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.

20160923-2

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.

20160924

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.

20160925-2

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.

20160926

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.

20160927

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.

20160928

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.

20160929

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

IMG_1998

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