poems

From a Troubled Knee

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To a Surgicenter and KP:

          For listening

For hearing,

For lovingkindness

 And skillful doing:

         From the first step

off the gurney,

to the very last,

I’ll remember you,

        The skillful people,

whose attention

was gently lavished

on a troubled knee,

        That slept on attic floors

of Alta Peruvian Lodge

doing light work,

to ski free that Spring of ’53;

         Was injured in a fall

leather strapped to 7 foot boards

with strips of metal

screwed to the edges;

         And since those days

went many mountain miles,

but often effused complaints,

until it could  no more.

       How is it, Dr David,

that so many people become

a selfless, seamless whole

at a  Surgicenter,

       To give a stranger’s knee,

A second chance to ski,

lead pack llamas up trails,

bike, or walk the city,

         When the mother country

burns with uncivil strife,

enraged by opinions

not our very own?

        This old knee

doesn’t give away

it’s private opinions,

except only to say:

       From the first step

off the gurney,

to the last off the earth,

… Thank You.

A Lament for P Dog

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Where oh where has my little dog gone; oh where oh where can he be?

With his ears cut short and his tail cut long

Oh where oh where can he be?

Children’s song by Septimus Winner (1827 – 1902)

 

Where O where has P Dog* gone,

Where, O where can it be,

With no ears turned on

My doc can’t talk with me.

 

With eyes on a laptop screen

And hands confined to its keys,

I’m cold, untouched and unseen

paper gown’d at 70 degrees.

 

My provider’s gloves are thick and blue,

We avoid each other’s infections

I find that considerate, don’t you?

Providers too need protctions.

 

But why, why not , touch me

or ask what’s on my mind?

Hear my lungs, tap my knees

To find what is there to find?

 

The EMR holds my future and past;

My imaging, scripts, and labs show

All that matters, first to last

All providers need to know,

 

To fill the blanks on screen,

Clicking each little square

So it can be clearly seen

every code is entered there.,

 

And kindly saying at the door

“See you next month; we’re done;

Your scripts are filled once more

For problems please call 911!

* Archaic: Physical Diagnosis by touching, feeling, listening, and speaking.

Pixelated People

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Images appear

every day and night;

I look but do not see

the pixelated sight

 

of flesh that vegetates

in bombed out homes,

and the calcined white

of a million femur bones,

 

Smoke choked yellow skies,

 sunlight without shade,

moonlight without solace,

and gods that are manmade.

 

Silent pixel children

whose huge sad eyes

and thin husk of skin

never  feel the feet of flies;

 

Resigned young women

waiting to be resold

shriveled brittle elders

 empty, silent, cold;

 

Pixel justice  is revealed

to every sex and age

according to the canons

of fear and hate and rage

 

By talking pixel heads

selling stale ‘Breaking News’,

beer, and sex and drugs,

and biased, specious views.

 

And yet — despite true lies

or images that decieve,

I  listen, look,and hope;

but rarely can believe.

Si Somos Americanos

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                 I

Si somos americanos*      

                                         By Rolando Alarcón

Si somos americanos,

somos hermanos señores,

tenemos las mismas flores,

tenemos las mismas manos.

 

Si somos americanos,

seremos buenos vecinos,

compartiremos el trigo,

seremos buenos hermanos.

`

Bailaremos marinera,

resbalosa, huayno y son.

Si somos americanos,

seremos una canción.

 

Si somos americanos,

no miraremos fronteras,

cuidaremos las semillas,

tiraremos las banderas.

 

Si somos americanos,

seremos todos iguales,

el blanco, el mestizo, el indio

y el negro son como tales             

* in Spanish, capitalization is often different than in English.

           

 

                           II

If We Are Americans

If we are Americans

We’re family my friends,

We’ve the same flowers,

and the same hands.

 

We dance the marinera,

resbalosa, huayano and son,

When we are Americans

We are a song.

 

If we are Americans

there are no borders

we care for seeds,

not a nation’s flags.

 

If we are Americans

we are all the same,

White, indigenous, mixed,

and black are one.

 

 

                                    III

 I have taken some  little translation liberties like introducing gender neutrality because I feel these are essential and inevitable to t translation appropriate to the times.  Just as when we read we interpret and and translate and recreate and modify word symbols in our mind. What, for example, is a cow?  Whch one, what color, breed, something else entirely? The reader decides.  Among the folk songs of the Americas there are many that express the feeling of discrimination and isolation from the dominant culture… like Angelitos Negros, where the poet asks why there are no black cherubs or angels.

 

 Alarcón became a music teacher in the 70s,  and was a communist, revolutionary, homosexual, and widely acclaimed poet folk singer associated with wold famous folk groups. His songs are often accompanied by altiplano flute and charango, a small guitar often  built on an armadillo shell. The huayano is an altiplano ONE- two- three step dance. The son is  a generic word for Mexican folk dance.

 Chileans are notorious as poets, miners, and engineers who must build to withstand recurring earthquakes.  The first American woman Nobel laureate was  Gabriela Mistral  Mistral lived in Valle del Elqui, a long  remote Andes valley where the  high air is so clear it has attracted the world’s biggest collection of international observatories. Neruda is another Nobel laureate poet. Rolando  Alarcón was born in Sewell, Chile, an old High Andes company owned mining town, at El Teniente Mine; it is still the largest underground mine in the world ; It operates within one mountain on multiple levels; the rock crusher,  mill, flotation process,  kitchen and restaurant are interconnected by 2500 km of two lane highways in  huge air washed tunnels, with traffic lights; miners enter and leave by train on the lower level. 

The Americas are home to lots of deep or fascinating cultural stuff; like some of my mother in law’s  Gajardo family that includes the first woman engineer in the Americas,   Justicia Espada… Justice Sword  — her parents refused to give their children family names. The  link includes the names of her siblings.  Perhaps those wierd names made them eccentric; see  Gajardo’s Moon   post on this blog.

I think this old song is timely because it enunciates  some current attitudes of many  pan-american and pan-african indigenous peoples; and  those of many of the world’s transnational millennials, who want to live like one-world citizens.  Further, perhaps there is some sort of connection between  the sentiments expressed in the folk  poem, and those of  that stunning political pyromaniac, The Bern,  and  with those of  Moisés Naím, in   The End of Power) also reviewed on this blog.

 

 

Little Things

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It’s not the Persian carpet, the house , car or jewels,

but the little things that whisper or suggest

even when they’re silent what I little know,

of where, when, why, who or even what about her life gone by:

 

Her medicine chest, kitchen and pantry, bedsheets and closets;

eleven hard drives in a plastic ziplock — meticulously destroyed.

An unspent bullet  in still stale air and cluttered dark.

A crochet hook, sewing kit, items for recycling.

 

Old  photographs, TP and paper towels;

Bank statements, letters, perfume, and lotions,

Detergents, linens, a dog dish and bird feeder–  half full.

A mail box, still alive,  when emptied, cries out

for a little more,  until rewarded with delicious junk mail  and collection letters.

 

Pills, notions, lotions,  purses, shoes, clothes,

and a hundred hand written pages from a lined spiral notebook

filled with fear and voices speaking in silent audibles.

Dry plants, and flower beds, disconnected sprinklers, old hoses and garden tools.

 

Cruel little things speak in their sharp edged forked foreign tongue.

Sad little things  that hint of little pleasures, big plans, and hope of love.

I follow the footpaths through the underbrush of her tangled troubled life.

I walk there barefoot aware and wary of thorns, adders, asps, and broken glass.

 

The little things leave weeping little cuts that still wait and want to heal.

The Impossible Naturalist

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‘We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred? ‘                   Richard Dawkins

 

 

 

As soon as he could count it was clear

he was the mathematically impossible winner of a life

in this galaxy, star, earth, in this time,

here at a center of this civilization.

 

So soon as he could read and reason it was clear

he was the impossible winner of other lotteries:

culture, language, technology, and history;

he would demarcate the borders of infinity. 

 

In puberty, at the rising of the numinous,

fearless, fevered and foolish as youth can be,

emboldened by Darwinian science, and Learning, he  planned to steal

candy from the bloody jaws of God.

 

But this miracle child of blind Chance

stole only the shared lone eye of the three blind Fates.

Now, cherishing it like his own newborn child,

he sings joyously, though chained to the walls of Time.

 

Yet then recalls that for science nothing is certain;

to doubt is the only law and commandment.

He chants and sings and looks through his stolen eye,

and only fears to see an Eye look back.

Tangles

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I “Turn him to any cause of policy,

The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,

Familiar as his garter” (ShakespeareHenry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47)

 

Tangles*

She goes most any where she used to go,

with help and  planning, going slow,

and can do most things she used to do

but very little that’s really new.

 

She blindly watches TV ‘breaking news‘,

where talking heads spew tired words and views;

yet walks with help  at ninety three,

as lone and lonely as old age can be

 

who loses loved ones almost every day,

whose loyal  foes have even  gone away

to that mausoleum in the mind,

invisible, unknown and undefined.

 

The history she lived- redacted- gone,

her universal truths now considered wrong,

she’s wantonly outlived her life;

and none else recalls its joys or strife.

 

She searches neuronal tangled time

for some meaning in the  paradigm

that she lives on  here, on and on

after shared memory is  long gone.  

 

She vainly queries her  past to find

Why loved ones leave, but leave her behind;

Asks aloud a question no one hears:

  “Why do I live so far beyond my years?”

 

But her old cat curls and purrs, and then

that oral history student comes again

about an Occam’s Razor essay;

Or the Gordian Knot? – she cannot say.

 

The  visit fills her shadowed room with light

like sunrise in the middle of the night;

The young know light’s speed’s so  fast

it untangles the  future from the past.  

 

 

*The title refers to tangled neurofibrils sometimes seen in the brain in very advanced age. The poem is about a very old woman in a nursing or rest home affected, perhaps, by such tangles. Occam’s razor refers to a problem-solving principle attributed to  William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), It can be stated as Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The Gordian Knot is a legend of Phrygian King Gordium . It is often used as a metaphor  for solving an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) by “cutting the Gordian knot”):