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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too long since the last poem from the US of A... Here's one from one of the older generation of lifelong poets :

The Accompanist

I've always worried about you-the man or woman
at the piano bench,
night after night receiving only such applause
as the singer allows: a warm hand please,
for my accompanist. At concerts,
as I watch your fingers on the keys,
and how swiftly, how excellently
you turn sheet music pages,
track the singer's notes, cover the singer's flaws,
I worry about whole lifetimes,
most lifetimes
lived in the shadows of reflected fame;
but then the singer's voice dies
and there are just your last piano notes,
not resentful at all,
carrying us to the end, into those heartfelt cheers
that spring up in little patches from a thrilled audience
like sudden wildflowers bobbing in a rain
of steady clapping. And I'm on my feet, also,
clapping and cheering for the singer, yes,
but, I think, partially likewise for you
half-turned toward us, balanced on your black bench,
modest, utterly well-rehearsed,
still playing the part you've made yours.


Dick Allen
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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and here's one from our 'cowboy' poet friend celebrated by John Kelly :

Thoughts from the Seat of a Tractor

The rural midwestern landscape in winter is rugged and harsh,
Not something you would choose. Perhaps you have seen me
On my tractor, taking hay out to my cows on a bitter December day
As you passed along the county road. And if you have
You would have felt a moment's pityówhat a wretched existenceó
You would think, the bleakness overwhelming.

Perhaps the sight awakened an ancestral memoryóa great-grandfather
Who tilled the soil, who in winter, when the land was brown and white,
As hostile as ever it could be, lowered his head against the wind,
And trudged from barn to pasture gate to grain his horses standing rump to wind;
Or, a great-grandmother, whose blackened iron skillet never cooled,
Who kept peelings in a bucket beneath the sink for the killing hog.

The landscape chills my heart too, as I search out some familiar hint
To mark my view. Deep and sculpted drifts, dunes of snow,
Cover every field until I barely know my own place. Tufts of wintry bluestem
Relieve the otherwise barren plain. I savor this one diversion, am grateful
There was not time to cut it. My vision is narrowed, no sound can penetrate
The wind and tractor's diesel lug. My world is this, and little more.

I see your car as I cut deep tracks through the snow. I see your face
And hear your thoughts. Yet, it is not so cold, not so cold as you think.
I have my thoughts and my destination, my brown-duck and wool.
From the seat I step down to swing wide a gate, my waxed boots
Leaving canyons in the snow. I do not wish I was elsewhere, nor do I dally.
I raise my hand in greeting as you pass, then lower my head against the wind.

Hanque O . . .

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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 10:58 pm    Post subject: USA Reply with quote

Another from our Rancher friend, sit back you city folk
and soak it up.

Me and Sam. A sketch

Me and Sam are out ridiní
and we ainít in the middle of nowhere,
but we can see it from here.

Samís my horse.
Weíre in the south pasture,
atop a long ole ridge that runs north-south

and weíre as far away from shelter as a soul can be.
A big ole stormís settiní on the horizon,
only it ainít exactly settiní so much as moviní our way.

Weíre out lookiní for a damn bull
and youíd think it wouldnít be hard to find a damn bull,
but it is,

and we ainít haviní no kinda luck, Ďcept bad,
when here comes that black cloud
and the windís pickin-up

and lightninís a flashiní and thunderís a boominí
and itís beginniní to look bleak
for me and ole Sam.

Now Samís a good ole horse
and he outta be out to pasture by now
and he is, most generally,

but it gets tiresome for him,
standiní around all day
thinkiní on the good times weíve had

and he donít mind
if I throw a saddle on him on occasion,
so long as he gets his grain at the end of the day.

Iíve drifted off track.
Weíre out here, and itís spring
and a man donít need his winter coat no more

and the grass is cominí on
and the wildflowers are all fresh and lovely
and the creeks are runniní clear

and the ticks ainít too bad
and life is fine,
though my thoughts ainít on no damn bull

and thatís a fact.
But thatís another story.
This ole storm is makiní inroads on my revery.

It ainít no little pop-up shower,
but looks to be a full-blown storm
and settiní atop a ridge out in the middle of nowhere,

or close to it, in a midwestern thunderstorm
ainít nothiní to be proud of.
Sam looks at me

and says, 'Holy Crap! Batman! '
(bet you didnít see that cominí) ,
and I say, 'Steady on, ole paint.'

We ainít got a lick of sense between us,
on account of Iíve been knocked on the head one too many times
and him beiní a horse and all,

and, ďSteady on, Ē ainít the kind of advice
that calms frayed nerves,
and he says, with some insistence,

'Whatíre we gonna do? '
and I have to admit itís beginniní to look like
a good soakiní is the best we can expect

and a lot worse
if our luck donít take a turn, which donít seem likely.
I say,

'We ride on, thatís what weíre gonna do.'
And thatís the truth of it.
We ride on.

The clouds are a roiliní.
I read that in a book once, and Iíve been waitiní
one hell of a long time to throw it in for effect,

and here it isó
The clouds are a roiliní
and as black as the inside of Ahabís heart

and they ainít just black, but green,
like the color of my skin
when I saw Colt get his finger mashed between two gates,

and the wind picks up,
nearly taking my Stetson with it,
and Samís lookiní half wide-eyed and I reckon I am too

and I say,
'Itís just a spit a rain, no need to worry, '
and he says, 'Like hell it is, weíre gonna get our asses fried.'

I expect heís got that right.
The thunderís ainít deafiní like youíd think,
so much as deep and boominí,

and those lightniní forks are gettiní warm
and I can feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up
and Sam says, again, 'Whatíre we gonna do boss? '

and I say, 'Weíll wait it out under this big oak, '
and he donít even deign to answer,
just throws me a hard look and shakes his head.

'You got a better idea, ' I say. 'Iím listeniní, '
and he says, 'Why donít we get our sorry asses
down to the ole house place.'

And I say, 'Suits me.' So thatís what we set out to do.
Only itís a far piece off,
when here it comes

and it donít come in no half-measures,
but comes a deluge,
and day turns to night, so to speak

and the lightniní ainít no longer problematic,
itís on us
and I get to thinkiníó

weíre packiní metal
and sure as Dolly Parton canít do push-ups,
metal attracts lightniní

and I take stock and say, 'Sam,
hereís how I see itó
you got four steel shoes on those sorry feet a yours

and Iím weariní a belt buckle the size of Texas
and I got a jackknife in one pocket
and an iPod in the other

and all threeís centered Ďround my lower unit,
so Iím puttiní my iPod under my hat,
on account of Iíd rather get hit upstairs than down,

and Iím takiní this damn belt off
and leaviní it on this rock with my knife,
but there ainít much we can do about those shoes of yours

and Iím sorry about it,
but thatís the long and short of it.'
He donít say much on that.

We ride on
and weíre begininí to look like a pretty sorry outfit
and if that ainít enough

it starts hailiní on us,
which puts a hard edge on a bad situation,
and Iím beginniní to wonder

if weíre gonna make it
and I reckon ole Samís wonderiní the same thing,
only he turns his head and looks me square in the eye and says,

'Weíre gonna make it, ole Parson. Leave it to me.'

Hanque O . . .
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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple more from Hanque


In the hollow trunk
of a long-ago burnt oak
I place my folded offering

in hope of favor from a saint to be.
I walk away.
The votive candle has been lit.
There is nothing more I can do.

Proof of saintliness will be revealed
when spring's rain
and summer's drought and winter's snow

to erase the words
and the oak will be a reliquary.

Hanque O . . .
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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 7:11 am    Post subject: poems Reply with quote

Sketch, slightly less sketchy

for clare

I step out the door.
If I walk north I find woods.
If I walk east, south, or west I find woods.

I find whatever I want in the woods.
I find creeks and budding cherry trees,
morrels and mayapples.

I find a new wildflower
and an old favorite.
I can find anything.

I have nowhere to walk but in the woods
and I love them.
Sometimes I walk with a light step.

Not always.
But today, I believe I will.
I believe I have been given the gift of light-step.

When I walk up a steep hill
my hearts beats hard.
When I walk across a meadow my heart beats hard.

When I am standing still,
listening to these sounds which surround me
my heart beats hard.

I love everything.
I love Walt Whitman.
I love Ishmael and Qeequeg.

I love Jane Austen
and Leonard Cohen.
I love Van Morrison!

I love Bach.
I love the Dixie Chicks.
I love Elmore James and Etta James. I love.

Then, I catch my horse, old Sam.
I throw a saddle on his poor old bones
and we ride out.

He knows where we're going
and pays no attention to me whatsoever,
just puts his head down and goes.

He comes on a turkey hidden in the grass.
Jesse would have thrown a fit,
Sam just walks on.

We come to the first creek.
The second creek.
The third creek, Knobby Creek.

I stop, let the reins drop.
Drink you fool horse, I say.
No thanks, he says, we ain't even begun.

I guess he's right.
We ride on.
There's an armadillo.

There's a deer.
There are twenty deer.
There a coyote.

No quail, no more.
We come to the old house place
where Roscoe had so much fun

teasing Darly Boy.
Watch out for the old man, he'd say,
he's been drinkin again.

Darly Boy's eyes going wide,
We ride on.

We come to the big spring,
which runs even during the worst of the drought,
and water-cress always grows

and once I saw a woodcock.
Thank you sweet one for this serenity.
We ride on.

We come to rattlesnake ridge, aptly named.
Sam takes me to the top
where I overlook the creek and the deer and the meadows

and my past and my future.
Sam is impatient with my visions and turns circles.
We ride through the cows.

They pay us no mind.
We walk to to each one that's lying down
and Sam nudges her

until she gets up on her knees
then hauls that rear end up and stretches her back
and looks at us

and says why did you do that, I was so comfortable?
We have to,
we have to see if your feet are sound,

if your eyes are clear,
your udders well sucked,
your baby near.

We ride on.
Here, where Roscoe saw a bear,
here, where we killed that six foot rattler.

Thank you for giving me back this day.
We ride west now.

Sam picks up the pace, grain awaits.
We find a cow off to herself,
that ain't right.

So begins a new story,
not for today.
At the barn I curry Sam, give him his blessťd grain

and turn him loose. He rolls on his back,
oh, he says, it feels so good!
I put up the bridle and reins, saddle, saddle blanket, spurs.

Unkink my aching knees.
Unkink my aching back.
Check the cow in the barn, the calf.

I see the old barn, the corrals, the old fences,
the water tanks.
I see ridge after ridge after blue ridge

to the horizon, and beyond.
I see America
like so few can even imagine.

I work this day
until there is no more day to work.
I watch the sun flatten on the horizon and set.

I walk to my little house in the woods.
I pause
at an old burnt-out stump of oak

and reach in and retrieve
a sheaf of folded pages, poems.
I don't need to read them, I know them by heart.

But I do read them.
Are they poems of love?
Damn straight they're poems of love.

Envy me these poems.
I listen and look and everything
is bright and clear

even in this last light.
I give thanks
and put these worn pages away in my old reliquary.

I give thanks,
though I cannot give enough thanks for this new serenity.
This is not a dream.

Hanque O . . .
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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2009 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That, to my mind, is a great-hearted poem from a pure heart. I'm awed.

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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 3:52 pm    Post subject: midwest Reply with quote

Some more beautiful words from our Midwestern Rancher friend
Hanque O

Five of the Earth


The dying leaves turn the color of iron,
Hence the name. Yet the plant suggests
So much more: a flick of steel standing tall
Among the grasses, singular, mercenary,
Separate from its own kind; a taunting hint of color
Come late summer when all the rest is drab.
A field spiked with ironweed is evidence of
Energy spent, grass gone to seed, earth-tone stems
Baking in an August sun; of death and dormancy,
Of roots in dust, of fine things passed, the lust
Of spring expressed. Here among the withered
Stands a force, a grim and solitary fatalist,
Surveying the scene with some disdain,
Soldiering on with a will to exist only for itself.

Poison Ivy

For a lovely plant poison ivy has little to recommend it.
Yet has its value, may cause the forest-walker
To walk a little slower, to pause, survey the geography,
Carefully note the flora and step with deliberation.
An otherwise meaningless walk might prove pleasing.
In the moment it takes to scan the foreground,
What treasures, what beauties, might be revealed.
I find the plants of the forest easily discernible,
Poison ivy is unique, a clear warning in shape and color,
To blunder into a patch is as unlikely as falling in creek.
And so, like copperheads and rattlesnakes, poison ivy
Is not a deterrent to my walk, but a caution to be heeded.
And with some little care causes me to become a native,
Not a visitor, a participant in the minute events around me.

Thorny Locust

A thorny locust resides on the fringe of our yard,
A tall, broad, hearty tree, girthed with knots of thorn,
Needle sharp, three, four inches long.
Lace-like intricacy of leaves offer gentle shade,
And deer love to browse the fallen pods of seed.
The uneaten pods send up shoots of young trees,
Which left alone invade the surrounding scape.
Ranchers dread the locust for its encroaching way,
Many a pasture left to waste, once the seed has spread.
But as a neighboring shade tree it is a pleasing sight,
For its attraction to the deer it is welcome, too.
I have no quarrel with the tree, it stays where it is.
Its bratty little offspring, though, I will not tolerate,
And with a steely heart I scold them with my knife.

Wild Senna

With dry conditions in its fifteenth month,
And a month since the last rain at all, a bit of color
Stands out. So a shadow of dark green,
The wild senna, catches my eye, a plant
I had not seen before on this land that I call mine.
The roots must run deep, seed pods are thick,
Flowers rich, leaves verdant, not a hint of scorch.
If not for the drought Iíd have never known it,
For despite its height I would have passed it by,
Lost among the bolder, showier silphium as it is.
Now that I have found it I suspect I will come
Around again, I suspect its color will do me good,
And I would like to know more of it, if it will let me.
To survive, to thrive, in this heat, is a skill to learn.

Lespedeza Virginica

Quiet, simply beautiful and more so with familiarity,
This small plant which we find along our roadside,
Straight and modest, is easily lost among bolder plants.
Its tiny, pink flower is the prettiest of the August show.
When the rest have flashed, wilted and spent, there it is,
Hidden, tucked within the folds of petite, protective leaves,
An offering for one who passed the first, the biggest,
The boldest, the loudest; a flower of delicacy, a flower
Of suggestion, one not meant for casual, glancing eyes.
Here nature took a stand, distilling, for once, the essence
Of all good things, disclaiming the quick and gross,
Presenting innocence, exclaiming that in the end
Those attributes we know to be true, are. And confirming,
Though rare, there is such a thing as perfection, and it is this.

Hanque O . . .
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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 11:55 am    Post subject: poem Reply with quote

Midwestern wisdom from Hanque O.

Perhaps Then

Go away.
When you learn to hear the clouds

come back,
sit down beside me
and you will hear

what I hear.
In your absence
I will disassemble your city sounds

into their component parts.
Perhaps then,
when we are one,

we will better understand our silences.

Hanque O . . .
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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And Distance and Silence

I don't want to explain myself
or defend myself.
I don't need one more person to disappoint.

You come before me
and expect, what, the truth?
Is there a way to say something
so neutral that it carries no weight?

Smoke signalsó
I'm here, light a fire if you get this,
connected by neither touch nor pen nor paper

nor spoken word.
Light, and I will wait for smoke on the horizon,
short of breath,
and distance and silence will save me.

Hanque O . . .
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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This poet, bless his fetlocks, lights my fire even when the brushwood's wet...

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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 9:49 pm    Post subject: Hanque O Reply with quote

Imaginative Midwest soulfulness at it's best., another from Hanque O.

A Monotonic Riff

At the foot
of the mountain

I draw boot laces tight
and climb

in search of the answer
to the most asked and most mocked koan

what is the sound of one hand clapping
I must know

and in the ascent
I prepare for disappointment

for this I do know
there is no guru waiting at the top

I know there is no answer to this koan
or any koan

for if there were
it would not be a koan

I climb

because I suspect
that if I may not know with assurance

then I may know peace

after all
isnít that the point

that is not the point at all

it is selfish

in fact

with head down

I place one foot above the other
and climb

and the summit is distant
and the summit is near

and I reach the summit
of this great mountain

and reality tells me
the summit is cold

and barren of life
but mine

that no guru awaits
that the guru is a mythical beast

like James Bond
or Big Bad Leroy Brown

a summit
with its air of foreverness

is a lonely place
despite the vista

it offers nothing
why must I know

because I must
of course

like a red wheel barrow

so much depends upon it
it is cold

I am hungry and disappointed
there is no way to prepare for disappointment

I must know



I must
I take off my puffy down coat

I take off my shirt
I take off my pants

and all else
until I am naked

and I raise my arms Christ like
and prepare

to end this journey
with an answer

or die trying
is it cold

am I not a man

it is frigginí cold
and my manhood is but a little joke

and my skin has gone blue
and my teeth chatter until they are but broken chips

and I feel myself dying

and rejoice in my dying
it is my privilege to die

I am honored to die
do I die for you

I am not Christ

I am cold
I am weak

and in my weakness
I clap my hands together for the warmth

I clap my hands three times
as if summoning a genie

I clap until one hand freezes and shatters
and falls away into the void

I am left with one hand
which I clap

and hear the sound of one hand clapping.

Hanque O . . .
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David Taylor

Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 254
Location: Sutton, Surrey, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi John,

Thank you for posting "A Monotonic Riff"

What a blend of east on the one hand and far west on the other.
I would applaud; but two hands seem one, two, many, after reading Hanque's poem.

He makes us want to cast away the clothes of our hearts and listen for the sound of one hand clapping in the far far west.


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Michael Shepherd

Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 1395
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zentipede. For Hanque.

A centipede
must needs proceed
by syncromeshed advance;

I wonder if
its Buddhist riff
is ĎShow me, Master,
a Way thatís faster;
then Iíll do a one-foot dance..í


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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:08 pm    Post subject: weather report Reply with quote

Incase you're going to complain about the weather;

A Stolid Man Enduring Drought

Seemingly compelled by an external force, or perhaps by desperate need
Clambering up sandstone steps, leaving the prairie behind, entering the church
Reluctantly taking off his hat and coat, feeling naked, now humble, now angry
Pushing ahead stoically to seek solace and comfort as advertised, a chance to petition
Someone larger, to assuage fears that have accumulated while sitting on the tractor
Row upon row, not only fear but the simple anxiety which comes when the rain
Does not, the heart beats wildly upon awakening, dire thoughts cycle endlessly,
Unable to touch the wife for fear of losing control for those brief ecstatic moments
Beginning the day stiff and exhausted, flowered and carpeted the church casts
A false light, the men jolly and loud, the women cluck in possessive cheerfulness
Sitting beside others, which is unnatural, something not done for months on end
It is too warm, too close, standing when the others stand, singing the Psalm hoarsely
And tentatively while the others sing with their public voice, waiting for a healing word
Or passage, sitting through the sermon which is distant, the announcements
Which are mundane, lastly, when Hope is waning, heads bowed in final prayer
Fear begins to form into something tangible, a ball in his gut, yet, a Light descends
Offers itself, settles on his shoulders, a mantle of comprehension, an answer
Just within reach when the congregation stirs itself, shakes its torpor, empties itself
Into the blue, shakes hands with the Pastor, drains away, leaving only the road home
And the Fear roars back with a sickening vengeance, while ahead looms an empty
Prospect of searing days, and nights wrapped in twisted sheets cold with sweat
As the church recedes in the mirror, and the prairie stretches on, flat and hot.

Hanque O . . .
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John Kelly

Joined: 28 Feb 2008
Posts: 127
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gathering Clouds

Children in school looked out the windows of the classroom
To see if the playground was wet, if recess was going to be canceled,
Went back to their books when they saw it was only clouds.

A few fisherman on the pier bobbing for shore fish noted the change,
The nanny strolling through the park with her charge in pram
Drew the blanket a little more snugly around the baby.

In the coffee shop the conversation turned from sports to weather,
In the library there was no conversation at all,
Everyone hoped that it wouldnít rain and spoil the weekend.

A crew in the park was mowing and trimming, hoping it would rain
So they could take the rest of the day off, at the zoo tourists
Cast a worried glance skyward, and stepped up their pace.

In the bar they were watching television, and when the room darkened
They paid no attention, across the street the greengrocer
Lowered the awning on his storefront and brought in his produce.

A couple window-shopping and holding hands moved a little closer,
On an upper floor of an apartment a man closed his window,
Some college students were horsing around near the fountain, oblivious.

A cabbie reading his newspaper was having a slow day, rain might help,
A piano teacher was watching soaps, her first lesson wasnít due Ďtil four,
The blues singer was asleep, as were the night shift workers.

The school janitor pushed his broom and daydreamed of catching trout,
A man found his car had been towed and looked heavenward,
The CEO had his back to the world, despite the view.

The factory men and women noted the darkening, but kept to their sullen task,
The groundskeeper at the ball park contemplated unrolling the tarp,
The concierge made a note to hold extra theater tickets for tonight.

Two mothers sat on a park bench talking while their children played,
Their husbands at work, one outside smoking, thinking the rain
Would help his garden, the other at his desk, had no opinion.

Hanque O . . .
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