On a Table

Fish head, well body minus the meat, filleted, with the guts hanging about

scales, scraped and piled on the old boards, in the wet sand

where the ever slightly running, spigot drips.

And flies, sitting quietly on the intestines

buzzing up at a nearby motion

only to settle back again

to what I can guess,

eating remains

today the fish,

one of god’s

creatures

swam with

all the grace

and speed of nature,

rippling and sparkling

against, above, beneath,

and through the clear green-blue

intra-coastal waters just south of the

bridge built by Civilian Conservation Corps

at the beginning of the war that ended most

of all the wars of Europe, at least, as they struggled

to end the Great Depression, and yet, those men are

as dead as the glorious fish, and they were glorious, too.

He is surely supper, and a good one, too, if I were eating him.

They are only dead, with their wives and half their kids, not heroes,

only trying to keep from dying too soon, and maybe they did, but died

anyway, and the flies eat the entrails and the old men’s bones rot beneath.

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Sometimes California

Sometimes California

I was disappointed to find out while the characters more or less came over intact, the formatting did not. So I am posting these poems as pictures. I started to say I hope you can read them.

I would be surprised if there is a person on the planet who could actually read them. Not only because there is such a wide variety of languages and characters, but because by the time i finished, the words are no longer intact. if does say something, it is certainly not what i originally wrote in English and plugged into poor Google Translate.

Google is a pretty sad excuse for translation and sometimes it creates amusing mis-translates, but for my purposes, it worked perfectly!

This work, such as it is, was inspired by a Facebook post by my Bangladeshi friend Kazi Rahat. I hope he doesnt mind.

The Leftovers are literally the characters I have left over when i finished Sometimes California (due to the final shape, not particularly the content.)

 

Leftovers Iron Fence

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Sale/Trade

Trade: poetry
for hard work.
Yes,
 
folk think
writing poems hard,
I

dug ditches,
nailed roofs, Florida
sun,

even sold
used cars to
sailors.

Will trade
for hard work:
poetry.

 

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Jerusalem, the Gnat

Jerusalen the Gnat

 

The gnat,

strained at,

strained for,

and through

no strainer

find

 

the truth.

The whole world,

it seems,

spreads its tiny wings and flies,

but flies gather.

No tape I have.

 

Beastly flies upon

beast

and breast

and best

of all,

the milk,

and Jerusalem

stands

quietly at

her stanchion.

 

And no gnat

I find

just the sweep

of her gentle tail

to the west,

to the bank

to Gaza once more

I think.

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I Never really Spoke Spanish

never spanish

I Never really Spoke Spanish

 

When I was a kid,

because of the line of work I was in,

I learned to say “boug-an-vi-ya”,

and “es-pan-u-ate.”

I was taught these words

by a man who said “chimley” and “liberry”

I still cant say “borrow,”

somehow it comes out “bar-ee”

I don’t think that is correct,

but it is as close as I can get

 

At age fourteen,

I went with a church group

To Mexico. I love Mexico. I love Mexicans.

I learned enough Spanish

to buy a coke

and to flirt with

Fourteen-year-old Mexicans,

which wasn’t hard.

 

Then, at twenty-three,

I married the first Puerto Rican

I ever met.

She spoke perfect English,

thanks to a private

school in San Juan

But she thought

and counted in Spanish.

 

A few years later,

we had a beautiful baby boy

And we thought it would be

a good idea for him to learn Spanish

 

His mother taught him

songs with Spanish words,

which I learned.

And I learned “abaho” for down,

 

 

and “vente a key” for come here

And “vaca” for cow

and “Got toe” for cat and “pet row” for dog,

and then there were two words that meant gentleman and horse

and two words that meant kitchen and sea shell

and I was always mixing them up.

 

Just recently, the Puerto Rican has been an ex for twenty years, it occurs to me,

I never really spoke Spanish,

I learned code words for

things I knew in English

And some of my code was close enough

People who speak Spanish could make it out.

 

A couple of years ago, we went

To Paris. I love Paris. I love Parisians.

We decided we wanted to go back

And this time we were going to learn French.

 

Drive Time French is a series of CDs

that offer the following:

Little is “pe tea”, unless it is

masculine, like a truck,

Truck is “cam-i-on”, and blue is “blu”

as in the sound you make when you throw up,

and new is “nu-vay”, so if you want to say

new blue little truck it is like this

“nuvay blu payteat camion.”

(try not to gag, it ruins the beauty of French)

 

of course, very few Frenchmen know this code

so on the off chance I need

to tell a lovely Parisian

about a new small blue truck,

I doubt I could, but then, in truth,

I never really spoke English, either.

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Yours (on 5)

I am very focused these days on experimental poetry, on machine poetry, on finding words with meanings that come at us from surprising approaches. I am most interested in reusing, recycling, if you will, words i have already written for another purpose, so the writing is 100% mine, even though the meaning I originally intended is subverted by a preordained erasure. Below is the result, and at the source text is at the bottom.

 

Years      my         just          publishing           a             gave      a             not         the         told       apart     had         nearly  formally                like         authority             also        advice,                 they       some     three     poem

 

publish,  such. In               rejected,             maybe  me,        near       inclined               or            three, and            the                 have       is             needs    closing  is             thing      a             own      I               this

weak  hardly.

 

This         bit          designed              May      of            a            In             might   of             now. Maybe       new       here.     I                  edit        your       poet       this         disguised             which    from     Feel       apart.

 

 note        quite,  one,       deliver.”

 past,  our            your       not          our         best       few

 

you          published            spot        get         chance                  am         poem.  do           are        about    action. which      the                  long       event     go           and        turn?    You         the         even      need     action    no  to lines           section,                  If             your       respect                 it.

 

to  an

 

i

 

in

the          tiny        big          twelve  the         world    One        me,        on           little      is.

 

 

brother

I                syrup    see,         my          sticky     other     front      black     the         bloody  edge      the.

 

 

 long

 Anthony

 

 

The Source:

 

About Editing Poetry – Mine and Yours

Years ago, I first started publicly reading my poetry in 1994, and in just over a year, I started publishing other people’s poetry, I had a hard rule. I almost never gave advice about how to improve a poem, and NEVER gave it unless, not only was I asked, but the person insisted, even if I told them I might tear it apart for them. Even though I had already been writing poetry for nearly thirty years, I was not formally trained and did not feel like I was enough of an authority to offer advice and I also knew 99% anyone gave me advice about one of my poems, they just made me mad.

For some reason, each of the last three issues, we have had a poem that we almost wanted to publish, but it was flawed in such a way, we just couldn’t. In the day, I would have rejected and moved on, but now, maybe it’s the grandfather poet in me, I don’t know, but when a near miss comes in, I am inclined to respond with a suggestion or two.

So far, of the three, all have taken the suggestion, and we were happy to publish the edited work. One thing I have noticed as a common drawback is the poem that feels it needs to explain itself in the closing line or couplet. Often this is a restated title. The funny thing is, I have done that a great many times in my own writing. One of these days I might go back and purge this from my own work….

But I am such a weak judge of my poetry, I hardly know where to start. This brings me to my closing bit for this blog. When I first designed Better than Starbucks back in May, I envisioned “From the mind of” as being a bit of a hodge-podge, as I am. In the mix I thought I might publish a poem or two of my own. I haven’t. But now I think I will. Maybe I will publish my entire new unpublished volume in serial form here. And as an added benefit, I invite you, the reader, to edit my poems, as respond with your version.

First, the note the poet who submitted the “almost” poem this month. I hope I have disguised it enough you cannot tell which poem it was:

Then two from my Black Snakes and Happy. Feel free to tear them all apart.

The page editor sent a note back saying “Close, but not quite, especially close on the last one, except the ending did not deliver.”

Sometimes, and especially in the past, I would have forwarded you our standard rejection:

We appreciate your recent submissions.

Unfortunately, we do not feel they would work for our publication.

We wish you the best of luck.

But, for a few reasons, not the least because you said you have not been published and I have a soft spot for helping a new poet get published, I will take the chance and offer some advice. I am not going to rewrite your poem. What I am going to do is ask you if you are interested in trying again.

Think about the little actions of no action. Think about losing the word which is usually thought of in the context of mental health therapy long past the moment of the event remembered.

Did the he quietly go to his room? Stand up and hug her? Open another beer and turn back to his TV show? You will have to return to the moment to finish it, but even if he did not overreact, we need an action, even if the action is almost the act of no action. If you would like to give me two or three lines as strong as your middle section, I think we can publish it. If you want to stand by your work, as is. I can respect that, but I can’t publish it.

 

And now mine (would love to know what you think of an editor giving you unsolicited advice):

 

i

Mama’s green dress

and hair in a tight bun

holding me on the old wooden porch of the tiny parsonage, while daddy and my big brother bring Happy and her twelve puppies around the corner of the house, looking for all the world like an unspotted version of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and me, a two-year old sitting on the porch amazed, transfixed and a little horrified, only now realizing

this is my first

memory of life.

 

ii

Daddy and my big brother

rush into the house where

I am eating my biscuit with syrup and butter

“Come see, come see, Daddy killed a black snake!” my brother yelled. Biscuit in one sticky hand and mama holding the other I tumble out on the front porch to see a long black snake at the base of the steps neatly chopped into twelve bloody pieces. I peer over the edge down

the three feet to the dirt

and finish my biscuit.

 

Black Snakes and Happy

a long poem

  1. Connell’s Point, Arkansas

By Anthony Watkins

 

 

 

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My Day Had Passed

Born white

seven years after draft age

just eight and King was killed

looked for footing

with Sandinistas — ERA

with IRA — Earth Day—

 

even communists

grew tired of communists

by when I could drive.

 

Already old

here is my day

revolution in the air

with or without

a basement

 

to each, in a generation,

there is a day

 

this is my day

bandolier

and auto gun

for glory if

not for Jesus

 

this day

so long passed.

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