by Luis J. Rodriguez
      with a respectful nod to Jack Hirschman

1.
To say I love Los Angeles is to say
I love its shadows and nightlights,
its meandering streets,
the stretch of sunset-colored beaches.
It’s to say I love the squawking wild parrots,
the palm trees that fail to topple in robust winds,
that within a half hour of L.A.’s center
you can cavort in snow, deserts, mountains, beaches.
This is a multi-layered city,
unceremoniously built on hills,
valleys, ravines.
Flying into Burbank airport in the day,
you observe gradations of trees and earth.
A “city” seems to be an afterthought,
skyscrapers popping up from the greenery,
guarded by the mighty San Gabriels.
2.
Layers of history reach deep,
run red, scarring the soul of the city,
a land where Chinese were lynched,
Mexican resistance fighters hounded,
workers and immigrants exploited,
Japanese removed to concentration camps,
blacks forced from farmlands in the South,
then segregated, diminished.
Here also are blessed native lands,
where first peoples like the Tataviam and Tongva
bonded with nature’s gifts;
people of peace, deep stature, loving hands.
Yet for all my love
I also abhor the “poison” time,
starting with Spanish settlers, the Missions,
where 80 percent of natives
who lived and worked in them died,
to the ruthless murder of Indians
during and after the Gold Rush,
the worst slaughter of tribes in the country.
From all manner of uprisings,
a city of acceptance began to emerge.
This is “riot city” after all—
more civil disturbances in Los Angeles
in the past hundred years
than any other city.
3.
To truly love L.A. you have to see it
with different eyes,
askew perhaps,
beyond the fantasy-induced Hollywood spectacles.
“El Lay” is also known
for the most violent street gangs,
the largest Skid Row,
the greatest number of poor.
Yet I loved L.A.
even during heroin-induced nods
or running down rain-soaked alleys or getting shot at.
Even when I slept in abandoned cars,
alongside the “concrete” river,
and during all-night movie showings
in downtown Art Deco theaters.
The city beckoned as I tried to escape
the prison-like grip of its shallowness,
sun-soaked image, suburban quiet,
all disarming,
hiding the murderous heart
that can beat at its center.
L.A. is also lovers’ embraces,
the most magnificent lies,
the largest commercial ports,
graveyard shifts,
poetry readings,
murals,
lowriding culture,
skateboarding,
a sound that hybridized
black, Mexican, as well as Asian
and white migrant cultures.
You wouldn’t have musicians like
Ritchie Valens, The Doors, War,
Los Lobos, Charles Wright &
the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,
Hiroshima, Motley Crue, NWA, or Quetzal
without Los Angeles.
Or John Fante, Chester Himes, Charles Bukowski,
Marisela Norte, and Wanda Coleman as its jester poets.
4.
I love L.A., I can’t forget its smells,
I love to make love in L.A.,
it’s a great city, a city without a handle,
the world’s most mixed metropolis,
of intolerance and divisions,
how I love it, how I hate it,
Zootsuit “riots,”
can’t stay away,
city of hungers, city of angers,
Ruben Salazar, Rodney King,
I’d like to kick its face in,
bone city, dried blood on walls,
wildfires, taunting dove wails,
car fumes and oil derricks,
water thievery,
with every industry possible
and still a “one-industry town,”
lined by those majestic palm trees
and like its people
with solid roots, supple trunks,
resilient.

PHOTO: Downtown Los Angeles, California, by Choneschones, used by permission.

Young in New Orleans by Charles Bukowski

licensed f11 photo

Young in New Orleans
by Charles Bukowski

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for hours,
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, maybe it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
world.
New Orleans was a place to
hide.
I could piss away my life,
unmolested.
except for the rats.
the rats in my small dark room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking
death.
women were beyond me.
they saw something
depraved.
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my
coffee.
that was plenty for
me, that was
enough.
there was something about
that city, though:
it didn’t let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
needed.
it let me alone.
sitting up in my bed
the lights out,
hearing the outside
sounds,
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
enter
me
as I heard the rats
moving about the
room,
I preferred them
to
humans.
being lost,
being crazy maybe
is not so bad
if you can be
that way:
undisturbed.
New Orleans gave me
that.
nobody ever called
my name.
no telephone,
no car,
no job,
no anything.
me and the
rats
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
nothingness,
it was a
celebration
of something not to
do
but only
know.

PHOTO: French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, by F11 Photo, used by permission. 

[Traveler, your footprints] by Antonio Machado

deny-abdurahman-HwDZ3kOjutQ-unsplash

[Traveler, your footprints]
by Antonio Machado

Traveler, your footprints
are the only road, nothing else.
Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.
As you walk, you make your own road,
and when you look back
you see the path
you will never travel again.
Traveler, there is no road;
only a ship’s wake on the sea.

Photo at Pathek Beach, East Java, Indonesia, by Deny Abdurahman on Unsplash.

Chicago by Carl Sandburg

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Chicago
by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
  Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
  Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
  Stormy, husky, brawling,
  City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
  Bareheaded,
  Shoveling,
  Wrecking,
  Planning,
  Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
                    Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Photo of downtown Chicago by Max Bender on Unsplash