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Off-the_Street's rhymes

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posted on May, 24 2005 @ 08:29 PM

The Bigot

This was a real conversation that took place in early 1990. Whether it was the ignorance of my conversant regarding the joys of nuclear weapons, the reverse-liberal guilt (what would you call that — conservative revanche?), or simply the fact that my family came from Germany, the conversation made a deep impression on me.

He'd an earnest expression and horn-rimmed glasses
When he asked what I thought of reunification
(With the Brandenburg Gate breached, and rich West Germans
Owning a piece of the now-defunct wall).
Hell, even the French and the Russians admit
That it's finally time for one German nation,
His eyes kind of glittered but he looked real earnest
As he asked my opinion — that's all.

"We should A-bomb those bastards at least once a year,
"Just to remind them of those that we missed,"
The glitter was bright now, his face was intense,
His voice became shaky and a little bit harassed,
I saw non-aryan versions of gotterdammerung
In the unconscious clenching of manicured fists
But I leaned back and sipped my cappuccino;
My companion looked down and was somewhat embarrassed.

Who knows what's happening in this man's mind?
If I looked too closely, what would I find?

Maybe the anschluss of a time long past,
The summer nights of breaking glass,
The hakenkreuz flag flying higher and higher,
Setting the rabbis' beards on fire,
The endless trains for "relocations",
Mein Gott! They had good public relations!

I was six months born when crazy old Adolf
Killed Blondi and Eva, then blew out his brains.
I was less than a year when Colonel Paul Tibbetts
Climbed into the cockpit of the Enola Gay.
But maybe Mister Earnest couldn't shake from his mind
The eastward rolling of Nazi trains,
To the point where they drowned out the flash and the shockwave
From Freedom's Mushroom on Hiroshima Bay.

February 1990

posted on May, 25 2005 @ 07:55 AM

The Canyon

1. In the Beginning
Vishnu Schist, two billion years old
The Great Unconformity, with time in arrears
Bright Angel Shale, Muav Limestone
Sliced by the river over five million years.

One hundred thousand cubic feet per second
And the Rio Colorado rips the rocks from the wall
Southward and westward to the Gulf of California
Sinking soft to seabed in a dark brown pall.

2. Amerind Interlude
Split twig bird-figures in the canyon caves
Made by the fathers for their children to fly
Millennia gone now, and the silent twig-birds
Look up from the rubble to the unchanging sky.

Rabbit-hunting Paiutes on the Kaibab rim
Peer down to the river running green and brown below
Do they see Sinagua-ghosts passing through the rockwalls
To the riverbank terraces where the maize and squash grow?

3. Spaniards
Fifteen-forty, and Lopez Cardeñas
(Under Coronado’s prodding) went searching for gold.
North to Cibola to find Seven Cities
“Just ten days further” Cardeñas was told.

North through the deserts, past the San Francisco Peaks
Through piñon pine and juniper and grama grass sod
Stopped in his tracks where the very earth divided
By Satan’s own scimitar and the paint-pots of God.

4. Honeymoon Trail
Brigham Young the Prophet had a vision for the desert
Growing the new Zion from the Rockies to the sea
Southward to Sonora down the Colorado Plateau
Irrigated farmlands as far as eyes can see.

Sealed in the Temple, a teenaged Mormon couple
A pushcart wagon, horses, and a couple months’ supplies
Down into the Canyon, cross the river at Lee’s Ferry
Building Arizona as a vision in their eyes.

5. John Wesley Powell
Professor John Powell left his right arm at Shiloh
Kept his courage and his need to see around the bend
Four boats and ten madmen through the Colorado rapids
Mile-high walls on either side and beauty without end.

Three had clambered out at Separation Canyon
Killed by Shivwits Indians; though Powell couldn’t see
Just two days and two more sets of rolling Canyon rapids
Then out into the flatlands and into immortality.

6. The Tourist
Southwest vacation, and a rainy day
An east coast tourist with a schedule to meet
Pulls up to a lookout in a fall afternoon,
And checking his wrist-watch, slides out of his seat.

Walks up to the railing, pulled through by the spirits,
Falls ever downward for two billion years.
Down through the rock-wall, the history, the sunset,
Stumbles back to the car with a face full of tears.

[edit on 18-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on May, 25 2005 @ 09:16 PM


The concept of "vanished Arizona" isn't new; Martha Summerhayes wrote a book by that title in 1875. But my state's late frontiers are still recent enough for us to see the dichotomy between the unspoiled deserts and mountains, the old mining claims, and the overall freedom; and the modern Arizona with the high-tech manufacturing and tourist industries. Sometimes progress is a mother.

I started this next poem as a song, but the rhyme scheme (yes, there is one, but you have to look) is too spread-out, and there's no usable lines in the poem to use as a chorus. No loss; I couldn't see it getting much airplay....

A shelf of tacky postcards in a shop outside Sky Harbor:
‏‏With the hackneyed old saguaro,
And the powerlines deleted,
In the technicolor drama of a phony quarter moon;
And I buy a half-a-dozen for my aunt in Minnesota
And I trot off through the concourse on my way to catch a flight.

Yet I remember hiking in a gulch atop Black Mesa:
With the tracks of javelina
Leading past the secret carvings,
With the Bradshaws in the background to a summer afternoon;
And I close my eyes and see her picking up a piece of sandstone
While we walk back to the pickup as the sunset turns to night.

Tourist t-shirts tangled on a table in the K-Mart:
"Grandma went to Phoenix,
And sent this stupid t-shirt."
It's a super snowbird special marked to just four ninety-eight;
So I fumble through the table, trying to find one for my nephew,
But the colors are too garish, and I'm not sure of his size.

Yet I remember climbing in the red rocks of Sedona:
And the piñon pines and crickets
Singing symphonies to guide us
While the white clouds tinged with pink now, as the day was getting late;
And she slowly took her t-shirt, folding it into a pillow,
And I lost myself forever in the blue depths of her eyes.

posted on May, 26 2005 @ 04:46 AM

(I Need Not Eyes to See, nor Ears to Hear)

I tried to write this in the metaphorical style of 17th-century English Cavalier poets (Herrick is one of my favorites). Most people today avoid writing poems in an "obsolete" style, preferring the "freedom" of modern verse. I've always thought you had to be either very good or very bad to write modern stuff; it's almost too easy to ignore scan and internal compactness. I prefer writing structured poems; I suppose I need the discipline.

I need not eyes to see, nor ears to hear
A soft voice that will not attenuate
Its signal -- be it far or be it near
That came unbidden to my mind of late.
(I need not eyes to see, nor ears to hear)

I need not ears to hear, nor mouth to speak
Mine answer to those voices in my mind
-- Perhaps replies' direction so oblique
Have missed the one those words were meant to find!
(I need not ears to hear, nor mouth to speak)

I need not lips to feel, nor tongue to taste
The honey guarded deep within the tree
Whose leaves embower what I once embraced
With mysteries concealed now from me.
(I need not lips to feel, nor tongue to taste)

I need not heart to love, nor breath to live
For death does not imply my living's end
And next-life's passion leads me on to give
My love once more, when I see her again.
(I need not heart to love, nor breath to live)

[edit on 18-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jul, 18 2005 @ 08:09 PM

The Meadow

There really is a meadow like the one I described — but I'll never tell where it is. The song's a metaphor, of course; but you can figure that one out for yourself.

In the pine-topped Bradshaw mountains up in Yavapai County
An Arizona rancher rode out on the picket line
From his spread down in the foothills overlooking the desert
When he came across a meadow and an old abandoned mine.

It was springtime in the meadow, and the California poppies
Gleamed as golden as the highlights on a lovely woman's hair
As the rancher walked his gelding to the meadow and the mineshaft
He saw that many years had passed since others had been there.

He could see the veins of malachite that promised a good assay
And he wondered why the miner dug the shaft but did not stay
And he wondered why no settlers had moved into the meadow
For the beauty of that lonely valley took his breath away.

He stayed there 'til the Dipper pointed northwards up to Prescott
There was something in the meadow that fulfilled a secret need
But at moonrise he resaddled and rode slowly to his homestead
For his fences needed stringing, and his cattle needed feed.

As he lay there in the cabin, his thoughts were on the meadow
In his mind he saw the poppies shining golden in the sun
So at daybreak he rode westward 'til he came back to the valley
And he lay there in the meadow 'til another day was done.

For many months the rancher would ride up to the meadow
The one spot in the Territory free from pain and strife
Yet he'd ride back home at moonrise, for he had his obligations
Though the beauty of the valley gave new meaning to his life.

When springtime's snowmelt once again brought back the golden poppies
He came again, and looked, and felt a stinging in his eyes
A little cabin sat there, and the tailings by the mineshaft
Told him that a wiser cowboy had finally claimed his prize.

As he rode back to the foothills, his mind wandered to the meadow
And the precious hours of love and peace he'd had and lost up there
Where it always will be springtime, and the California poppies
Gleam as golden as the highlights on a lovely woman's hair.

—And I'll never see a poppy without thinking of your hair.

posted on Jul, 18 2005 @ 08:14 PM

Northern Heading

Two people who read this said it was their favorite among all my rhymes. However, one loves Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the other thinks the sun rises and sets on Leo ("Dr. Hug") Buscaglia. I like it, though; and, who knows? If my publishing choices boil down to a vanity press or Hallmark ... naah. (This only one of two poems I've kept which don't have a rhyme scheme, but there's alliteration, and the meter's pretty straight.)

Walking through the aspens with the new snow fresh-fallen,
With the sun behind the west cliffs now for seven hours past,
The wind's picked up, and flurries softly sifting through the treetops,
And scudding clouds sometimes impair my vision of the sky.

Yet when I feel I've veered my course, and lost my northern heading,
The cirrus parts for long enough to see above the hills,
The Big Bear and Polaris in their slow and constant rolling
Are shining soft upon my heart — I know I'm heading home.

Fighting on a beam reach in my sloop in heavy weather,
Trying for my anchorage at midnight (if I can),
A line squall out of God-knows-where's blown in from the horizon,
And flying scud and wind-whipped waves have blinded me again.

Yet when I feel I've veered my course and lost my northern heading,
A break shows up between the waves and I see far away
The headland by the anchorage, the weather-beaten lighthouse
Whose light is soft upon my heart — I know I'm heading home.

Living through a lifetime with a cheap defective compass,
I've grasped at every headland and followed every lead,
Tracking first a forest, a mountaintop, a desert
I circle back and see my footprints in the sand again.

Yet though I know I've veered my course and lost my northern heading,
My soul tells me there is just one true course I can take,
The headland with the lighthouse, the cabin in the aspens
Whose light is soft upon my heart — then I'll be heading home.

posted on Jul, 18 2005 @ 08:29 PM

Dog in the High Country

I'm sure you know the story about the "Rainbow Bridge". When a neighbor lost her dog, I felt compelled to write a verse version. It was thinking of this poem just a week ago that led me to write a prose piece ("Gone to the High Country") which has a forever-dog, but not much else in common with this rhyme.

If you're into analysis (and I guess I am) I tried a weird scan: a double amphibrachic trimeter (no, I'm not making this up!) on the A and C lines (which don't rhyme) and a single amphimacer trimeter on the B and D (which rhyme). I wanted the poem to run like a big old Labrador retriever.

From a spiritual point of view: ten years separate “Dog in the High Country” from the other rhymes; Some people say I’ve lost my grip; I think I finally got one. Different things are important at different times in your life. Gerard Manley Hopkins knew this; John Donne did, too. So do I, now.

You know he already arrived there – he just now rode in on a rainbow,
Yipping in fields of praise!
Chasing those three-legged rabbits, sleeping right under the bone-tree
Playing for cool endless days.

Sniffing the tails of his brothers, marking his spot as he’s running,
Drinking from icy cold streams!
Rolling around in the meadow, paws shuffling round as he’s sleeping,
Still sniffing her in his dreams.

Then in the midst of his playing, he hears unmistakable noises,
He stops and he stands statue-still!
Then running and barking insanely, past field and meadow and rabbits,
He waits at the top of the hill.

A different rainbow this time, it’s just now touched down from forever,
A woman with wondering eyes!
A mighty jump and a wriggle, with his tongue oh-so-busily licking
The hot tears of joy that she cries.

No leash is allowed for the walk now, through meadow and field and river,
They wade through the icy-cold ford!
Then up through the green rolling foothills, to the gates of the Wonderful City,
To enter the House of the Lord.

[edit on 18-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jul, 19 2005 @ 06:40 PM
I only got 'The Canyon' affter the Tourist poem. So its the same canyon affter billions of years. Clever.

posted on Jul, 20 2005 @ 12:58 AM
Surrealist, yes. Each of those quatrain-pairs is an episode in the story of the Canyon. And all the things that happened there are pretty accurate with a few exceptions for "artistic license". The last episode, "The Tourist", took place in 1977.

[edit on 20-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jul, 24 2005 @ 11:06 PM


Mutability (or "change") was a common theme in the poems of Alexander Pope (1721-1786); while taking my first Geology class several years back, this rhyme popped out as I was studying for the exam on the rock cycle. Pope, as some of you remember, did one of the earliest English translations of the Aeneid, using these same "Heroic Couplets". I suppose they're good for versifying long, drawn-out tales, since they sort of gallop along; but they're kind of like recycling the Thanksgiving turkey -- they get old after several days.

Ah, Mutability! E’en the rocks do change,
They subduct, form trench and rift, and also mountain range.
To wit: an igneous blob, born deep in lithosphere
Rises through divergent boundary and makes Icelanders fear;

But wait! That same adamantine stone that we called igneous
When mountain-risen, wastes away to pebbles, sand, and dust
Weathered by diverse means which only the wise recall,
‘Tis eroded hence by water and wind, and to the oceans fall.

Transported and deposited by gravity’s pull of might,
It lithifies to sedimentary rock, with grains cemented tight.
With mesas, buttes, and hogbacks these rocks they do abound
These names appear on final test, the student to confound.

Yet that same sedimentary wall, when struck by strong erosion
Breaks down, cemented once again, without volcanic explosion
From sedimentary to sedimentary, is but one change of many,
For each doth change to other types, and other types are plenty.

If rock of any kind is pressed, or subjected to heat,
It bands; the very crystals change, and by this awesome feat
An upstart tribe of rocks emerge, deep in the bounds of Earth
Aye, metamorphic rocks within are finally given birth.

And metamorphics change again, if pressure is applied,
Or they can weather, be eroded, down a mountain side
Their cobbles, too, shall lithify to become conglomerate
Or breccia, shale, or sandstone – for such shall be their fate.

Yet in the end, when all have sunk under colossal weight
Into the bowels of Earth they go, dragged by subducting plate
Perhaps as plutons they shall rise, in eons from this day
And start the cycle once again, for so the prof doth say.

And rocks shall change and change again, in various permutation
And you must learn and it recall, to pass th' examination.

[edit on 26-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jul, 24 2005 @ 11:21 PM

I'm Too Old For This Sh!t

I'm not sure why this is my favorite poem. I've always thought that the best poetry-writing approach (for me, anyway) was the concept of "emotions recollected in tranquillity" that Wordsworth and Coleridge talked about in Lyrical Ballads. Christ knows I wasn't tranquil when I wrote this! Maybe allegorical stuff makes me un-tranquil....

I remember watching a TV show — must've been several years back,
When we were finally getting over our Vietnam guilt.
They showed this clip of a young grunt who'd just come back for a little R 'n' R,
Snoopin and poopin in the bush for days on end.

This dude couldn't've been more than nineteen, but his eyes were a million years old.
He stood in front of the body bags, lighting a Kool with shaky hands,
Squinting his eyes through the dust raised by the Hueys
And tried to tell Walter Cronkite how he spent his summer vacation.

He didn't talk about flickin his Zippo and burnin down a coupla hooches,
Or how Charlie blew away his main man Luther walkin point.
And if he mentioned leeches or punjis or bouncing bettys,
I couldn't hear it over the roar of the trucks.

Maybe he didn't know what to say. It was probably the first time
This Detroit brother'd ever been on TV. Now here's this famous white man
Stickin a microphone in his own bad face, and expectin to hear some jive.
He looked down and said, "I'm too old for this sh!t."


Everyone's fighting the same damned war; I've been fighting mine for years.
Me against I, self against self: Half the time I lose, the other half he does.
I got all these psychic body bags, bags I've Zippoed to clear a landing zone,
Lost so many main men walking point for me, guys that got hit by a stray psychic round.

Sometimes late at night when I'm lying in bed thinking of all the burning hooches,
I stick a mike in my own face, and try to confess on my private TV.
I don't talk about the civilians who got in the way, like this one woman who looked at me
Not understanding why I pulled the trigger and chambered another round.

I don't talk about the inflated body count, or cruising through the streets on my own R 'n' R,
Or why we got into this mess in the first place, or about this one woman who looked at me
Not understanding why I pulled the trigger and chambered another round.
I just look down and say, "I'm too old for this sh!t."

I'm too old for this sh!t.

[edit on 24-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jul, 25 2005 @ 01:08 AM
Off the street, very nice. It says a lot and I feel the emotion behind it.

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