Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Memory: A Poem of the 15 year-old Frida Kahlo


I had smiled. Nothing else. But suddenly I knew
In the depth of my silence
He was following me. Like my shadow, blameless and light
In the night, a song sobbed…

Monday, December 26, 2016

On the Second Day of... Good King Wenceslas

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
After a busy day, Santa and friends enjoy the Feast of Stephen.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

Friday, December 23, 2016

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — The Sabbath Bride

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The Central Synagogue in New York City.

I am at synagogue tonight and
when we turn to face the Sabbath Bride,
I am walking with your elbow in my palm
to the corner restaurant.

A boy came past and
cursing, muttered, "Dirty Jew."
I wheeled and punched and
he fell to the sidewalk.
He had a bloody mouth.

23 décembre : Noël au Québec

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Une chanson de Noël de méchanceté et de souvenir.

J'ai dans la tête un vieux sapin, une crêche en dessous
Un Saint-Joseph avec une canne en caoutchouc
Etait mal faite pis j'avais fret
Quand je r'venais d'passer trois heures dans un igloo
Qu'on avait fait, deux ou trois gars, chez Guy Rondou

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas on the Streets

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
More than 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point last year.

Happy Holidays to all
and to all a good night
Especially those on the streets
Who fight for life

Just another day
for you and me
Don't be upset
if there's no smile to be seen

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Huron Christmas Carol

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Canada's oldest Christmas hymn was written in the Wyandot language of its Huron First Nation people in 1642.

'Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Brown Santa

No little boy or girl is too far away for this little brown sleigh.

Breaking my hump for the UPS
Making some coin for Christmas Day
Running down streets
and running up stairs
Placing little brown parcels
in doorways, on porches

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Once Upon a Time at Christmas


She once made mulberry jam and cinnamon rolls,
She once rode horses and milked cows,
She once sang in the choir and planned Christmas programs,
She once taught school and played the piano at church,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jingle Barra

Cascabeles, cascabeles, tra la la la la...

Jingle bells,
Ocean swells,
Riding Barra breakers
onto our beach...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr Place is there for a reason.

        God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
        Courage to change the things I can,
        And wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes referred to offhandedly as the Facebook Prayer for it's ubiquitous presence on the social media app the Serenity Prayer is more than one sentence long.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I Had to Peek


Two sips into the first cup,
I am the sun returning from a long journey
As seen glinting through palm leaves
Where there has never been a road.
I write this to see what's there
Behind that wispy veil.

Monday, December 12, 2016

I Call Her Esperanza

photo © Mark Butkus 2012
The Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12.

I do not know anything but that slow
fall aurora over the world and
all the things my love contemplates;
lilies beneath pillow dreams
when rain sounds and

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Que ofrecer


Un mundo
No diferente si no real
Un camino
Seguirlo para guiarnos
Escucharnos el uno al otro

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Daughter — A Poem of a Mother's Love

For Lexi.

My daughter
My reason
My pleasure and pain
My laughter and sadness
My sunshine and rain
My lessons and answers
My gives and my takes

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Library Walk: Willa Cather, Willa Cather, Willa Cather

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Willa Cather is born this day in 1873.

Gregg LeFevre's playful, repetitive take on a famous passage in Willa Cather's O Pioneers! is immortalized on Library Way across from the New York Public Library.

The actual quote reads:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

On The Road: Finding Bécquer by the Sea in Mexico

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Literally, poetry on the road...

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer is considered to be the most widely read Spanish writers after Cervantes. The Bar None Group came across his poetry on a mural of the history of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico. Is it coincidental that Bécquer's poem is found in Christmas town? The author himself died Christmas week in 1870.

Known as Rima XXXVIII, Bécquer's poem in Barra de Navidad is one of three pieces of poetry that encapsulates the sea as a central theme.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Her Name is Barra

Cristo del ciclone watches over the faithful in Barra de Navidad.

Predawn bottle rockets calling the faithful to prayer.
The thunderclap of surf meeting sand.
The first glare of sun offering promise of warmth
A choir of magpies singing in a papaya tree

The warm ocean breeze runs her fingers though my hair.
She whispers in my ear and her name is Barra.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tania Bruguera — The Cuban Artist and a Mouth with Nails

Tania Bruguera's Untitled (Mouth with Nails) / Sin titulo (Boca con clavos), 2003.

While it is her art that Tania Bruguera is known for, it is her words that have struck a chord. Her words that have resulted in action and her words that have landed her in jail in her native Cuba. It is her words that we read at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach in the days after the death of Fidel Castro that stay with us still.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ode to a Pumpkin Pie

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Happy Thanksgiving!

The Pumpkin Pie is talking to me
From the other side of the kitchen table
The table that at this time of day is my office
Where I check my emails, catch up on the day's news
and map out my day of plans and procrastination.

Friday, November 18, 2016

It was Yesterday for Aïcha Amara

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
An artist's hues.

On Eid Al Istiqulal — Morocco's Independence Day — we cast a glance at Moroccan poet, Aïcha Amara.  C'était hier It Was Yesterday — is from her 1996 collection of themed poems, Mogador fille d'aylal Mogador: Daughter of Aylal. We came across Aïcha and her poetry in the coastal community of Essaouira, Morocco in 2011 and have been captivated by her words ever since.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Countless Nights

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
Supermoon over Long Beach, California.

Countless nights
I’ve covered you
in clouds and
slept nearby.

I dream
you are stoking stars within
and forming constellations
of a universe
that rushes to my arms.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Regular Sort of Guy — Eugene O'Neill Enters American Poets Corner

photo © Mark Butkus 2011.
American Poets Corner enshrines Eugene O'Neill in 2016.

Eugene O'Neill is being celebrated tonight with his induction into the American Poets Corner at Saint John the Divine in New York City. The author of 32 full length plays and 21 one act plays is probably best known for his four Pulitzer winning plays: Beyond the Horizon (1920); Anna Christie (1922); Desire Under the Elms (1924); Strange Interlude (1928) and; Long Day's Journey Into Night (1957).

America's only Nobel winning playwright — Eugene O'Neill — never thought much of his poetry. More than sixty years after his death we still do not have the definitive collection of his poetry. Though attempts have been made.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Palms in Marriage


Its a warm desert night
That is dark and still
We'll howl at the moon
Whats left of it anyway

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Paul Wilhelm, War, Poetry and an Oasis in the Desert.

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
The view from Paul Wilhelm's Vagabond House.

So let me live where I may hear
The silken whisper of the sand
The singing music of the sphere
The light-wing feet, the unseen hand
Of pressing winds that murmur near
The pulsing spirit of this land!

Paul Wilhelm (1909-1994) described himself as "a naturalist who lives in Thousand Palms Canyon" in the postscript of his articles for the Indio Daily News. The plaque at the Paul Wilhelm Palm Grove dedicated to him reads, "This magnificent desert fan palm oasis is dedicated to the memory of Paul Wilhelm, desert writer, poet and naturalist. Paul devoted his life to the protection of these palms and the surrounding desert. Through his writings and conversations with visitors, he opened his arms and heart, passing on his deep love of the desert and its history for all who listened."

It was the part about his being a poet that piqued our interest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

And Yet There It Is!

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
CONFIRMED: The sun rose again. November 9, 2016 Long Beach, California.

It is the morning after
the night before
and I had filled up my mug
with my favored brown elixir
to walk the block to the beach
in the predawn light
illuminated by the moon, the stars
the sodium lamps
to stand by the shore of the Pacific Ocean
to sip and wait
— a man and his mission.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Day Before the Election 2016

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
"The heart holds it all."

I ride my bicycle to the store,
through this tiny village,
far from my birthplace,
that collective mind thing
called country, ourselves,
divided from the rest of humanity
by the flimsiest of imaginary boundaries,

On the Road: A Garden of Poetry in Palm Springs

One day she woke up...

We came across this poem and painting at a catered event in Rancho Mirage, California. The harried server didn't know the origins of the poem or the painting but said that there was someone who did. He turned to ask, but that person was no longer there.

Research would need to be undertaken to discover the artist. The poet.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Steve Goodman's Go Cubs Go Song Hits Home Run on iTunes

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The ivy covered bleachers at Wrigley Field.

Hours after ending an 108 year World Series drought the theme song of the Chicago Cubs written by local legend Steve Goodman has cracked the Top 15 on iTunes. Go Cubs Go was one of the last songs written and recorded by Goodman before he died in 1984, two weeks before he was scheduled to throw out the opening pitch of a Cubs baseball playoff game.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

First Lines Second Thoughts — William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist

photo © Mark Butkus 2012

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? What better time of year than Halloween to take a second look at the opening lines of William Peter Blatty's spine-tingling novel, The Exorcist.

The novel that changed the face of horror and has been scaring readers since it was first published in 1971. In as much as satanic clowns lurk around every corner in 2016, the urban legend of young girls in the 1970s defiled by Satanic cults can trace their genesis to the popularity of The Exorcist. Novel and film.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Dead of Terlingua

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
The cemetery at Terlingua, Texas.

The dead of Terlingua
call out to me
from under
weathered, wooden crosses
as I carefully tiptoe
between their souls
and the candles left behind
to remember them
from past Días de los Muertos.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Russell Rosander's Boogey Man

photo © Mark Butkus 2008
Taking the lid off from our fears.

That ambiguous specter
who creeps up,
  from beneath our beds
  to clutch our hearts
in the darkest hour of the night,
the invader of our restful slumber,
  spoiler of dreams,

Monday, October 17, 2016

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — In A Little Room


In a little room like this, long ago,
phantoms were slain in the dark.

I stared into an abyss and
after I was less afraid.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Word Salad — Playing Bob Dylan's Tarantula


It's time to play Bob Dylan's Tarantula!

The object of the game is to complete an eight line poem of eight syllables each by reaching into a bag and grabbing 64 syllables and arranging them into a poem. The only words that are available for use in the game are culled from the 264 words that make up the titles of the poems in Bob Dylan's first book of poetry — Tarantula — published in 1971.

An alternate version of the game involves the use of any eight words per line regardless of syllable count. This could either sped up your play or slow your play depending on your play...or state of mind.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bob Dylan's Tarantula (Pointless Like a Witch)

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
A witch in Central Park.

In being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016, Bob Dylan's first and only foray into published poetry, Tarantula was invoked as an "experimental work."

Written at the height of his fame in 1965 at the age of 23, Dylan was given the galleys of Tarantula in June 1966, for his final approval before publication.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Times They Are A Changing — Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

"Dylan has published experimental work like "Tarantula" (1971)."

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up in a Jewish middle-class family in the city of Hibbing. As a teenager he played in various bands and with time his interest in music deepened, with a particular passion for American folk music and blues. One of his idols was the folk singer Woody Guthrie. He was also influenced by the early authors of the Beat Generation, as well as by modernist poets.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mexican Rendezvous

El jardin is a popular meeting place in Barra de Navidad.

Latina cuties stroll the square
Abuelitas trail close behind
Protecting from the bad boy's stare
Macho bad boys, you know the kind

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Poetry Shortlist for 2016 National Book Award Announced

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Chicago is the setting for the shortlisted poetry of Daniel Borzutzky.

The shortlists for the National Book Awards were announced today and the nominees for the poetry award are: Daniel Borzutzky; Rita Dove; Peter Gizzi; Jay Hopler and; Solmaz Sharif. Tree Swenson who spent ten years as executive director of the Academy of American Poets leads a panel of five judges who will decide the 2016 honoree.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ginsberg, Whitman, Banned Poetry and a Supermarket in California

A supermarket in California.

Two of the more famous examples of banned poetry in America are of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. Whitman's Leaves of Grass was banned in 1855 for it's homoerotic overtones. Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems was cited for obscenity upon it's publication in 1955. It was deemed not to be obscene in a court of law two years later.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Sky Looks

photo © Mark Butkus 2016

The sky looks...
The sky looks the color
Of what the sky typically looks like
Standing on the Second Street Bridge at dusk
Looking south
It is the first evening
Of the first day
Of the first full month of autumn

Monday, September 26, 2016

Top 10 Banned Books of Banned Book Week 2016


The Banned Books Week Coalition is a national alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship. The 2016 celebration will be held September 25-October 1.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Road Songs: Big Sur and the Songs of Hotbox Harry

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
The welcoming front porch of the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur.

A recent trip up the California Coast to rediscover wandering roots took a detour at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. Tucked away on a curve of the Pacific Coast Highway the library came to be following the death of Miller in 1980 in the cabin of his longtime friend Emil White. One makes their way down a path — a piano in the woods to the left, Jesus on a cross of computer monitors to the right. Keep walking and turn right at the ping pong table and enter Emil's old cabin.

In among the books that you would expect to find in a library named after one of America's most polarizing authors — including a play by Jack Kerouac first published in 2005! — there was an apparent anomaly unto itself. A CD of music — Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Welcome Autumn! My Heart Soars by Chief Dan George

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
A Native American poem for the change of season.

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last Call — Barbara Foote's Sly Dancer

photo © Mark Butkus 2014

Well, I'm sitting in a cozy palapa bar
Listening to grand Mexican music
Live!
A friend returns to the long table
Dancing
I chair dance in response.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Come Beloved

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
Upon the west...

I am hungry; come soon.

I looked tonight at flames
like you upon the west
and jewels winging home.
I hold you in my eyes
when I see what cannot be stamped again.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Never Forget — Where Were You On 9-11?

Tiles Across America in Greenwich Village across from St. Vincent Hospital.

I was on strike.
Picketing at 580 Booth.
Someone came up and told me
that a plane had hit the WTC.

My first image was
of a Cessna lost in the fog.
That's all my brain could accept.
A plane lost in the fog.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The One About Dorothy Parker

As depicted in Al Hirschfeld's famous caricature: Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Round Table (lower left) surrounded by Robert Benchley, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Frank Crowninshield, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Frank Case, Franklin P. Adams, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman and Robert E. Sherwood.

I ran my fingers through your hair
as you ran through Dorothy Parker's words
"Why is it that your poems don't rhyme?"
You cooed while gently twisting
the dagger in my heart.

What was it that Ms. Parker wrote?
"Scratch a lover, and find a foe."
It was in a ballad I think,
A ballad of great weariness.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Open Door


Standing on a street corner
waiting for a bus
in front of the Comex paint store.
Move out to the street
to see,
                 to see,
but no, not yet,
                 not yet,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On The Road: The End of the Road is Seal Beach

AJ Summers Memorial Tower at Seal Beach Pier, Seal Beach, California.

As summer winds down a journey west comes to an end south of Los Angeles. When there is no more road to carry forth an adventure, that adventure reaches it's natural conclusion. The shore of the Pacific Ocean at Seal Beach. All a weary traveler can do is walk to the end of a pier, pause, reflect and turn around as a new chapter is about to set sail.

While taking this walk along the pier at Seal Beach and contemplating a new life on the left coast it was comforting to find poetry on the pier. A short poem dedicated to the life of a local lifeguard. A reminder of life's frailty and the inherent natural beauty that surrounds each and every one of us.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Un Oración por los Migrantes — A Prayer for the Migrant

One of more than 350 crosses in the Sonoran Desert that mark the death of a dream, the death of a migrant.
Uno de los más de 350 cruces en el desierto de Sonora que marcan la muerte de un sueño, la muerte de un migrante.

Un Oración por los Migrantes

Corazón de Jesús,
lleno de amor y misericordia,
quiero pedirte por mis hermanos migrantes.
Ten piedad de ellos y protégelos,
pues sufren maltratos y humillaciones
en su caminar,

Friday, July 29, 2016

On the Road: Growing Old in the Desert with Carmen Megeath


We found the following poem — Growing Old in the Desert — and poet — Carmen Megeath — while exploring thrift shops in Douglas, Arizona. It is in these out of the way places that we sometimes first come across local poets. Where we are first introduced to the soul of a place. A region. A town. America.