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Man With the Oxen (And Other Poetic Prose Poems) Part One
1) Man with the Oxen
Dark brown was the oxen heading down the brown road in Port du Prince, Haiti, by the orphanage (in July of 1986); and browner the hides on the oxen as it stretched backwards, but the long thick horns, pale white! Driven and toiled, tired and worn were the oxen, blending into the earthly browns! They blended into the earth, bleeding into the dark brown-black Ox-man’s flesh with pale rose cooled lips, drenched in sweat from the flames of the sun-his shoulders overcooked: charred! He walked alongside, beside them, behind them, in-between them, wherever he needed to be in the beaded sand, with his long brown crooked and reckoning tree branch he used as a whip ((oh how he looked, fantastic spirit! His brow burnt, slanted back, jaw hardened; with towers of corn rods in the fiery far distance, in a veiled phantasm) (and though I stood watching in solitary silence, he never once noticed my nobly etching and my livid yellow gleam on my face watching this scene of humanity, draped in the mid-afternoon heat, as it was all a bit warmer between eleven o’clock, and three): dark brown were his eyes, eyes with the light blown out; dark brown, with black splashes was his hair The wild tall rod looking corn in the adjacent farmland, was green, with some dowdy browns but neither black nor olive His oxcart-brown woodened framed, was filled with browns and greens towering over his head a pale brown straw-hat, as he walked in-between Old rubber tires, worn axle, dark blacks, blending into all the browns Bowls of brown air- twisted dust and earth, they came (the whole earth turning brown for them) The shinning gaze of the ox-man’s shirt was neither brown nor green, but bluish-green as the sea Over the stone brown road they came, and even the sea behind them-had, had he looked backwards-turned into a tint of brown (dust and dirt, soot and soil all blending into the atmosphere); it seemed at the time- his life, -would always unlatch for me, patches of browns and blacks and pale greens…
what breaches between him and the ox? Save he is made in God’s image He is no Plato nor Socrates, nor could he be- He is no rose from the rosebush neither: nor could he be He is if anything, time’s tragedy, betrayed by the world, by his own time, his own kind…
and I thought at the time: how close they are to life, how hard the life is, for the oxen and for the man-day after day after day: sun striking down upon their heads, their shoulders and hands, touching the body, the root of the soul, for the man the badly situated, and a near likeness to the broad back of the oxen And how the afternoon birds hid from the crude sunlight-but not him, them, not the man nor the oxen, and thus, sadness that is genuine falls over my face, because so lonely they seem, lonely in the soul, in my time- This thing in itself, created expressly for me by my soul, I could never follow those footsteps, all who have never known could not, all who have forgotten could not, only those who have loved all things for themselves In such cases the soul follows blindly, forever, evermore, in search, dreaming, as the body is left dreaming, of the other world, that also is not his, and surely not the oxen’s-
and so I thought at the time: ‘Where have they hidden all of nature’s bright colours in this land, other than browns and blacks, and watery greens, and greens from the sea? And even at sunset, nearly a gleam, more liken to a rusted-red-iron, with tints of yellowish brown, drab orange: nearly as the day was long, brown and black, with patches of green, no more (or perhaps, perchance, possible, I just did not see those gleaming bright colours, nature’s gift to humanity-I was looking too close at the man and his oxen)
this land then, was to me, an island, ideally alone, with a fountain of browns, timeless ecstasy, unending smiles among the people, tropical ashen like gardens, with vast indelible streams and mounds of moist manure, brown huge dug-heaps, flies sweeping around sugarcane, slices of food eaten here and there by brown and black strange faces, seemingly barely awake, in the crude evening moonlight, street lamps almost out, a strange collection of people! All day, leading into the colourless night, as black magic, hushed-up, inside those sounding voodoo drums, echoing alongside those Christian bells, always there is room for imprudent life
and I felt at the time, and time again, and I still feel at this time, let everyone leave me alone to write this poem, a poem I could never have written but now, before to-morrow’s sunrise, for my mind will never overflow, nor rain like this again-as it has now done for this land and for the Man with the Haitian oxen; hence, it has been an empty roof above, but not today, not today, today a dazzling light of bitter life I, oh yes I must remember the peace and the delicate tranquilities, the browns that fell like snow upon the ground that engulfed this island and me: this, if at all possible this world hidden from humanity, all alone.
2) The Dog’s Longing
((Poetic Prose) (a poem out of Lima))
I don’t know why the huge gray mutt sleeps in the street by our house, as if guarding us, and our two neighbors, waiting for an invader, intruder or another mutt to trespass (only God knows for sure). But there he is nonetheless with his heavy tail wagging to and fro, his big head hanging low, what’s his brain thinking, his brain not thinking? That in some odd way he is protecting the image of God? Or perchance, he just likes the chicken and turkey bones my wife provides for him. The eyes of the mutt glows when my wife feeds him; to him she’s like a handsome priest, I suppose.
I wrote this poem with the Holy Spirit happy in me-I guess that means I’m having a heavenly morning.
Note: Poetic Prose and the poem: first, in essence the poetic prose poem is a short story, I believe. Second, an image centered on an object: expressed in layers, in this case, a dog. Third, the mind does not leave the subject, as you can see by reading “The Dog’s Longing” and forth, the tone is set in the first sentence: “… the huge gray mutt… “. One must remember, it is not the stanza, but the sentence we look at. The author also uses metonymy in this poem, mutt, for dog, for instance.
3) The Old Poet
((Robert Bly-a Minnesota Poem) (Poetic Prose))
Death throws a shadow on the old Poet, Robert Bly-who lived his dream of poetry, unevenly, per near a century. He’s a rock turning sand, like all old men: now with hollow legs, and arms like bacon.
When he is gone, the trees and the leaves and the grass and the wind that rustles through his old farmlands, will recite his poetry: and all of him that will be left will be those old warn out paths, he once walked. That will be his legacy-like a chimney with no smoke.
Note a: here we have figurative language: meaning, words used for something you don’t really mean “… hollow legs, and arms like bacon” and of course other forms of language are used here as in trees and leaves and grass reciting his poetry, which we know can not. Here the poetic prose is centered on a poet, as the mind spontaneously expresses for effect, layers of his meaning-in essence, an elegy before its time; let’s call it a tribute.. People get obsessed with structure and in doing so, lose the soul of the poem, or the effect which is the main event. Here the poem says what the poet wants it to say. We see 21-words with o’s, and the poem is only 87-words long. Not it, its or it is, which makes often times for a jagged read. The er, ar’s, re’s, ra’s make for a strong read also (ten words; six of the seven sentences)-connecting from one line to the next. Note 2: the poet here uses personification, and reverses it: thus, giving natural objects attributes represented of person, where normally it is the reverse: “the trees… leaves. Grass… will recite… ” Also the author, poet uses a figure of speech, that represents death “… a chimney with no smoke,” perhaps we can call it the making of a simile. Both poets have met on one occasion, in 2005.
4) Life is a Psalm
We can make our life’s goals, this I know, for I’ve done so.
And in departing, leave behind, something that will endure time.
Make life honest, make life brave, from the cradle to the grave-
From dust: to dust we return, yet the soul, death does not recover.
Thus, let us be doing, doing, with heart-fullness, faith and love-
Let us be pursuing, pursuing-and let the dead bury the dead… !
Note: Poems for me, or part of a poem, that will come back to me as a reader, come back in a flash, here or there, when needed is what I call true poetry: it is in the “effect”.
5) The Lieutenant
The lieutenant told me long ago-told me so, that I couldn’t do it!
How he looked, so grand and noble, so long ago-lean and oval!
Oh, how funny, I think now-: I’m sure he’d be quite alarming…
should he know, I became a General!
Note: in this poem “The Lieutenant” more philosophical than not, the author is expressing an experience that took place in the past, he tries to say what he needs to say with impeccable poetic dignity, that sometimes the one you most least expect to achieve-or out of inflexible arrogance-as with the Lieutenant-one surpasses all expectations, achieves the highest rank or grade possible, passes even the Lieutenant. It is a positive quality, and written to inspire.
6) Knee-Deep in August
((Huancayo, Peru) (Poetic Prose))
I’ll tell you what I’d like to do-best! In the month of August, – Some afternoon, in Huancayo, Peru I’d like to just mosey about the Plaza de Arms, like I used to do. Sit on a bench and rest. Feel the breeze coming through the mountains, and do anything else! I like to watch the pigeons on the old Cathedral roof dive for corn the kids throw about; observe the ice cream venders moseying about, it all catches my interest. I like scrutinizing the sparrows as they climb up some tree… maybe find a nest tucked away in some branches. Read a good book of poetry, fall to sleep knee-deep in the breeze of August.
Note: Poetic Prose, or metered poetry, or rhyme, it all doesn’t matter, however the writer wants his work written out, there is no reason why he cannot do so. In some cases I use Poetic Prose Rhyme. Poetry is no more limited than literature is in general. Poetry of course is more selective, short, and it may produce more images than prose. It is all a matter of getting out truth one way or another. Here the poet tries to avoid sentimentally and produce everyday objects, recreate the world of experience: which can be done in poetic prose, or even an essay; trying to avoid the drabness and the inadequacy of metered poetry: hence, we see: mountains, pigeons, a tree branches, etc.
7) Out to Old Aunt Betty’s
((A Minnesota Poem) (Poetic Prose))
Wasn’t it something, brother of mine, in those far-off days of lost
Our youth, when the weekends came, out to old Aunt Betty’s we
went visiting-playing cards, or Monopoly?
It all comes back to me today, -as I am old, and you are gray.
Yet we patter from day to day, awry…
Why, I can see us now, in the kitchen, cardboard table, a deck of
And her face, and your face and my face too, and there is mother
drinking coffee, Betty also…
Note: here the poet tries to convey in the simplest language the richness of the world around us, in this case one that is part of the past.
8) A Family Problem
I don’t know how it all started, really I don’t know!
Perhaps we were all impersonators-(by chance)
Possibly they were always irritated, with me.
Plainly, nothing was clear between us, -evidently!
-why did the silent cold war start? (and when?)
“What are you thinking?” no one asked that question.
I said to Rosa: “You’ll have to ask my Children, if
Indeed they still can remember.” She replied, dry eyed:
“I tried, I really tried… I don’t want to be on their side.”
Note: a Minnesota Poem; American Version of the Ghazal form/Confessional style poetry/ Poetic Prose (for: Cody, Shawn and Zaneta)
9) Bees Climbing over Bees
How busy the bee
Just watching them
Inspires solitude, and
Striving… in me!
As if they have no eyes.
Bee eggs lying on the floor
Of the hive
Swift little wings folded
On their backs-
Climbing over one another…
How did God find the time (?)
#3837 (4-14 2013)
Note: a nature poem: while in the central jungle of Peru, called: Satipo the author had quite the experience with a wasp hive (2009), undressing to go under one of the waterfalls, noticing the hive above him to his side, that it was busy with life, and here he was ready to move it out of his way, until he heard the buzzing… the author is inspired by the diversity of the Taoist nature poem.
10) Afternoon Poem
(For Martha and Armando)
After eating and talking all afternoon with family and friends ((kind of celebrating Martha and Armando’s wedding, after dating eighteen years) (I had asked if they were rushing it-a little?… the joke didn’t go over well)). I have grown long and tired, like the old turtles of the Galapagos-who has lived a hundred years, and who has done nothing, nothing at all! Hence, with sandal-footed-feet, I excuse myself, and make it to my bed, fall deep into wondrous dreams, a thousand years old… !
#3837 (4-14-2013)/ For Mary-Sofa
Note: The author was in the Galapagos in 2005.
11 ) God’s Little Pests
(An April Minnesota Poem)
Winter has cleared up in Minnesota, the box-elder bugs are coming they know when the snow stops falling on the rooftops of houses: the house bends and stretches-the chimney necks stop smoking and seemingly reach toward the sun. God’s little pests are man’s Minnesota almanac.
Note: as I write out each poem, let’s say this poem “God’s Little Pests” words run often times together, like images, it is a system forming in my head, it may not be well in order at first, but I seem to ironed them out in time, and remember not all poems have to rhyme.
11) In the Fields of Florence
(An Elegy, WWII Poem)
In the Fields of Florence
Row on row
Marks the places of American
Heroes, from WWII!
Scarcely heard, amid the youth of today
Yet they cry out: “We are the Dead,
And here now we lie,
In the Fields of Florence!…
Take up the torch of freedom
Break no faith,” they exclaim.
“For we have died that you may live;
In the Fields of Florence!… “
#3865 (4-21-2013)/ Dedicated to PFC Frank T. Siluk, 1st Tk BN; 1st Arm Div; died April 19, 1945, in action; buried in Florence, Italy.
12) The Dead Penguin
(Magdalene Island, Punta Arenas, Chile, 2010)
On Magdalena Island walking up a narrow path I come on a dead penguin, he blends into the earth like a log. I stand and look at him, there’s a hesitation in my live flesh: my God, a penguin is crying side to side-he’s mourning his mate! What is this I think: grief to God for the dead-a funeral song? Heavy breath comes out of me; my stomach feels as if the sky is going to fall.
His head is arched back, its small eyes half closed, and he’s dying little by little, also.
Wind blows cold ice through the air, here at the end of the world. His little flippers look like dwarf arms. There’s a 140,000-penguins here, all in tuxedos, moving about. I want to reach out, touch the mourning penguin, but that’s forbidden; I simply move on.
#3854 (4-18-2013) Poetic Prose
Note: Figerative language means words used to something that you don’t really mean, such as “Tuxedos,” which describes the penguin’s black and white frames: skin or hides. And “flippers like dwarf arms” for the penguin they are nearly useless and are not arms but flippers; Darwin called them wings, how silly could he be.
13) From Just One Girl
(Washington High School, 1965)
All the breath and the entire world in one bag for just one girl! When I was young in my prime, when I was in High School because of one look, daily look from the hallway to the lunchroom, how far above that look was truth? Brighter than a gem, that she’d remember me after thirty-years. But what was not meant to be, was not meant to be; eyes whiter than pearls… in one look from just one girl.
For Gail Johnson
14) The Buoyant Ocean
(Off the Shores of Lima, Peru)
By the jagged rocks in the sea, and over the City of Lima, where the
sky is high-
Each year the ocean draws closer, nearer to the shore-
By and by, unobserved the vulture and the condors fly…
As if, out to the horizon!
The waves smash against those jagged rocks, and the restaurant
The seagulls, estranged, move about restless-never any indication
The vultures extend their necks, looking down upon houses and
parks, watching for signs of life to end:
As the sparrows and the doves walk a narrow ledge-
As those cadaverous creatures fly high to low, to and fro, from the
Note: In this poem, “The Buoyant Ocean,” unwillingly and to a little disappointment, I find myself immersing a negative, perhaps it is not possible not to, but the vulture must eat: and I have seen this time after time, it is real: like the sparrow, or the dove or the condor, all must eat. This of course complicates my soul, for I am for the sparrow more than the vulture, and you can see that of course. Why is this? I have no desire to claim the vulture, but I must write him in nonetheless; figuratively speaking, can one except a hollow tree? I hunger for a filled one, one that is appealing to me, with leafage, but I have learned to accept what appears towards the end, as the end, and in this case the poem must have the vulture and sparrow in it.
15) Days with Sun and Rain
The sun goes down in the dusty July nights, cools the earth
quite nice, in the high and low lands of Haiti.
The sun when it’s provoking goes round and round:
compelling, intoxicating with its massive heat and fire.
It moves swiftly through the forest foliage, up the mountain
pathways driven into villages…
The sun is likened to a bronze devil walking the edge of this
part of the world- doubled up with suffocating sulphur-
Then it rains (not often but it rains)!
And when it does, you can see the whole moon drenched:
the earth is like a shadowy pond; in parts, a muddy dried
No: 3034 ((Written out in poetic form 8-28-2011; revised 4-22-2013) (from 1986-notes when the author was in Haiti on a Missions trip for two weeks)) Photo above, Past. Naason Mulatre, the author’s dear friend for 26-years.
16) The Cataratas of Iguazú
(The Great Falls of Brazil)
I tell you God’s footprint-called Iguaçu is beautiful, –
It’s as if the waters of the falls were blessed…
As if God, Himself ten-thousand years ago made a
Promise-and kept it, -that it would never be less!…
They cast the most jubilant light to the eye-to the
Sky! Each drop of water, every drop of water:
Some wild, some calm, all longing to reach somewhere
Someone: to outdo the other, as they sing and hum,
Beat like drums, slap your face, and drench your body,
Blind your eyes at times… (Don’t stand too close!)
So many colors at Iguaçu, so many rainbows too:
They never, never, -Ever, really end!…
#3734 (3-11-2013) /For; Dra. Gladas Margot Miguel Villar
17) Time’s Running Out
Friend, it’s not time to give up hope of the Rapture.
We may have to live life without it though.
Carl Sagan thinks flying saucers will carry us away.
The old man at the old folks farm, puts the King of Hearts
Down, spits in the spittoon, nicotine stains his fingers
Babies are being born; he knows he’s run his course… !
The yellow eyes of wolves in the forest reminds us a lot
About the deficiency of mercy; after each funeral we feel
A little less safe, why? We’ll soon meet our maker.
Friend, Christ has done away with original sin-it’s called:
‘Through Baptism’: yet we are still stuck here between
Heaven and Hell, we got to do our work and live like Christians!
18) Losing Sight (The Little Bird)
This week I felt like weeping when a big bird snatched up a Baby bird, for whatever purpose, out of my garden.
It’s natural I suppose, like the cry of an infant. There was no
Call from other birds, of danger-hidden in the Garden.
In life I can praise so many things. The loss of the baby bird
Didn’t feel right to me-I could have saved him, or perhaps she.
Why didn’t I? I was too busy taking a movie: in my delight, I lost sight, of a predator nearby.
Note: Inspired by the writings of Rumi, with a little influence on stanza structure. The author would like to express, one can easily lose in his or her daily life, sight of their relationship with Christ, just as easily as taking your eyes off the bird. #3993 (3-29-2013)
19) Cloud-muffled Moon
((A Short Poetic Prose War Tale) (a true account while in Vietnam, 1971))
The heavily armed Vietnamese village was somewhat dug in, not far
from our base camp and the South China Sea-
It was a cloud-muffled moon evening that slightly lit the night sky;
I had snuck in-a hundred rifles, a few machineguns waiting,
should I show my Caucasian Irish face-; I’d leave in the Morning: I had just snuck in for the fun of it, to see if I could, and
have a night of it, to perk up my adrenaline. I could have been
Court Marshaled, I suppose, it was against all the rules.
Not a wise decision-yet silently I jumped the high barbwire fence
It all mattered on timing.
The Vietcong ruled the village by night, the South Vietnamese Army
by day… it was always that way.
This evening the Vietcong were everywhere-
However, this was not the real danger, so I felt, it was the guard
towers in the morning I’d have to overcome-
Manned by our friendly Vietnamese, not the enemy, but they could
and most likely would, mistake me as an enemy, an infiltrator
armed to kill-or shoot me just for a thrill-it was not
uncommon; actually they’d simply be lost to think otherwise.
I wanted to party, in the off-limit village, find a girl, and have a
And I did, I did just that, drank, and ate some dog-meat soup and
drank until I passed out…
The ground was soft in the morning dew, pressing up against the
high barbwire fence-at the cue of the moon disappearing: the
grey morning lifting; hence, I reached to the edge of the top:
“Don’t move,” my mind whispered, and I froze in one spot, half bent
over the prickly fence-
I must have blended into the moment, the guard’s eye, in the tower
nearby, not irritated with my slow moving sequences, did not
catch my planning-thus, I rolled over the prickly top of the
fence, and once I landed on the soft ground, I left no shadow as
I must have been in those far-off days, a cat with nine lives, or else
God was saving me for something else… !
#3804 (April 2 & 3, 2013)
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