Europe

Afternoon in Amsterdam

fl000009

Many thanks to Sandy River Review for publishing (most) of the following poem in their Fall 2016 issue.

Afternoon in Amsterdam

                                                                     —for Roland Möe

Forget the red-light district

. toothless skirts from overseas

.. imported age-old fantasies

.

I ask the way to the Van Gogh show

. a bearded local walks me there

.. we smoke a bowl on a smoky bench

.

Inside, alone, nose close to canvas

. amazed by heavy strokes of pain

.. such violence in a starry sky

.

Someone tugs my sweater sleeve

. that beard with marijuana breath

.. twice my age, here to persuade

.

I say I’m hungry, leave the show

. he follows, knows a place not far

.. leads me back to his second-floor flat

.

Up steep and narrow bohème steps

. he serves up bowls of stovetop gruel

..  veggies and grains, a sweet-spice stew

.

Once he tastes, I try a bite

. smoke another bowl, relax, unwind

.. he lays a lazy hand upon my knee

.

Downstairs, distressed, I say I’m beat

. heading back to my hotel to sleep

.. he begs me not to go—Please, stay

.

Half his age, afraid of his long song

I find my way to the red-light zone

.. still unsure if any road leads home

 

More September Sketches

Successfully sketched every day this month.  Early in the month, sketched two or three pages a night, making shapes and shading them.  Over the past week, sketched one page each day.

FRIDAY

A friend emailed a group selfie from his family trip in Sicily.  Loved the classic background and their happy faces.  Just had to sketch it.

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SATURDAY

Sat in the bath and looked long and hard at the faucet and the shower nozzle, at the bed frame and bandanna-covered lamp.  Started to imagine the scene on the page, how it divides into thirds.   That’s me in the tub on the far right, in the bedroom closet’s mirror reflection.

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SUNDAY

My office desk was a mess, as usual.  Had a choice:  Could either clean it up or sketch it.  It’s still a mess.

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MONDAY

Was late, hadn’t drawn all day.  Just about ready to crash, forced myself to draw something — anything.  Then these pens caught my eye, sprouting from the mug like the chopped stalks of a strange garden plant.

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TUESDAY

Parked outside this barber shop before picking up my son from school.  Did a quick sketch, then followed up with a photograph.  Early the next morning, before dropping off my son at school, left an anonymous copy at the barber shop.

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WEDNESDAY

Saw this crow in the supermarket parking lot.  Loved its defiance, its standing boldly on the wires meant to keep the birds off the lamp.  Snapped a quick photo with my phone, then sketched from that at home.

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THURSDAY

When I first thought of sketching stuff, I thought of sketching old Victorian buildings here in San Francisco.  I just love looking at them.  Had a few minutes before an appointment, so scratched this out in pencil, then finished up at home with a photo.

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This has been too much fun!  Can’t wait to start sketching October.

 

Two More Euro Poems

chinio-abel

Many thanks to Bindweed, an online literary journal, for publishing the follow two poems — two more from my series about my travels through Europe in 1980.  That’s me in the middle, between Chino and Abel, with the eponymous Volkswagen van behind us.

Volkswagen Van

                                               “We never see him.”   —Louis XIV

Grand chateau, once royal court of France

  now packed with peasants on bus tours from Paris

    —and me curled up in a Volkswagen van

.

Where once purple kings and sycophants pranced

  dancing with stars on a moonlit terrace

    this grand chateau, this royal crown of France

.

Now hosts a daily deluge—trash cans

  full of coffee cups, littered souvenirs

    and me curled up in a Volkswagen van

.

When one past prince fell ill at romance

  too ashamed to be seen, too embarrassed

    he shunned the chateau, a sin across France

.

Like him, I’m alone, a grin with no glance

  never to know a stroll with an heiress

    only the hold of a Volkswagen van

.

.

Railway Deli

                       —Train to Venice, 1980

Parents packed with diaper bags; infants, kids

    stuffed like peppers in a carriage corridor

.

Uniformed soldiers smoking San Miguels

    strung-up salamis, olives in a jar

.

I close my itchy eyes, dream of first-class seats

    roomy leather arms, air-con breeze

.

I pop a Coca-Cola, pour bubbles over ice

    prop my tired feet, sip the countryside

.

But eyes blink open, burning from the stench

    thin tin can, narrow wooden bench

.

Three Welcomes (Sorta)

Barcelona Old Man

Many thanks to *82 Review for publishing the following poem in their Fall 16  4.3 issue.

Tres Bienvenidos

                           —Barcelona triptych, 1980

1)  Pensione Viejo

.

Corner room with noon-blue walls

   peeling plaster, thin twin bed

      old wood dresser, stuck dresser drawer

.

Across the courtyard, canary in his cage

    old man, too, staring from his window sill

       old brown jacket, old brown cap

.

When I bid him Buenos dias

    he tip-taps out his cigarette

      pulls the shutters shut

 

2)  Muchachas no Tocas

.

 Up the Rambla, down the Rambla

   city locals selling country crafts

      wooden tables, rickety stalls

.

Spanish girls strut by, thick dark ropes of hair

   eyes tagged only on merchandise

      flowers and seashells, candy and clothes

.

I ask the price of a white gauze scarf

   girl behind the table yanks it from my hand

      spats at me in CatalanNo, no toquis!

 

3)  Lluevos no Quieros

.

.Sidewalk table, white-coat waiter

   unfolds a fancy café menu

      basket full of sticky rolls

.

I order café con leche, plate of scrambled eggs

   sit back and watch the promenade

      parade of tourists, vagabonds like me

.

.The waiter brings my breakfast

   scrambled eggs over easy

      cup of coffee a cup of tea

.

Three Paris Poems

Champs-Elysees 2

Much thanks to Forage, an online poetry presence, for publishing the following three poems in their July 2016 issue.

Rue de Tessier

                                                                           —Paris, 1980

When I first sky her, I’m all eyes

   a hovering hawk, hedonistic high

       itchy skin aflame, wings open wide

.

I welcome her, unsuspecting mouse

   I’m in, I’m out; around, about

      our image on the mirror clouds

.

Soon, my hunger flies away, my bloodied beak

   I look to my wrist for a reason to leave

      desire now an empty cup of tea

.

Parisian Park

                                                       —April 1980

Alone in a city of choices

   culture, croissants, corner cafes

      two thousand years of touristry

.

Still, no baguette can satisfy

   if I cannot just sit and feed

      quiet on this weathered wooden bench

.

One small bite soon invites another

   all become familiar, all the same

      each contains its craving itch for more

.

A finch alights on the edge of my bench

   cocks her hooded head, blinks an eye

      feathers ruffle up her throat—she goes

.

I’m mired by these daily hikes to night

   my search for food, my thirsty mood

      send the oceans, wash me home to sea

.

Still in Paris

                                                             —May 1980

Ducklings on the river Seine

   small beaks safe behind a drake

     and me—no one to follow

.

Along the bustled Champs-Élysées

   people bump and humble me

      makes no difference where I go

.

My father must be home across the globe

   painting or pounding inside the garage

      pruning his backyard garden

.

I could pluck a pistol from my pants

   taste its barrel, suck its bitter rind

      no one home would ever know

.

I pause my hunger, shut my eyes

   poked and nudged, ignored

      a stone in the bed of a river.

.

Roman Cats

Rome Four Girls 3

Many thanks to Red Omnivore, an online literary magazine, for publishing the following poem late last year.

Gatti Romani

                                                  —at the Roman Forum, 1980

The ancient stones, the uncut grass

  skinny feral cats arching bony backs

    mincing for mice, nosing for toads

.

I’m part of a pack of five loose strays

  we, too, prowling; only not for lunch

    we nose for bowls of adventure

.

Brazilian shorthair, royal Persian snob

  two Texas tabbies mewing out meows

    and me, their teenage tom-tom up a tree

.

Dogs who chipped and chiseled earth

  who sweat to raise these crumbling walls

    they haunt us here like last night’s rain

.

Like four felines posing by a column

  clawing the air, shaking tawny tails

    our own fossils chiseled into film

.

Passports packed and visas stamped

  we leave our footprints on a path

    we cede another century to cats

.

Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur

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Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur

                                                                                —Spring 1980

My trespass takes me to the harbor

 big-rock jetty, cool-blue bay

  Monaco behind me, shiny gold

   casino coin glittering in sunlight

.

Yachts roll in, wealthy drunks aboard

 chopped duck liver, sparkling wine and cheese

  I’m chewing cheese myself—Smiling Cow

   stolen from a store this afternoon

.

Same as stolen glances, half-nude tourists

 olive-oiled breasts topless in the sun

  me a thief like those Arabs yesterday

   snapping secret photos in Antibes

.

The train to Nice, a woman sleeps

 we alone in our cramped compartment

  bar of English chocolate in her bag

   gone before she bats an eye:  Merci

.

I slip away from the hillside hostel

 sleepy village porches early dawn

  on one, a basket—cold milk, fresh baguette

   I snatch it like a furtive photograph

.

Down by the one-clock railway stop

 I peel the paper lid, lift the chilly top

  five dumb pigeons watch me break my bread

    they peck at one another over thread

 

Hotel Brindisi

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Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Hotel Brindisi

                                                                       –One Star, 1980

No fun befriending illness on the road

  scratchy sinus, itchy cough, aches and pains, the runs

.

A fever comes, removes my clothes

  folds up all my maps and plans

.

Dreams of travel travel back to home

  romance of discovery subsides

.

I could die here—quiet, unseen, like those

  who make our beds, rinse our basins clean

.

Tonight, I gargle with some stale Coca-Cola

  clutch another colon cramp, catch another fire

.

The body always brings me back to now

  reminders always dripping off my brow

.

One That Got Away

Girl in Venice

Thanks to Rat’s Ass Review, an online literary collective, for publishing the following poem in their Love & Ensuing Madness collection.

A Girl in Venice

                                                               —April 1980

Flocks of pigeons, people in a plaza

..camera shutters snapping souvenirs

.

You step into my long-lens view

..focused face, heap of hair

..

Then Ciao, Arrivederci…

..gone before I lift my eyes

.

Back home, I pin your sudden grin

..to boarded cork above my bed

.

Tell friends the story of your glance

..watch them bend with envy at your smile

.

Today, on streets in San Francisco

..I searched for eyes to dance with mine

.

Tonight, alone, our momentary spring

..blossoms on my tablet screen

 

.

Poem for Mary Beth Moore

Mary Beth w Journal

Again, thanks to Rat’s Ass Review, an online literary collective, for including the following poem in their Love & Ensuing Madness collection.

Red Bandana

                                             —Ionian Sea, 1980

Starts at a stoop, a souvenir stand

..red bandana falls to the floor

….one lost part of me reaches for another

……an ancient ferry crossing mythic seas

.

I sleep out on deck, me and the rain

..cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

….icy pellets nip us as we dream

……we hold on tight to a red bandana

.

A photo of her fingers journal jotting

..sun-white pages, jeans and flip-flop feet

….that red bandana at the postcard rack

……her Texas Sally sidekick stamping beats

.

I should have left them alone to graze

..to follow their maps to convents, cathedrals

….that red bandana could’ve fallen all night

……cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

Milano

Milano 1

Many thanks to Amarillo Bay, an on-line literary magazine, for publishing the following poem in their November 2015 issue.

Milano

                        —Easter, 1980

Most everyone’s gone for the holiday

or gone to church or shut away at home

the streets have surrendered to belfry chimes

to flocks of pigeons, swirls of last night’s trash

for lunch, we lick ice cream and save our cash

for dinner: steaming pizzas spiced with thyme

strange goat cheese, drizzles of oil from Rome

we eat, drink wine, and ask for more ashtrays

Years pass: I lose the urge to smoke but not

the flat image of that fat pizza man

his two fat sons and daughter, his thin wife

that day, we feasted: gluttons at the trough

some, instead, labored: blessing us with hands

with hopes they might attain eternal life

Three Thailand Poems

Prairie Wolf Illustration

Much thanks to Prairie Wolf Press Review, an independent online literary journal, for publishing the following three poems in their Fall 2015 issue:

Return to Koh Tao

                                                      —after a decade away

Garden moths, their quick white wings

  the warning song of parakeets

    as flora feasts on memory

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The native palms, the guava leaves

  bemoan the loss of morning light

    loss of sea breeze from the beach

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Gone are the hibiscus blooms

  the one papaya hanging from a tree

    bungalows that once could breathe

.

All that’s left: a barking dog, a motorbike

  flip-flops on a gravel path

    mozzies singing gossip in my ear

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How I wish the sky cracked clear

  spilling time across the roof

    my ten-year teakwood hut

.

Pineapple Curry

                                             —Koh Tao, 2013

 Something spicy, something sweet

  a battlefield across my tongue

    bee stings buzzing down my throat

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Sting of thin-sliced chilis

  yellow greens with tiger stripes

    onion carrots, garden basil leaves

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So simple plucking supper like a leaf

  six strings on a Burmese guitar

    rainy jungle rhythm under our control

.

Were I some jungle monkey

  I’d race right up that spike-bark tree

    have myself a taste of something sweet

.

Baggage Claim

                                             —August, 2012

Here at Bangkok’s bustling hub

  tourists lug their heavy gear

    all the world a witness

.

A family home from holiday

  wheeling cases, pushing carts

    loaded down with memories

.

Myself—I travel light as sand

  a daypack with a deck of cards

    a change of clothes, a pack of smokes

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As for that other baggage

  that stuff we smuggle out of view

    that’s a crime we all commit

.

That fat white guy, his thin Thai wife

  their secrets packed behind their eyes

    their smiles silent, insincere

.

What horror does that black guy hide

  beneath his spiky, spray-paint do

    his passport stamped with contraband

.

My own smuggled souvenirs: a stolen kiss

  a dozen lies, a couple sticks of weed

    a lady with the muscles of a man

.

We board our flight, we take our seats

  our gracious grins reflected

    our fuselage a cylinder of sin

.

Two Paris Poems

Metonym

Many thanks to Metonym, a literary journal published by William Jessup University, for including the following two poems in their Spring 2015 issue.

Nineteen

                                                            —Paris, 1980

April—the cruelest month for me that spring

Beauty, briefly, held out her slender hand

Carelessly, though, I scared her off with words

Dumb mumbles, even silence would’ve served

Even my own bashful breath, if honest

For a moment, all eyes focused on me

Girls paraded by, all in slow motion

Here:  A tight pink dress, a pair of pink heels

I couldn’t control the roll of my tongue

Jesus, forgive me—I was just a kid

Kids make mistakes when testing out their wings

Look!  Look!  She smiled at you!  She likes you!  Go!

My so-called friends egged me on, urging me

Not one of them had even dared to cough

Or ask the time as her high heels clicked by

Perdón, I’d said, Your pink dress pales my red

Quirky?  Perhaps.  But my shirt was pale red

Reason enough for her to turn and wink

Strutting off alone through the sidewalk crowd

That’s when my friends got pushy.  Go! Go! Go!

Up ahead, I saw her:  A glimpse of pink

Visible one moment, then gone the next

Writhing through the crowd, I caught her thin wrist

Excuse me, I said—then my jaw went loose

Years slipped by before I could forgive myself

Zeal turned out to be my passion’s foe

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Piropos y Propinas

                                               —Paris, 1980

 A small token of gratitude

  a tip left for a café waiter

    a few francs by an empty cup

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Some flirtatious compliment

  whistled at a woman on the street

    Aye!  Qúe buena la rubia!

 a

How many mademoiselles

  might stop to say Merci

    their grins a gift for your gab?

 a

How many café waiters

  might race across a crowded street

    to thank you for your copper coins?

 a

A waiter only chases you if stiffed

  if left no tip

    waving his finger in the air

Some women only stop

  to stomp your brittle shell

    to crack your cocky smile with a smirk

But not if she’s from Spain

  she’ll appreciate piropos

    maybe even rattle off some words

Words you’ll misinterpret

  drops of rain you won’t understand

    and so, a fool, you’ll snap at her

Like snapping at some waiter

  racing up the boulevard

    waving your wallet in the air

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“Time Zones”

RiversEdge Cover

Many thanks to riverSedge: A Journal of Art & Literature published by The University of Texas-Pan American for including the following poem in their Fall 2014 issue.

 Time Zones

                                        —Taiwan, 2012

We fly all night, escaping yesterday

   Pacific asleep behind us 

 

Strange to bend the flimsy arm of time

   imaginary lines on manmade maps

 

In my seat, earplugs hush the engine hum

   a blindfold brings back history

                    *

A decade ago, I sat like a stone

   shot like a bullet through the midnight sky

 

Since that flight, now wed and fled

   father of a summer sprouting son

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Each season, every afternoon

   another new mark on the laundry wall