Zumwalt Poems Online

Posts tagged ‘writing’

she started to stop ironing

she started to stop ironing

creases and wrinkles
pouts and interpretations
a phone number from Port Said
left in a pocket

Oh, how the gin fizzes stir
and music concurs
as veils drip like honey

Ah,
how the cover
stays low
so the currency flows
like foot traffic at
the dusty bazaar

“I’ll show you Egypt” has been her most memorable reply
but I doubt her intentions and so plan another solo excursion
hoping that
once I return
that crumpled, rumpled look
will be comfortably cool at work

— Zumwalt (1998)

Advertisements

The Sassoon Collection

The Sassoon Collection

i. Everyone sang while I fell asleep

voices wailing around the house
thud of feet and slam of doors
everyone singing
only the clocks wind down

around this small room
no sense of the hour
crowded with lemonade breath
high-pitched voices like hounds in pain
as clouds hover over my eyes

fighting sleep with the fork from my dessert plate
not yet ready to go where the dreams are built
where you take reality with you so as not to be alone
dragging it by its rough cotton shirt collar

the sweet faces become sweet voices
despite the liberty with so many of the notes
the lights descend and take colors
whirling into a vortex that kicks out dimensions
like KTEL reissuing fragments from the past

falling asleep
the hounds now cooing like herons drugged by too many Hershey bars
the darkness becoming home (but without any furnishings)
everything fading into peace
except for one small lingering concern
for everything unfinished

ii. A pickle and a black hole

Mass and form had the pickle, sweet, sour, tall and straight;
The round black hole collapsing still further then it knew
Made its longest shadow with gravity
A ghostly bridge ’twixt the pickle and space.
But stars, with their continuous day, must pass;
And blustering winds will stretch all gherkins
to which I’ve no measurements to express
the moment of conjunction,
a singularity with no exit
for stars and pickled cucumbers alike.

iii. Blonde

Her head-weak thoughts that once eagerly gave way
to looks that leapt sure from eye to brain and into heart,
Weaving unconscious promises of love,
Are now thrust outward, dangerously heard from lips to air.
And he who has watched one world and loved it all,
Star-struck with blindness, an ensnared example for pity,
With feeble hopes of attracting a returning glance,
now listens with his ear to the rambling noise.

iv. Butter and eggs

Robust diners, deftly forking in the fat.
O no longer living triglycerides against the heedless tongue
Of buffet and banquet days, what sends them gliding through
This set of dancing teeth?

Theirs are the hungry cadences between
The enraptured chewing of hefty humans that make
Heaven in the booth while second helpings simmer;
And theirs the faintest whispers that hush the desire.

And they are as a released soul that wings its way
Out of the starlit dimness above the moon
And they are the largest beings — born
To know but this, the phantom glare of fullness.

v. Auto Tunes

I keep such music in my car
No din this side of death can quell;
Deep bass booming over tar,
And excess forged in death-metal hell.

My dreaming demons will not hear
The roar of guns that would destroy
My life that no gleeful gloom can fear
Proud-surging passages of painful joy.

To the world’s end I drove, and found
Death in his carnival of hidden stash;
But in this torrent I was drowned,
And music screeched above
the fiendishly beatific
headlight-lit
fiber-glass,
glittering, splintering,
metalliferous crash.

vi. The imperfect cook

I never ordered something to be perfect,
Though often I’ve asked for fiery spicy or without sugar as a small invasion
Of mastering cooking.

I never asked that your dishes
Might stand, unburnt, moist and savory
Pointing the way toward gastronomical peaks like a sign-post.

Oh yes, I know the way to the heart is easy.
We found the little menu of our passion
That all can share who walk the road of gourmands.
In wild and succulent feasting we stumbled;
And sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy senses.

But I’ve grown sated now. And you have lost
Your early-morning freshness of surprise
At creating new dishes.  You’ve learned to fear
The gloomy, stricken places in my stomach
And the occasional indigestion that haunts me later.

You made me fat; and I can still return
for seconds, the haven of my lonely pride:
But I am sworn to partake of variety
the blossom from invention and disparate exploration
And there shall be no follow-up in a failure;
Since, if we ate like beasts, the plates are clean
And I’ll not redirect portions of portions to pets under the table.

You dream endless assemblies of culinary masterpieces
Yet, in my heart, I dread average results
But, should you grow to hate my critiques, I would ask
No mercy from your feelings. I’d have you turn from the stove
And look me in the eyes, and laugh, and suggest take-out.

Then I should know, at least, that taste prevailed
Though flavor had died of wounds. And you could leave me
unfamished in an atmosphere of ongoing appetite.

vii. The Manager

‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the well-rested manager said
When we worked through the night to finish on time
the urgent assignment he failed to review and release
until late afternoon.

And we mock his insincerity as a matter of routine:
‘I work for you’, ‘What can I do to help you finish this sooner?’
As our stomachs growl from the coffee machine brew
But nonetheless still polite to his face
since by his judgment alone is our performance scored.

viii. Middle Age

I heard a creak, and a groan
And felt a twinge of wooden pain
A man running in a crowd
Deep in its shadow he moved.
‘Ugly work!’ thought I,
Gasping for breath.
‘Time must be cruel and proud,
‘Tearing down this body.’

With gutsy glimmering shone
my dignity as the wind grew colder.
This aging man jogs over the hill,
Bent to make the grade
‘There is no gain without further pain’…
Sluggishly passing the trees.
Aches in the joints were shrill,
As unmeasured steps sank into the hard asphalt.

ix. Fight to our Finish

The bums came back.  Pundits played and bites were flying.
The yearning journalists threshed the backlit words
To trash the bickering brutes who’d refrained from agreeing
And hear the shuffled music of fizzled-out accords.
Of all the waste and nonsense they have brought
This moment is the lowest. (So we thought.)

Thumbing their noses to spite the other aisle
Shunning those that broke ranks with thoughts of a deal,
Making all attempts at representing utterly futile.

* * * * * *

I heard the yammering journalists grunt and squeal;
And with their trusting viewers turned and went
To rid us all of those who brazenly overspent.

x. Particle Show

AND still they come and go: and this is all I know—
That from the mind I watch an endless particle-show,
Where wild and listless forces flicker on their way,
With charged and uncharged parts from small stringy strands
Because all spin so fast, and they’ve no place to stay
Beyond the frozen image of imagined lands.

And still, between the shadow and the image made,
The first desire of all of us flings onward, ever betrayed
As in those stimulant years that weight them, and have passed:
All minds must grasp these particles dancing much too fast.

Copyright © 2011

Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall

Chilled and solitary
I feel the Fall
A season flickering
A time cooling
Summer’s dissolute heat and aureate fury
Quenched
In long shadows
Darkly déjà vu
Gibbon scents the dusk
Crisp disquiet
Suddenly
October has pierced the city
Like Alaric’s Goths
Rude and barbarous
Yet
In its gusty fury
Lustral

— Zumwalt (15 October 1979)

Letter from Grad School

Letter from Grad School

By way of prolegomena
Of arms and the man I sing
Of a man with arms
And hands, for that matter
And nothing that matters to do with them
But push gliding yellow felt pens
Across the faceless fees
Of physicians
Dealing the New Deal daily, deftly
To the deaf shipbuilders and jet mechanics
An ocean of OSHA’s owings
To obscure Oshkosh and Oklahoma patients
Politely
With a yellow felt pen
Felt pen is all he’s felt, lately
So come, Muse
(someone should)
And tell of the student-cum-bureaucrat
The man with arms
And hands
With nothing to do
But disburse billings
And perhaps go blind.

In medias res
A caffeine haze
Like the stained smog of the womb city
LA
Swirled, buzzing beneath his 4:00 am skull
Like a Santa Ana locked in a cave
Bleary, blurry, bushed
Home to the ‘burbs
Brimming with the firm breasted wives
Of the prowlers of the power corridors
Brown and nondescript his mentality
Two unkempt letters
On an unkempt bed
From an unkempt friend
A composer schizophrenic
Beethoven of tunes and software
And heterodox harmonies
Keeper of a faith
When all have lost faith
But a faithful foolish few.
Insanity issued from the violated envelope
Rushing, leaping, prancing
Shades, demons, ghosts, apparitions of times past
Dionysian and demented
When loons were lords of the land
(Or at least Orange County)
And rationality relegated to the serfs.
The barons of bats sat lunatic and lecherous
In a Coco’s booth sucking the bean
And contemplating coitus – elusive
And so all the more important—
Jolly jester gestures jump
From penciled pages
And in a laughing gasp at once accusatory and amusing
Howled
“Write!
For the faith is fading, dwindling
Like a soft candle stump
A fleeting flame flickering faintly from
A shriveled wick.
Write!
For I am playing pool with a drunken
Busboy lothario
The two of us—Lear and his Fool—
Leering and fooling around
With a round romp
And her dart-faced female friend.
Write!
For the roundtable is ruptured
With the tennis stud talking Tupperware
And decamping for Texas;
The Great Beard,
Erstwhile Falstaff with a joint,
Presently playing it cool
Hawking high finance
To bag some bills to pay the bills;
And the genius leader of liberated wit
Is doing a Ulysses gig in Asia
Beating knowledge into brown brains
And contracting dysentery
For the white man’s burden.
Write!
For stimulation is scarcer
Than a willing woman
And I’ll settle for a long distance laugh.
Write—Right?”

“Right,”
Murmured the pen pusher pushing off,
Toddling, tottering to sleep.
Waking the afternoon next
A cool spring Sunday
He gripped his pen determined
To pay his debt.

Agon Aristophanic
So the student
Who sings for his supper
With a yellow felt pen
And writes arcane expositions
Of the arabesque antics
Of the politics of Riyadh and Jeddah
Essayed, assessed
Saying sayings not quite sane
What he means is what he said;
Sotos speaks, so to speak.

An auspicious year, the eighty-first of the twentieth
Sophocles stooges—Clotho and her cronies—early
Gave the Greek grief
Tried to hand him brooches
But he’d seen that one before
And they left for Lauderdale lawn chair lounging
But not until his transmission was translated
Eighteen miles from Phoenix
For half a K
Plastic money and smiling despair
Got him off of Saddleback Avenue and on the road
Two days long a longue duree
At the El Rokay Lodge.
Jojo’s has migrated
Like mildew across a map
And Peasant Lunches paid with plastic
Fed the moustache all across the continent.

Back to the marble city
With minds missing marbles
And the pater patriae has a phallic
Monument mocking
The felt pen scribe scraping by
With his social life on display at the Smithsonian
Said to be extinct.

Well, can’t complain
One supposes—Eros escapes
My grasp but platonic pleasures placate.
Lots of late night nonsense with Eve’s daughters
Watching omelets cater to a Charybdis appetite
And catching two-dollar talkies at the Circle.
Taystee Diner bean brew and juke box jokes
While Hall and Oates
Simon and Garfunkel
And Queen
Eat my quarters;
A couple of babes—a lanky blonde
And a petite brunette who claims she’s a blonde—
So let’s just say he’s reveled past midnight
With two blondes.
Fun ladies and dynamite looks
Knockouts but not for knocking.
When it comes to romance his social life
Is in formaldehyde waiting for someone
To identify it.

Between hubris and hamartia
Thrice has the world whirled
Complete circuits encompassing the sun
Since the Greek marched east like Alexander
To conquer Persepolis.
Most that started the march have finished their anabasis
Dared dementia and cut the cord
With Alma Mater
But Alexander pushes on
Pushing the yellow felt pen
And checking the views at the Strait of Hormuz
Holding court, he’s
Doing okay for a tortoise.
Just a hundred pages or so to go
But if feels like walking the wastes of Gedrosia.
Let’s look to emerge a year from now…
Meantime he makes time and money green enough
With the yellow felt pen
Streaking beige bills
At Fran Perkins’ Annex.

It all adds up to the bottom line:
Amassing a Master’s stretches time and taffy
Like some Einstein joke
The faster you work,
The more tenuous and ephemeral
The whole pandering postgraduate program seems.

Anagnorisis of a sort
Beckoning from beyond an unborn year
Are the vegetables on display, evergreen and plastic,
In the kitchen appliances at Sears
Waiting to be consumed.
Legitimacy and actuality and parental approval
At some point you have to face forward
And take it like a Man.

Rustling from behind
In the grottos of your mind
Are the petrified relics mined
Memories of a golden age
(Or maybe just brass)
Pulling you back.
Is this metamorphosis imperative?

Balancing the abyss between
Plastic peas and petrified pasts
He hangs on the words, hard shells of
Thoughts
That span from the solid past
To the faceless, featureless future
An unraveling chaos with a Camarillo laugh.
He doesn’t know where he’s headed, but he’s got a
Handle on where’s he been.

By way of epilogue
The song is done
Evaporated, evanescent
As the balance in his checkbook.
The yellow felt pen pusher
Pushes on
Staining audiologists’ invoices
And the lives of those around him.
The Greek still seeks his telos
But not without some longing looks back.

 — Zumwalt (3 May 1981)

Afternoon Off

Afternoon Off

Muscling for the right of way
With horn-blast exclamations
Traffic mutters its scat song score

The sun today
Like most days
Doesn’t shine postcard gold and honeyed
It glares
Through the inversion layer
A klieg light in a smoky cabaret
But
Just the same it warms
The square

Sprawled on the grass
Midtown midday characters in
Pershing’s street show
Young Chicanos scout for chicks
And advertise adolescence
Studied, casual, tough

Some shirtsleeve transient
Sporting scrimshaw arms
Scans a racing form
His shoe leather face focused more
On Santa Anita
Than the saints
Shouted, proclaimed
By an antique black
Whose white wisps of whiskers
Cling to his accusing chin
Clouds about a crag
That trembles with every thundered damnation
As the old man makes the park
His pulpit

Basking in my own insouciance
I consider
How best to consume the remainder of the day

Perhaps a saunter to the Biltmore
To grab a joe and watch for ghosts
Or a march upcountry to Bunker Hill
To glimpse the glass castles
Mercantile and magnificent
Then again
I might, like a rookie on the bench,
Sit attentive, listening
To the traffic
And the sermon
And see what happens
Next

— Zumwalt (ca. 1977)

Black with Sugar

Black with Sugar

Loam-dark
A mellow companion, rich
Whose waving vapors indicate
The only friendly warmth in this
Orange-and-yellow plastic always open Tabernacle

Silent on the Formica
Sweet Latin scents caress the senses
Softening
Blows from the nicotine grayness
And insipid ceiling-speak Muzak

Smooth and sepia
Spirals down the throat, wet, warm
For a moment attention drifts
From the bleary graveyard denizens
        the three-day growth denim jacket derelict
        the greasy ember of a cook
        the scrubbed behemoth cop
        A granite waitress

A quiet witness
To a melancholy 3:00 am solo
Outside
        the neon punches holes in the glacial black
        splaying stark pastels across the street’s lonely void
Inside
        Indifference frosts the electric décor
The mug is chipped
But its contents fight the chill and bring a
Welcome, wistful
Smile

— Zumwalt (1977)

Repost of Wednesday Poetry Challenges #7 and #8

The New Year is upon us.  Toss your hat into the ring for one or both of these challenges.   Looking forward to reading your journal of your thoughts on fellow blogger poems or established poet’s poems.

Click on Mr. Linky to see the journals I have started and any others added since this post.  I think its a great New Year’s resolution to read and think about one poem a day, one poem a week or even, if time-constrained, one poem a month.

Poetry Challenge #7 is to create a journal of links and your reactions to poems by established (living or dead poets.) Details are here.  Example response is here. Mr. Linky for Challenge #7 is directly below:

Poetry Challenge #8 is similar to Challenge #7 but the poems are all poems by “unestablished” poets posting poems to their blogs.  Details are here.  Example response is here. Mr. Linky for Challenge #8 is directly below:

Everyone:

Have a great New Year!!!

I have had very little time to administer this site, so apologize.  Most of these posts are pre-scheduled and I, unfortunately, expect to have very little time during January.  Appreciate all that find time to visit now and then.  Thanks so much for your interest.

Zumwalt Site Adminstrator.

%d bloggers like this: