Thursday, June 21, 2018

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 316 


from
NOTEBOOK: NEW MEXICO
January, 2016

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 316

This highway goes on
forever and I go with it.

Can you hear me now?



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

GYPSY POET TOUR (2) 


GYPSY POET TOUR (2)

Haze
in the distance

as if
there are things

I should not
know.



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 311 


from
NOTEBOOK: NEW MEXICO
January, 2016

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 311

The grass
holds

the snow
and won't

let go.
Why

would it?



Sunday, June 17, 2018

IF THERE WAS 




If there was a God, perhaps
he sneezed, or there was a Big
Bang. It doesn't really matter.
It is. We are.

Something flies
away from us at great speed
and beyond that the Great
Attractor takes us. And the
Great Attractor itself is
taken -- by what or whom, we
do not know.

And I'm speaking
only of this half of things.
For there is even more
off to the right-hand side of
the universe, and maybe
more in the up and down
from here. Who's to say how much?
And what of dark matter,
what of the blacked energy
we cannot see?

The more we think
we know, the more we find there is
to learn. Yet at the speed
it flies from us we cannot know
anything for certain.

All we can say is: If there was
a God, perhaps he sneezed, or -- .




Friday, June 15, 2018

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 303 


from
NOTEBOOK: NEW MEXICO
January, 2016

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 303

And now more wideness
than you can imagine.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 301 


from
NOTEBOOK: NEW MEXICO
January, 2016

Highways 70/380, Mile Marker 301

How can you know
what the snow

wants to write
in these mountains?



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

GYPSY POET JOURNEY 


GYPSY POET JOURNEY, DAYS 1 & 2
I left Fairwater yesterday about 8:00 after saying good-bye to my long-suffering spouse. She will be tending to the "livestock," the cats in the house and the birds at the feeder, and I will be gallivanting. We have always divided the workloads: she handles the day to day and I worry about keeping the stars in their place.
It was wet and cool in Wisconsin, as I left. The sky clear somewhere in Illinois, and it was 94 degrees in Springfield as I flew past, and 96 in St Louis. Hello, St. Louis, good-bye, good-bye. I arrived to spend the night in Bourbon, Missouri.
Last evening it was raining when I looked out my motel room, and a while later when I looked out again, everything had dried up and you couldn't tell it rained. The street, the car, everything had dried off. That doesn't happen in Wisconsin. Our fields are still underwater. Here, the corn is already up.
From here I leave for today's adventure, a reading at the Alton Public Library, Alton, Missouri, and 3:30 p.m. Be there or be square.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET JOURNEY: DAYS 2 & 3
I had breakfast on Day 2 in a small cafe in Salem, Missouri. The busy waitress had a sweet face by tired eyes which showed an ancient kind of knowing. You can't save them all, but you'd want to save her.
You couldn't ask for better audiences for my readings at the Alton Public Library and the Thayer Public Library. Such rapt attention is exhilarating for the poet, I tell you. I even took the audience in Alton out for ice cream afterwards at the Burger Palace. A grand time was had by all. I left Thayer about 2:00 p.m. after a late lunch and am holed up tonight in Parsons, Kansas. Should arrive in Newton by lunch-time tomorrow, or a little later, depending on how early I get going. You guys in southern Missouri, thanks a bunch!
The librarian in Thayer didn't want to hear how I write when I travel. She thinks perhaps I should use a tape recorder.
Today's lesson: Talent is less important than stubbornness. But remember: the big truck always has the right of way.
Observation: There seem to be more smokers in Missouri than there are in Wisconsin, at least from the limited data I have available.
Observation: Turtles are moving in Missouri, and too many of them are crossing the roads, and some of them are not making it.  ?
The librarian in Thayer wanted me to send a poem back if I wrote one after leaving Thayer. I did. Mike, get this to her next time you are in Thayer, if you would be so kind:
Which blessings
lift us
and which
teach us
and which
make us
wonder at
wonder?


~~~~~


GYPSY POET JOURNEY: DAY 4
Observation: How to tell you're in Kansas -- they'll drive for a mile in the oncoming lane and think nothing of it, even in the rain.
Observation: Just when you think Kansas is flat forever, you start to climb into some stoney hills.
Observation: Red-tail hawk flying with a long snake dangling from its talons.
Observation: You could set parts of Kansas down around Plainfield, Wisconsin, and you couldn't tell much difference.
Observation: Doing poetry is Newton, Kansas, is as lovely as doing poetry anywhere in the world!
A group of us started out with supper at Prairie Harvest beforehand. I don't know what they call them, but I had one -- cabbage and meat baked inside a sweet bread envelope. This was not a "Fried Pie," but something else, and was delicious. "Some people put mustard on it," I was advised, and I did. Good advice. I had arrived early enough ahead of time to take in a violin recital by students of a couple local violin teachers and enjoyed it immensely: Book One students, Book Two students, Book Three students, and the traveling group: fiddle tunes and classical music and even a version of (of course, because this is Kansas) "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." This was what music is. Lovely! And I had "rhubarb crunch" ice cream for desert.
And my poetry reading at Charlotte's quilting emporium, Charlotte's Sew Natural, was what poetry is. A little wine, and attentive audience, the intimacy that poetry desires. Folks ranging from junior high students to the old grey-beards, expectant and appreciative as any poet could wish. It was lovely. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night, coming down off the juice of this experience. Thanks, Charlotte and Christine for making this happen.
I have to say: my readings in Alton and Thayer, Missouri, and Newton, Kansas, set an awfully high standard for the rest of this journey. If my remaining travel is even half as good as what I've experienced so far, then this is SUCCESS with a capital Happiness.
Next stop: New Orleans. I have been promised home-cooked Cajun food tomorrow night. People, get out of the way: I'm going!


~~~~~


GYPSY POET JOURNEY: DAY 5
Spring is the time to travel, when the countryside wants to show its green best. Of course, if you're driving, there's the road construction. But that's how we get good roads.....
Observation: Thursday night at my reading, Charlotte said of the Kansas state legislator who was at my reading: "He's here for poetry when he could be off making laws." The legislator said: "I'm a Democrat, I don't get to do that...."
Observation: Oklahoma! where its Boots & BBQ at the Travel Plaza.
Observation: This journey -- so much land rolling away, so little time. Seeing it at a distance is not the same, yet it still takes my breath away. Come over this rise with me, go "Oh!"
Observation: Dallas at 3:30 p.m. is ten gallons in a five gallon pail. And people do this on purpose? 4:20 p.m. we're out in the country and it's STILL stop and go. That was ugly. (I'll probably say the same thing about LA, ya think?).
Yes, apparently Dallas is on the way from Newton, Kansas, to New Orleans. Who'd a thunk?


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 5, 6, 7, and 8
Observation, Oklahoma, Friday: Spring is the time for travel, when the countryside wants to show its green best. Of course, if you're driving, there's road construction. But that's how we get good roads.
Observation, Louisiana, Saturday: Tiger Cafe along I-10 once housed a real tiger, grown from a cub. Catfish Po' Boy and fries for lunch. Long-haired greybeard truck drivers for companions, speaking a language I could almost understand. Black woman cooking, black woman waiting tables, black man mopping the floor. "Rambo" on the TV, about to give it to the sheriff good.
Observation, Saturday, Louisiana: Palm trees and stop-and-go traffic -- a great combination. Road work ahead, apparently.
Observation: I really do live inside my head. When I travel, I don't use the radio or the CD player. Only the sound of the tires on the pavement and gears grinding in my head. Whether this is good or bad may be open for some discussion, but that's the way it is.
Observation: Sometimes in Louisiana, it seems as if you are driving on the longest bridge in the world. Well, with all this water, you just might be....
Perhaps you've seen the photo of me crowned "The King of the Gypsy Gumbo." That was on Saturday, after I checked into my motel on Jefferson Highway. Now, the motel was adequate to my needs, but you should know there's a sign in the office that says: "No, we don't rent by the hour. Don't even ask." And there was a mirror on the ceiling in my room. And a TV. And a chair. Toilet, sink, and shower in the bathroom. No table or desk or lamp. No waste basket.
No wonder I made tracks for Terrace Street at 3:30 in the afternoon, where I had been promised Louisiana hospitality and Cajun cookin'. Facebook friend Clare L. Martin introduced to me to Bessie and Eileen. Bessie was the cook, keep your butt outta the kitchen. Two kinds of gumbo! Shrimp with okra; and pork and sausage. Over rice. Did you know that Cajuns put potato salad on top of their gumbo? That's what I was told. Now I didn't have my waders with me, and things got a little deep at times, but I think this was told true, cuz potato salad on your gumbo is a winner.
I said I arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon, and nobody looked at a clock until "Oh my god it's 10:30." And I don't think there was a moment of quiet the whole time I was there. In fact, at one point I said to the women: "Is that a Cajun thing, all three of you talking over each other at the same time?" Yeah, I'm told, that's a Cajun thing.
I am told that the poetry series at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street in New Orleans is the oldest continuous poetry venue in the United States. Alcohol is the barroom, music in the dance hall, poetry in the garden out back. Oh my lovely goodness. Clare read some of her Black Horse, Night poems, and Clare and Bessie enacted several of Clare's Crone poems, and then Bessie read, and then Tom read, then some of New Orleans finest free-mic-ers read and sang, mostly in English but once in the Spanish from which he'd read his translation. Over in the back corner, a marker to commemorate the fellow who had founded the series, Everette Maddox, I believe. Some of his ashes are in that corner and some were scattered on the Mississippi, which is about spittin' distance away.
After those festivities, Bessie took Clare and me to DTB, an upscale Cajun restaurant about a block and a half from the Maple Leaf. Oh my gracious. I would tell you more, but Mary is already gonna be jealous as hell. Suffice to say, I had the pork, Clare had the steak, and Bessie had the oysters. To wind it all up, I got to meet one of Bessie's sons and his lovely historian wife.
This morning, then, it was: head west. Poetry reading in Victoria, TX, on Tuesday night. House reading in Austin, TX, on Wednesday night.
Observation: Ordering a Fish Po' Boy near Lake Charles, Louisiana, today:
"Do you want it fried or grilled?"
"What's the difference?"
"One is fried. The other is grilled."


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 9, 10, & 11
In Victoria, Texas, people, it's the Mumphord Family Barbecue. That's where I had lunch with Charles Alexander the afternoon of my reading in Victoria. I had the brisket. I always have the brisket. I eat it naked. I kick myself if I don't. Charles had brisket and sausage. We both came away smiling. After we ate, we wandered out back where the men with the touch for doing it were doing it, and they showed us their cookers. Two dozen briskets nearly done, a dozen chickens just put on, and I don't know what all. When you are in Victoria, you know where to eat!
And then my reading in the evening, at the UHV Center for the Arts on Main Street in Victoria. Another touching loveliness. Such an introduction from Charles that I then had to live up to. (Blushes.) As attentive an audience as you could ever wish. For poets, that's a kind of adoration, I tell ya. Questions a-plenty, and comments. And Charles had put out a basket and asked people, if they could, to contribute for gas money. I think I got three or four tankfuls! You guys didn't have to do that, but I'm thankful for the tankfuls!
Then a few of us adjourned to a bar on the seventh floor of the building across the street for beers (them) and merlot (me). Needed something to juice back down to ground level after the reading.
Then it was back to Motel 6, where they really do keep the light on. A night's sleep, then headed west.
Headed west to Austin, found the wonderful Malvern Books, bought THREE collections of poetry (don't tell Mary!), and had lunch bought for me by my friend and bro Mark Bourland.
My reading on Wednesday was a house reading at the home of my nephew Andrew Montag and his lovely wife Allison, their old, blind rescue dog, and a long-haired black cat. Enough animals in the house to make me feel quite at home. Supper time, and Andrew says, "Tex-Mex?" and I say "This is Austin, sure." We got there at the right time. The place was huge and we got seated right away, and by the time we were done, people were lined up out the door waiting for a table...
Again, my reading was intimate and intense. I read some extra from my memoir, CURLEW: HOME, cuz it was Andrew's grandparents I was talking about. And then to poems. And then Andrew shared some of his own poetry and prose with us, which was a perfect surprise because I did not know he wrote! And then Andrew's friend, Burton Johnson, a talented (and dare I say reckless) amateur stand-up comedian got to tell a few jokes. Interesting that he does stand-up comedy for the same reasons I do poetry -- because he likes to, because he can't not do it.
A night's sleep at the house then, woken to the sound of their six hens in the backyard thinking about making some eggs for breakfast. Well, not exactly... Allison explained that the girls didn't really get to work until about 10 a.m.
And then, again, headed west. I don't remember which town; I don't know the name of the cafe. The menu item was "Jessie's Mess," and it was pretty good. This being Texas, the waitress said, "You want some home-made salsa?" I said, "Yes."
Observation: All day the land kept rolling away from at 70 m.p.h. I could barely keep up.
My song I re-made for the drive was "Amarillo by Evening," which is where I am tonight, fed and already in my PJs for another night's sleep. It was well over 400 miles today.
And a fresh-made poem to close this off:
What color the light
on the red earth
among green scrub
and black ravens?
What color the wind
as night comes on?
The color of darkness
in one's own heart.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 12
YES, NEW MEXICO
Sudden blue
sky, and wind
the color
of dry ground.
If we say
Yes, we can
keep our
heart's desire.
~
Met up with poet Lauren Camp a little after 4:00 p.m. for some supper at Sweetwater. Regular menu doesn't start til 5 p.m., so what do a couple of poet/teachers do with that hour? Talk about poetry and teaching. We both order "Four Daughters' Beef" for our entree and talk about poetry and teaching. We want to have flan for dessert, but need to let things settle, and we talk about poetry and teaching. You know what, it's 8:00 p.m. by the time we get out of there. Isn't this the way all poets want to spend a late afternoon/early evening. By gorsh, I think they do!
~
NEW MEXICO RAVEN
Walk this way,
says raven,
before he eats
the silence.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 13
LEAVING SANTA FE
Mountain means
what mountain says
but she won't say much.
~
APPROACHING MESITA, NEW MEXICO
Light hangs naked
on the mesas.
Eternity waits
its turn to try.
~
ENTERING ARIZONA
Both wind and rain
have spoken to the rock
and still the rock has
nothing to say.
Sometimes silence
is all we've got.
~
APPROACHING WINSLOW, ARIZONA
Ah, yes, the mountains
as markers. How else
would the wind
know where it is?
~
Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, is something you can do if the wind doesn't catch you. And it just might. I stopped and removed a shopping cart from the middle of the road near my motel and saw two others the wind had pushed to the curb across the side street from the Safeway.
You have to do Winslow, of course. Yet it has some of the feel of Thompson and Lynn Lake, Manitoba, for me, and of Curlew: Home. I drove throughout Winslow, watching the great swirls of dust carried by wind, thinking about loss and tasting the grit in my teeth. Sometimes I'm appalled at how the world is going, then I come to Winslow and think maybe we're doing the best we can.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 14
ALONG HIGHWAY 89
HEADING TO THE GRAND CANYON
Who rubbed
the land this smooth
knows what
love is.
~
Observation: You think desert grass is not tough? Know this: it grows through asphalt on the shoulder of the road.
~
APPROACHING THE GRAND CANYON
Set this
against
any promise
eternity makes.
~
Oh, she says,
oh, oh, the gouge
of earth.
The old tree
I touch
says, Enough.
~
Observation: Even when you can't see the great gouge, you can feel it pulling -- the emptiness like a gravity sinkhole wanting you, the mother of mother-holes. Even the sky is heavy.
~
At the Visitors Center, parking was at a premium. A ranger told me to park in a spot marked for No Parking, so I did. I had stopped earlier at several viewing locations along the way, but here I walked up past the Visitors Center to Mather Point for another, final view of the big emptiness. If the Grand Canyon doesn't take your breath away, there's something the matter with you. I saw a little gecko or lizard the size of my index finger in the trees in front of the Visitors Center. Saw an elk in the trees on my walk out to Mather Point. My only complaint? The park was MOBBED. You know I don't like crowds, so I didn't hang around long afterwards. At the gate where I left the park, the line of traffic waiting to get in was a mile and a half long. Good luck finding parking, folks.
~
Raven says,
Take this wind
with you, and
good-bye.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 15
For the record, at one point my car's thermometer said the temperature in Phoenix today was 100 degrees.
And you don't know Phoenix until Timothy Schmaltz gives you the personalized tour, up one grid and down the next, and up to the top of South Mountain, from which you can see everything. I said: Where's your house from here, and he pointed and said, "Over there, behind North Mountain."
Then this evening what a lovely reading I was able to give in Tim and Linda's living room, to -- once again -- as attentive an audience as a poet could wish. (I admit it, I am getting spoiled!) Though there were enough good questions and challenging discussion to keep an old poet on his toes. There was some discussion of a mystical strain in my poetry and, indeed, the mystical strain in all of our lives. Poetry allows us to tap in. I didn't say it then, but it occurs to me now: being a poet sometimes means being able to grab onto the hot wire electric juice of the universe, to grab and hold on.
Did I forget to mention the lovely supper? Linda made a salad and lasagna and garlic bread. I had seconds. And I've got a loaf of Tim's banana bread to tide me over for a while on the next portion of my journey.
Someone asked how the trip is going? It could not be more lovely. I have been blessed, I have been immensely blessed.
Tomorrow I head for the Salton Sea, which my cousin John Montag SJconsiders to be "the Mouth of Hell." Just what a poet needs after his visit to the Grand Canyon, yes?


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 16
339th AVENUE
(West of Phoenix)
Who thought this
could be home
must have been
desperate.
~
The desert is
another
state of mind.
Every twig
and leaf holds
promise.
The fickle
sky
does not.
~
I-10, Mile Marker 66
This "Land for Sale,
40 Acre Parcels,"
except for what
the wind will take.
~
Say it, Tom, this
emptiness is
what you came for.
Where there's nothing,
there your heart is.
~
So I was headed west on California Highway 78, and off on the distant horizon I saw a bank of white clouds stretching across the sky. I asked myself whether you can see clouds over the ocean from here. The clouds seemed to be coming towards me. They were: they weren't clouds at all, but great dunes of very light-colored sand in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreational area. It looked like the Sahara Desert. I might have known about the sand dunes if I had looked at my map, but with that Garmin girl in the box giving me directions this whole trip, I haven't looked at the map so much. That Garmin girl hasn't failed me yet, so I have taken to trusting her. Which leads to such White Clouds/Sand Dunes kinds of surprise.
~
For the record, the thermometer in my car recorded 105 in a parking lot in Calexico, California, this afternoon.
~
For the record, when I called Mary this afternoon, I got her voice-mailbox, where I left a message. She called me at that exact moment, saying she had not heard the phone ring nor even known she got a voice mail. She just thought she should call me. Yup, we're sympatico.
~
Met up with poet Fred Garber, formerly of Sioux City, Iowa, and now a resident of the Calexico/Mexicali border, who bought me supper at a lovely buffet in a Mexicali hotel and gave me a couple of books and a T-shirt. That was after giving me the extended tour of Mexicali (no shorting the Gypsy Poet, hey). At one point he said he'd had more near misses traffic-wise with me in the car as we traveled around the city today than he has had his whole time hanging around Mexicali these past several years. I told him I also bring people bad luck with ice fishing. Then we had a couple more near misses, one of which could have been pretty major. I have to tell you, the people in Mexicali seem to drive as if they think they are in Paris.
The hotel restaurant was air-conditioned fortunately. After we had dessert at supper, I said to Fred, "We don't have to go back out there again, do we?" Well, we did. He says you get used to the heat. He said it's not bad yet -- another month it'll be 115-120 degrees.
I walked back across the border, for that's an experience. How clueless am I? A couple of old Mexican women had to show me how to open a gate at one point, and where to go from there. The woman at the immigration desk asked me where I was going from here, and I was at a loss for words: where am I, where am I going. I sputtered out something and she said, "Have a nice trip." But for the kindness of strangers, I might still be on the wrong side of things. But I made it. I am in Brawley for tonight and tomorrow night. Tomorrow I will circle the Salton Sea, "The Mouth of Hell." I'm told it's all pretty terrible, which is exciting.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 17
The more
I see
the more
I don't
know what
to say.
~
The less
I say
the more
it sounds
like me.
~
Always someone
adjusting where
the water goes.
~
Vultures at the edge
of the Salton Sea.
Wind at the edge
of water.
What lifts is the hope
there's more than this.
~
RECOGNITION
AT BOMBAY BEACH
Nothing
you want
is what
you want.
~
Who is
letting go --
lizard,
vulture,
fish carcass,
bird's bones,
blue water,
sky.
Who is
holding on?
~
IF
you make enough
land, Lord, you can
do this with it.
I get that now.
~
AT THE SALTON SEA
Simple tricks --
rocks and water,
a bit of wind.
~
LEAVING THE SALTON SEA
Broken
Cali-
fornia,
good-bye.
Good-bye,
low-down
wisdom.
~
For the record, the temperature today was 109 degrees.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 18-20
So much
nothing
in this
world, you
want to
hold it
all. Yes.
Patience.
~
HIGHWAY S22, SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Who speaks this
thousand years
of silence?
~
HIGHWAY S22, MILE MARKER 13
Raven's shadow
flies into
my dark heart.
Sky flies out.
~
"Sam" (Adolph) Montag was John Montag SJ's grandfather. Henry was mine. We are second cousins. I couldn't have been treated better if'n we were double first cousins. We got my "Big 3" on the very first day: the La Brea Tar Pits, a look at the Hollywood sign, and a drive down Rodeo Drive. The Tar Pits are stinky, the Hollywood sign is better as a postcard than in real life, and Rodeo Drive is as decadent as was promised. We had our supper at Canter's Deli; anybody who knows Hollywood knows Canter's Deli, I believe. I needed a forklift for my sandwich.
In the evening, I had a glass of one of Fr. John's whiskeys, this from one of the (Irish) islands where the hops are treated to peat smoke, which process gives the whiskey an earthy, smoked flavor. Perfect on the rocks. One was enough for me, as you might guess.
Next day we started with breakfast at DuPar's. Again, if you go to LA, you go to DuPar's, I guess. I think I know why. I should have eaten only half of my French toast. Oh, well. It sustained me for our walk out the Santa Monica Pier (which included some time spent watching a street entertainer/magician do his stuff -- oh my) and then the two mile jaunt down to the edgier Venice Beach. It was a perfect day to be at the beach and a perfect day for sausages at Wurstkuche; I had the hot Italian, which was just hot enough.
I can die now. I have seen LA.
This morning I made my way north out of town and was entertained at one point by about a dozen high-powered foreign sports cars weaving in and out of traffic behind me and around me and ahead of me for about five miles. I didn't say it, but I could have: "Sorry about your penis."
The Pacific needs no faint praise from me; it speaks for itself.
I am in Seaside tonight. Maybe the Monterrey Aquarium tomorrow? A house reading at Jessie Lillie Lemon's tomorrow night!
~
In LA
I learned
again
what you
want is
not what
you want.
So ends
the lesson
for today.
~
ON HIGHWAY 101, CALIFORNIA
Who offers us
this ocean, this sky,
that edge of the dark
universe receding
from us faster than
we can see the light?
~
ALONG 101
Wind
in the fields,
breath, earth,
the blossoms.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAY 21
Instead of going to the Monterey Aquarium as I said I might, I did a long, slow drive along the ocean today. Then by mid-afternoon I headed over to Luzern Street for my reading at Jessie Lillie Lemon & Eric's living room. Lillie made a terrific vegan soup to sustain the wondering poet, and Eric let me select a cocktail for the evening from a literary-themed recipe book. I selected "The Lime of the Ancient Mariner," but after we tasted the proto-type, we agree it needed less lime and some sugar. The after-party involved a bit of red wine.
I have to tell you, people, these are no slouches in Seaside, California! I read, I suppose, for half an hour, and we talked for another three and a half hours. Musicians and composers and songwriters in attendance, check. A mathematician, check. An artist, check. What am I missing. Oh, yeah -- I came away a hell of a lot more knowledgeable than I went in.
Whee! it's a grand ride I'm on, and the fun never stops.
Onward...


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 22 & 23
LEAVING SEASIDE, CALIFORNIA
Add everything.
Subtract nothing.
Count your blessings.
~
Morning.
Yet the world
closes
over the fields.
The workers, their
backs are bent
against
such darkness.
~
IN THE HILLS AROUND
SAN LUIS RESERVOIR
Vulture flies
into his shadow
and doesn't
fly out.
~
Lunch in Fresno with poet (and poetry editor at Atticus Review) Michael Meyerhofer. We were gonna meet at Rock & Noodles at noon, but they were having electrical problems. No worries, the Italian restaurant across the parking did just fine.
I am starting to believe two poets who have never met before can talk as long as they have time for. Writing poems, editing poetry for a journal, teaching as an adjunct, it doesn't matter, we can do it.
"So," I said, "do we need to say anything else before we head off?"
"Only to express our undying love for each other," Michael said.
Poet-brothers. I knew what he meant.
~
The hawk
watches
from his
perch. The
grass says
nothing.
~
Afternoon and dust
above the fields.
Whatever the darkness
we find our way.
~
Light regards
grass as canvas.
Nothing we say
will make a difference.
~
Notes
for poems
is all
they give me,
the voices.
~
O, these
mountains
pushing
the sky!
O, blue
morning,
happy
in its
wisdom!
O, poet!
~
Big rock
wants to be
mountain.
Mountain
wants to be
sky.
Sky?
Sky is
sky.
~
Lunch in Eugene, Oregon, with Erica Goss. Again, a change of restaurants. The one I'd selected as a meeting place didn't open til 5:00 p.m. The Thai restaurant a few blocks away did the trick.
At every turn, at every stop, and every lunch, I learn something. Erica and I talked about how we got where we are, how we do what we do, and how we keep on keeping on. You know, the sort of things brother-poets and sister-poets talk about at such meet up. I am blessed. Thanks, Erica!
~
In the wind
a whispering.
What does it
mean to water?
~
Raven watches
our nonsense.
The less he says,
the better.
~
SOUTH OF SALEM, OREGON
The green fields
and pasture,
almost like
going home.
~
Arrived in Portland to face the worst traffic of the trip so far. (And I've been to LA!) Stop and go for an hour and a half. I wouldn't have believed it.
I arrived at Carolyn Winkler's house an hour and a half later than I expected, and she was at a class, so I found the key and let myself in, greeted the two resident loving dogs,got myself a book of poetry and sat on the porch reading.
Carolyn arrived and we walked to the nearby Peruvian restaurant (two blocks away!) and got treated to some tasty food and (once again) some amazing conversation. I told Carolyn I'm starting to think this is not Tom's Reading Tour but Tom's Learning Tour. We came back to her house, She took me through the three gates and showed me her tea house out back; we took off our shoes and went in for a look around. What lovely space. I had to touch the wood. Wood talks to you when you touch it. She showed me her art studio in the basement, where she also teaches "Intuitive Painting." I wonder if any of her methods might be useful in teaching poetry. I've got one of her hand-outs to ponder further.
And then we had dessert, Carolyn's Paleo-Cheesecake with strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. Oh my. "No one has not liked it," Carolyn told me. Enough said.
Tomorrow: Powell's Books and meet-ups with blogger friends.
Good night!


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 24-25
Powells Bookstore in Portland - YES! And I visited only the poetry and prisoner poetry sections! Only got nicked for a mere $52 worth of books, a good stack for that amount, actually. Carolyn told me a friend of hers said that when she died, she didn't want to go to heaven, she wanted to go to Powells! Amen to that. We'll all gather in the poetry section, okay?
Carolyn and I then had lunch at the Tin Shed, a dog-friendly and father-and-daughter friendly place. It has tables inside and in a garden setting, and it was a garden setting kind of day. And good food, it goes without saying. Meaty, beaty, big, and bouncy, for you The Who fans.
At two o'clock, it was time to meet up with some old blogger-poet friends that I'd met before in real life once or twice, and followed on-line over the years, Lori Witzel and Dale Favier. It was just like going home, I tell ya. We went to Base Camp Brewery for some afternoon quaffing, and catching up, and laughs, and talk about living in Portland. We had to break it up about 4 p.m. cuz the outdoor area we were carrying on in was reserved for a party at that point. I wrote a poem this morning in memory:
Friends
in the rearview.
No one
is a stranger.
As is my wont, I spent a couple hours driving around Portland, getting lost, getting unlost, getting lost again. You may know, Ben Zen says: "I don't have to go to Chicago to get lost." Portland will do.
Then at 8 p.m. a meet-up with old blogger-buddy Susan Andrews and her husband at Random Order Pie, for dessert. Thanks for the pie and ice cream, you guys! And another longer than an hour session of good talk, just as it should be. Terrific.
This morning, coffee with Carloyn and the very old pup Emma and the little naughty pup Bodhi, and then time to say good-bye and hit the road, Jack. I have just two days to get to Loveland, CO, and see our daughter overnight, and another day to get to Omaha, where I will have a reading on the 10th, and back to Lincoln for a reading on the 11th. And then Homeward Bound!
~
The grey face
of morning.
I turn
towards home.
~
LEAVING PORTLAND
Maybe raven
says good-bye
for Portland.
Maybe he's
only scolding.
~
ALONG THE COLUMBIA
Naked rock
and water.
Nothing turns
from morning.
~
THE COLUMBIA GORGE
The rock
undresses
beauty.
~
Monk
on his bicycle
along the river.
There is
going.
There is
no going
back.
~
Distance means
nothing
to the grasses.
~
THREE MILE CANYON
Some days
are bleeding
this constant
moment.
~
Sky pulls
dust up
to kiss
the earth.
The land
wants
water.
~
Dust devil
sings
of earth
and sky.
~
What rock
tells the
water:
"This way,
sonny."
~
Rain, and
raven
keeps his
distance.
~
Rain,
like the song
of patience.
~
ENTERING IDAHO
There's nothing
the devil won't
promise
in these high,
dry plains.
~
RECOGNITION
What you take up the mountain
is what you bring back down.
~
Ninja mountains,
dark and lethal
like the night.
~
For the record, I made it to Tremonton, Utah, today, from Portland. Temperature variations: 56 this morning, 72 along the river, 96 in the eastern Oregon desert, and cool again this evening. Terrible rainstorms a couple of times, once slowing the semis ahead of me down to 35-40 miles an hour, and those guys NEVER slow down. But I made it.
Good night.


~~~~~


GYPSY POET TOUR: DAYS 26-31
More than
the rock,
rockness.
~
A taste
in the air,
the Great
Salt Lake.
~
OGDEN, UTAH
Raven speaks
with reverence
for the mountains.
The mountains
love his love
of darkness.
~
Say nothing
of this rock --
the rocks
don't care.
~
And then
Wyoming,
big mountains,
as if my
companions.
~
WIND IN WYOMING
All of everything,
less the wind's take,
leaves nothing.
~
Off the
mountain,
each heart
open.
~
RED ROCK
Nothing
more to
break is
broken.
~
An overnight visit with our daughter, Jessica, in Loveland, Colorado. Just what a weary traveler needs. I had not seen her since Christmas, so it was time. The parents of my daughter's sweetie were also in town, so I got to meet them.
Then a big bowl of Malt-o-Meal the next morning, as is traditional with us, and I was on my way to Omaha.
~
HEADING HOME
FROM THE MOUNTAINS
This is
the distance
I know.
~
Pronghorn
on the
tawny
grass. Now
he turns,
as does
the sun,
the sky.
Nothing
changes.
~
PRONGHORNS
ON THE PLAINS
Two of any
might start a line
but three of something
is always certain.
~
Where every
stone has a name
every moment
holds a story.
Name your stones.
~
Prairie dog
watching for hawk
to come down
out of the sun.
~
Birds move,
or the earth does,
beneath them.
~
Nebraska, all
these miles of
meditation.
~
THE POET LEARNS
HIS BUSINESS
"Fly," said the angel,
setting my wings on fire.
~
Cottonwood sex
along the Platte.
Trees have to do
what trees have to.
~
In Omaha I stayed with my second cousin, Mary Patrice and her husband the folksinger Jerome Brich and their two dogs. I arrived there about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Sunday morning, Fr. John Montag SJ said Mass at St. Adalbert's in South Omaha to celebrate his 25 years of priesthood. All sorts of relatives and friends and neighbors and former classmates were in attendance at the Mass, then we adjourned to the church basement for coffee and kolaches.
By noon it was time to head over to 52nd Street to meet up with the poet Greg Kosmicki, who was hosting my reading at Gallery 1516 in Omaha. We went off for a meal at Greek Islands, the best Greek food in town, according to Greg. I had the pastitsio and you know what -- Greg's right. We stopped at Gallery 1516 to set up chairs for my reading, then adjourned to Greg's house for the duration.
The audience for my reading Sunday evening included several relatives and a woman who had driven over from Lincoln to hear me. A good time was had by all. Afterwards a few of us went to M's Pub for some post-poetry libation and lahvosh; I had the Thai chicken version, the best you'll find anywhere.
Then a night's sleep, at least for me. Not so much for Greg, who gave me the round-about trip to Dinker's for the best burger in Omaha, everyone says. Soon after, a drive back to Lincoln for my reading at Crescent Moon Coffee in the downtown. Greg and I met up with Marjorie SaiserRex Walton, and a few others for a supper at Lazlo's that Marge had arranged. Bless you, Marge! There's nothing like having a meal with poets you admire the hell out of. Which is something I learned again and again all along the way on this adventure.
Then the reading at Crescent Moon, which was arranged for me by Rex Walton and hosted by Jeff Martinson. This might have been the largest audience I have EVER read to, and certainly one that was most attentive. Their attention seemed to draw the poems out of me and make them real in the air between us. Wowsa.
I can't tell you how joyful it is for a poet to have several poets he admires so immensely show up for his reading: Marjorie Saiser, Greg Kuzma, Twyla Hansen (current Nebraska State Poet), Greg Kosmicki, Rex Walton (and others), I'm talking about you. Thank you! I am honored.
My reading was followed by an impressive open mic. If you're ever in Lincoln on a Monday night, stop by Crescent Moon for a night of poetry and such. You'll be glad you did.
After the reading I stayed overnight at Rex Walton's house in West Lincoln. A glass of wine before bed out on the patio along the water, of course. In the morning Rex made bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast. He's a pro, people, don't let him tell you otherwise.
And then I was Homeward-Bound.
~
Homeward
this morning,
no other
direction.
~
POET'S JOURNEY
The dry miles,
the green miles,
all the blessings
of the road,
the going and
the coming home.
~
LAST WORDS
What one says
at such a
moment is not
the meaning of
death.
~
The poet flies.
When he doesn't
there is darkness
on the land.
So lift your eyes,
look him skyward,
let him go
where he must.
Let him fly
into gladness.
~
Dove and
swallow
against
the wind,
every
blast of
it turn-
ing them.
~
NEARLY THERE
This green
rolling
I know.
This land
I was
born to,
which does
not, which
will not
release me.
~
75 degrees
and drizzling in Wisconsin,
as if to say: Welcome home
from that other country,
the hot, dry one.
~
Thumb
on the scale,
the green
weight of things,
Wisconsin.
~
Yes, I am home. I'd guess the trip tallied about 6500 miles to reach "The End," or maybe I mean "The Beginning."
Thanks to all who hosted me and put up with me: Mike LusterKhadijah TracyCharlotte M. WolfeClare L. Martin and Bessie SenetteCharles AlexanderAndrew MontagLauren CampTimothy SchmaltzFred Garber,John Montag SJJessie Lillie LemonMichael MeyerhoferErica Goss,Carolyn WinklerLori WitzelDale FavierSusan Andrews, Greg Kosmicki,Rex Walton, and anyone I might have over looked. This really was Tom's Learning Tour, and I appreciate everything you-all did to help me along the path. Blessings.



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